CORONAVIRUS: creative community
During tough times the people of God have often had to think, reflect, and pray about what it means for them to follow God.
When such a key part of the life of the community - meeting together to worship has been taken away, what makes us distinct? What draws us together?
What makes us, us?
These were questions that the Jewish people had to wrestle with when they were taken into exile by the Babylonians (Daniel 1).
Their entire national life was centered around the Temple; it was there that sacrifices were made for individuals and communities. It was there that the national, spiritual, and political center of the nation was.
It was where they believed God touched the Earth, and where His presence was.
And then suddenly they were no longer able to have anything to do with it.
This meant that as a people they not only had to navigate the horrendous, painful, and sorrow-filled experience of being separated as a people, they also had to think about their whole identity.
Please don’t mishear me. I am not likening the current coronavirus pandemic to the invasion and destruction of the Jewish people. Nor am I making any theological claims about the COVID-19.
What I AM saying is that, for the Jewish people, new forms of worship, and therefore ideas about their identity, came out of this experience.
Local expressions of Jewish worship through the synagogue were developed at this time, and were taken from there to wherever the Jewish people found themselves in the centuries after.
For us today, gathering together as a people at a specific time and place is a key marker of belonging to the community of faith. It is a central part of our identity, and it has been taken away from us by the current coronavirus situation. Social distancing and self-isolation is forcing us to change the way we do community.
Again, please don’t mishear me; there are plenty of people who have been affected in more significant and life-changing ways than this. To say that this is a challenge for the church is not to say that the challenge for others is non-existent. However in the way that the focus of Jewish worship moved from sacrifice at the Temple to prayer at the Synagogue after the exile, so the focus of our worship will have to change.
It won’t happen immediately, not everything will work, and it may be that it requires something more creative than simply streaming services. I am looking forward to seeing how we, as a community of people scattered geographically, but gathered in belief, will respond to what is happening.
How is your church creating community creatively? How could you connect with people in a new, digital way?
Creative community: a few ideas
Run church small groups via Zoom (see Soul Survivor Watford's handy Zoom guide)
Have a virtual pub trip/pub quiz/book club with friends from the comfort of your own home
Watch a film with dispersed friends using Netflix Party or play a board game together
Hold a video call dinner party on a Facebook Messenger group chat
Start a WhatsApp group to pray for each other, for our leaders, for the sick, and for important organisations still operating
Coordinate with others in your church to regularly phone all those you know who don't have access to the internet
Use Facebook Live/Instagram Live/YouTube Live to playing lead a time of reflection, read a story on, or play a few worship songs on the guitar (make sure you have the right licences/permissions first!)
Start a Bible reading plan with others on the YouVersion Bible app
Don't forget to smile at people you walk past (whilst abiding by appropriate social distancing!) - it's a small thing, but it'll have an impact in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety
These are starting points, and by no means exhaustive ideas, on how to creatively foster community. Be creative and take inspiration from what other people are doing. Whatever you do, just have a go, and see what works for you and your community!
20 March 2020
Jonny is our Church Resource Officer. Before that he was involved with Youth and Children’s Ministry for 15 years. He lives in York with his lovely wife and son, with another child arriving soon. He loves all things cycling, and is trying to pretend that he could have gone pro if he had just had the chance.
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