Hello to you all for May’s little wander through the Ark’s thoughts, well some of them!
It has been a strange month with the world ‘opening up’ again bit by bit as restrictions ease. Yet, for many, there is a myriad of emotions that have accompanied that release into this next phase. There is still a sense of grief as we mourn what has been lost or what we fear we are still losing. I wonder if there is a temptation to hold onto what we felt was comfortable or familiar. The phrase ‘we cannot wait to go back’ is one that has been heard frequently, but can we go back I wonder? However, embracing an alternative, somewhat uncertain future is un-nerving.
I was attending a webinar last month with people who are all exploring, seeking, experimenting, or just finding out about ‘other ways of being church’. There was a chap speaking on the topic of ‘a mixed ecology of Church’ and this issue of ‘going back’ was raised. He spoke about the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. When we have lost something or someone precious, it is natural to be angry/sad and to want things back as they were (the bargaining/anger phase). Surely, we have all felt like that at some point in the last year!
This webinar led me to wonder whether we should approach the situation now as a grieving process. Our church buildings have not been brimming at the seams, and for many people ‘Church’ is not on their radar. It is an uncomfortable question but what is going back going to achieve? On the Kubler-Ross curve, the bargaining phase, the stage where we long to go back, is the low point before the climb up towards acceptance. This phase explained as: ‘exploring options, moving on’. Of course, moving on does not mean that we forget what has been lost; we do not simply replace or forget, but moving on can mean looking for a new meaning or a different reality. Surely moving on is about integrating what has been lost into the new experiences of the things which are coming?
Each month we have met with other ‘pioneers’ from across the Connexion who are all reaching out into their communities and sharing faith in hugely diverse ways. These ‘pioneering folks’ are making the invisible visible, and are channels for God to be known and shared usually through ordinary acts and everyday pastimes. These different ways of expressing faith and experiencing worship represent ways that we as people of faith can move on and reach out to a world that has had little connection with our established models of church. Letting go is painful and difficult as is moving into new territory; but as with any grief process, it is the getting stuck and constantly looking back that can cause our own undoing. One wise lady said to me when I had lost my dad that I could not have one foot in each camp. She said that I could not have one foot in the past and one in the future, if I did then I would not be able to look forward properly. Letting go does not mean forgetting.
Pioneering work is not about forgetting or replacing established worship methods, it just is a way of moving on and exploring different options. It is about the integration of the values that we hold precious and taking them forward but in ways that connect with society as it is now. It is an adventure and one that we take with God.
Warm wishes from
Jenny, Heidi, Alex and Niall