"So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12: 25-27.
In the verse above from Corinthians, we are told the true meaning of what it is to be part of the Christian Community. Whichever denomination, whatever your beliefs or habits, sins or doubts, we are in this together. We suffer with one another as we are one body.
I've been thinking alot about community in the last few months. We are called to come together to share in all parts of our lives and faith. This has been difficult in the current times...churches have been closed, people have been staying at home and interacting online (if they have been able to!).
We have learnt that church is most definitely a term to describe the people and not the buildings in which we gather on a Sunday morning. We have learnt that we can pray and worship wherever we are. We have learnt that God is with us where we are.
For some of us, there is a feeling of guilt that we are not in church. As some churches begin to open, please do not feel pressured into attending if you don't feel ready. God is not confined to the walls of the building, and neither are we. Love is not confined within bricks and cement. Love is not confined by the perimeters of social distancing. Rest assured that when you are ready, you will be welcomed with love and understanding.
I have seen such amazing things happening in our communities over the last few months. People who are able have been visiting and shopping for those who are isolating. People have been reaching out to neighbours and checking in with those who live alone. People with no faith have been living out God's vision of caring for one another. What a blessing it is to see God's hand working in such a real and physical way!
For a while, noone was less equal than anyone else. If someone asked for help, they would receive it without question. Donations to the foodbank rose, community groups handed out essentials to the vunerable and there was a real sense of love and community.
I know that in our church, some wonderful friendships were made during pastoral phone calls, people were able to chat with one another freely and with no time constraints as there can be on a Sunday morning.
Church services being broadcast online was another blessing to many. Some weeks I would see people who I knew were not part of the church logging in to watch the services...I hope that is the same for many other churches! People were able to anonymously peek into church life, with no pressure and no follow up. With the walls down, church became more accessible to all. This reminded me of times when Jesus would preach out in the open, and each time this is mentioned in the bible we would be told that crowds would gather to hear Him speak. I believe that we should bring those walls down more often and take our services out in the parks, gardens, beaches and in the streets and allow people to wander over to hear the word of God.
As our lives begin to return to normal, we have a unique opportunity to "reset". We have had months of being at home, away from friends and family, from work and from school. We have had alot of time to reflect on our lives, on our faith and on our habits.
What did you miss the most? Personally, I missed being with friends. I missed going to mother and baby groups, meeting with the house group, going for meals with friends. I missed being sociable, and I'm not usually the most sociable person! I like time to myself and I like the quiet house when my children are at school. I think things will be different when the children go back to school this week...I'm not sure what I will enjoy the peace and quiet as much as I used to...I will now be missing the laughter, the mess, the arguments, the busyness of home life. I will appreciate time spent with my friends so much more because I haven't been able to see them in so long! I have seen their children growing and taking first steps online. I have had friends who went into lockdown pregnant and now have babies who I haven't been able to meet properly. I can't wait to be able to give them cuddles!
This is the time when we can think about what is important to us, and what isn't.
We may have new priorities and have found new callings in our lives as we have had time to sit and be still.
The main thing I think is important to us all is meaningful relationships...getting back to our friends, families and social groups.
My hope is that communities continue to blossom and grow and stand by one another. And that we as a church continue to be transparent and accessible to anyone with that spark of curiosity.
I pray that we continue to love our neighbours as God loves us, and that each of us, whether still isolating or "back to normal" has the deep and profound knowledge that we are all a part of the body of Christ, united by a love that cannot be confined or divided.
If you have lost a loved one in the last year, I am so sorry for your loss and I have been praying for you all, that you may feel God's love, peace and strength in this difficult time.