The church is never true to itself when it is living for itself, for if it is chiefly concerned with saving its own life, it will lose it. The nature of the church is such that it must always be engaged in finding new ways by which to transcend itself. Its main responsibility is always outside its own walls in the redemption of common life. That is why we call it a redemptive society. There are many kinds of religion, but redemptive religion, from the Christian point of view, is always that in which we are spent on those areas of existence that are located beyond ourselves and our own borders.Elton Trueblood in Called to community
Church is strange at the moment. We are in communication more than ever before but we cannot meet. When the phased “out of lockdown” announced churches could re-open, I was happy. Not about the buildings but about the meeting.
But I have backtracked somewhat since that initial elation. Many of our people will continue to be in self-isolation because of an underlying condition or age, or caring responsibilities. A church in Germany opened and did not follow the rules causing a cluster of cases. Would we be so good at following the rules? And then the beginnings of a conversation with someone who sees the Sunday deal as a transaction. It makes me slow to consider opening.
There are tomes written about what is the church. For me, it is the people, not the building. It is relational, not transactional and it is love incarnate not duty-bound. So how to do church until our island is safe?
Is it time to return to Acts 2 and see what was going on there? Is it time to visit with Acts 6 and see people empowered by the Holy Spirit to move beyond their comfort zone? Is it time to visit the upper room?
I submit that we can gather but not in a pre-COVID-19 way. Perhaps a time of prayer, scripture reading and short reflection will bring us some fellowship and growing relationships. Perhaps continuing online services so all of our people get to hear the same service and can sing in their own homes.
The normal we will move into post-Covid-19 will be a different one. In this time of forced change, it is a time to consider what is needed in the church. When Ezra read the long-forgotten law in public there was a response. The law was lost from the time of Joshua. Nehemiah 8: 1-3, 8-9. In the middle of the 5th century BC, the people of Israel return from exile to Jerusalem which is in ruins. During the rebuilding of the walls a scroll is found- Nehemiah tells us that it was the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel” And before the Water Gate from morning until mid-day the priest Ezra read, all the people were attentive and the priests gave the sense of the words being read so that all the people understood the reading. Hearing it, the people wept, for joy and for sadness.
This is not a time to be inward looking and serve our own needs as Trueblood says, this is a time to consider the external efforts of evangelism & mission whilst concentrating our internal efforts to discipleship and spiritual growth.