Coronavirus: Beginnings Interrupted
My wife, Gina, and I started the Attercliffe and Darnall Centre of Mission on 1 March.
We intended to ground everything we do and establish from the beginning a rhythm of prayer. And we did start in prayer, but we also got busy – as extroverts and activists, we needed some plans!
And so we planned.
We were in the middle of planning a Whit Sunday celebration at a local park, shared meals, and a potential toddler group. And we filled our diaries with meeting local groups.
How many community meetings can you fit into one week (and move house!) without people’s names and organisations becoming a blur?! Our first two weeks were full of making connections – meeting with faith leaders, schools, community organisations and businesses. And in hindsight, we see this as a blessing of timing – one week later, and we wouldn’t have made some of these connections until much further down the line. It seems strange now to remember back – shaking hands, sitting together, serving tea and coffee.
And then we were instructed to social distance… to work from home… to only leave home for essentials.
The world changed almost overnight as COVID-19 took hold and, during this time, we have been learning.
Prayer has become the rhythm that defines our days. The importance of praying together and apart. And of not putting all prayer on social media!
We are developing our ability to use different technology, which will no doubt help in the future.
We are learning the humility of being new in an area and therefore less able to help physically, the humility of prayerful waiting and being able to offer limited support in practical ways, the humility of offering help and then waiting.
Gina and I are learning how we both work – and how we use our differences to work well together. And we are learning what we need to nourish us. Hence Bhangra dancing videos, Holy Week stories, family board games, and date nights at home.
We are learning that this will take time, that ministry in this area is likely to take patience and a willingness to move at a slower pace – and so we are having to learn to slow down.
We are also increasingly aware of the danger of everything having to be on social media – and of success being measured by the number of views, the number of retweets, how many likes or comments – when the small and unseen is also so important. Matthew 6:6 comes to mind – those private prayers alone; the WhatsApp group of friends who are sharing honestly and supporting one another in prayer, song and laughter; the prayer in the middle of the night; the little act of love in a card sent or a phone call – precious, unseen acts of love and faith.
We are beginning to build connections – sharing prayer resources with local churches, people joining us online for midday meditation and examen, phone calls with local people, being able to offer a little time at a foodbank. But we realise it will take time.
And at this time, when there is uncertainty and fear and loss, we trust and wait. And we realise that this is the long haul; energy will be needed later, and so we wait, and we pray.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31