In the last week, I have been watching as Melbourne, Australia where I live, has opened up again from lockdown. I have also watched as Sydney refused to lockdown, in spite of its growing Covid numbers. I prayed and held my breath as my parents decided to drive from their Melbourne home to their winter rental in Queensland where my sister and her family including their great grandkids live. For about 15 years prior to Covid, they drove their caravan up the Eastern Coast to spend our Winter month’s, with the northern family. Last year they were unable to make this trip as Queensland were locked down to our state. This year I was the chief cheer leader as I watched numbers and locations and spreading incidents change. And they made it.
This morning 1 state and 1 Territory face lockdowns and 2 other states and another nation have imported cases from NSW, as they dithered over closing down.
I live in Australia, and though it is subject to its second colonial takeover through media, having been initial physically taken over, the idea of mateship still resonates somewhere in our thinking. I like to think that we still care about others not just our selves, that the Biblical image of the good Samaritan resonates on the Simpson and his donkey ANZAC story.
CoVID is changing our lives, our practices our churches, but it is time to move beyond the fright of our churches being suddenly closed or the idea that we return to “normal” when we are allowed to practice even in a revised manner.
No, we need to have a debate over what it is to be the church? And not just on if it is a “real” service if it is broadcast or presented on some other media platform other than face to face.
Did we stop being Christian because the church was not open?
Did we not pray, or meditate or read our Bibles because we were in lockdown?
Did we stop sharing our faith with our families because we couldn’t go to church?
Did we stop believing in the one true God and the son that He sent?
Hopefully the answer is No, we continued to do these things?
As someone who through these pages has found her faith mission, some might say hobby to encourage parents and the congregations that support them to strengthen their family faith practices, this time of CoVID, definitely seemed to vindicate our call. Just look at the vast number of resources that became available to families over the last 18 months.
But if this time of “wilderness testing” has been to coral us back into our churches, with enhanced media options? I don’t think we have thought about what it is to be Christian, to be church, to have faith, deeply enough.
My children, my adult children, because here in Australia, our children generally live with us through their University years, and into adulthood, we get to see them struggle and grow, we see the late night drunken footsteps, we get the calls to pick them up from some dodgy night club, we hear the tears of rejection and the joys when relationships are doing well, and the confusion when work isn’t going well. We also live with the sting of their rejection of our life choices, but we also get moulded and changed by them in the same way that they have been doing to our lives since they were born.
Well I have been learning from my unchurched children. I have learnt that they still pray, possibly the first faith practice I did with them. They can explain what faith is, what our denomination is about. They have decided that Christmas, and Easter needs to be spent with a congregation because that helps them make sense of events. They choose not to be part of a church community. They still talk faith over the kitchen table at dinner with us. I have discovered that I actually have a “faith community” in my home. It might not always be nurturing, or comfortable? But then neither is a Church community. It actually feels a lot like my understanding of faith communities from Paul’s letters.
It took CoVID lockdown to open my eyes to the faith community I live in, my family, I don’t get locked out of them. We live 24/7 in community. We have ritual, it doesn’t look like the liturgies in Uniting in Worship 2, we eat, drink coffee and talk faith instead of having communion by the church’s elective representative. But faith at home, lives.
We don’t all live in this stage of family model, and because of that we still need Christian community around us.
But does it need to be a Sunday Morning service?
Does church look more like small groups who meet when convenient to pray of and for each other and study the scripture, through what ever sense, makes sense? Small groups who might fit better into CoVid restrictions, outside meeting groups, small house gatherings or small church gatherings might be a better alternative and one unchurched people like my children feel better being a part of?
Should our church money be spent better on comfy chairs, small spaces, better (professionsal ) cleaning, and better media profile and access, and mission?
We are not angry enough yet, in our grieving of the cultural changes Covid is bringing we still cling in disbelief, mourn for what we can’t do, delight in what we can (ie Zoom meetings, and services), hold to hope ( a Covid vaccination), but maybe Church is not about faith transmission, home is, and maybe church is not about corporate weekly events but small groups. Maybe it really is time to go back to first century community practices as our way forward.
I am writing this on Wurundjeri land and wish to pay respect to all Elders, past, present and emerging.