By Shannon Youell
My inbox is overflowing with emails from every business, organization, missional group and thinker around our changed pace during the current world crisis we have found ourselves in. Each one has methods and helpful guidelines on how we will make it through this by working together and thoughts about where opportunities lie in potentially changing how we work, live, play and pray.
I’ve heard people saying the church will never be the same and others saying here are the five (or seven or twelve) things to do to grow your church during this time through online presence. Where some are lamenting, others are seeing potential and opportunity to tell the Jesus story—all good things to be considering.
Yet, from the beginning, I have been praying for God’s discernment to see what He is doing in the midst of this. Rather than being fearful, or making plans to ‘grow’ a Sunday gathering, I’ve been very aware of God’s presence and work in the neighbourhoods around us. I live on a steep mountain road that I punish myself by walking down regularly (the punishment is never the going down part….). I usually pray, think, reflect while on these walks, at the same time as observing the neighbourhoods that branch off this road where many new subdivisions have gone in over the last 10 years. I rarely, and I mean rarely, encounter another human on these walks (unless they are in cars passing me by). No neighbours chatting over driveways and, amazingly, no children playing in the cul de sacs and roads. Lately that has changed dramatically.
People are out and about. Children are riding bikes or playing hockey with siblings and parents on the driveways. People are walking more and so I get to have safe–distanced conversations with those who have been nameless and faceless people in my community. What I have seen is life erupting out of the desert of houses with empty faces staring out at the world. There is life in the neighbourhoods and people are discovering it, perhaps for the first time for some in the current consume/produce culture we are all enslaved to.
The Gospel has always been about relationships, with God, with self, with others and neighbours. Here, in this time, is the opportunity to actually build some of those relationships, to discover there is indeed life in the neighbourhood, that God is present and working in neighbourhoods. The question, then, is how do I, how do you, lean into being faithfully present there as well. Here, I ponder, are where we can find the opportunities for the church to grow – growing into the places where there is not always access to building relationships that can lead to sharing life, faith, hope, lament, grief and joy together.
Here are a couple of blog articles, both by David Fitch, as he muses on the same things:
There are some interesting ideas of things he and his family have been doing in their neighbourhood at this time. One warning, the first was written prior to the total safe-distancing orders. Keep in mind, as you will see in the second blog, that he is not advocating gathering in homes whilst ignoring the order.