By Shannon Youell
How then, shall we, the church, respond?
Over the last few weeks we’ve been taking a look at Mike Frost’s BELLS approach to Shared Practices: Bless, Eat, Learn, Listen, Be Sent. However, in our present global reality, how do we engage shared practices? As Bruxy Cavey reminds us, love “is wise and it is nimble...We may, in certain situations, love well by actually keeping our distance from people, by staying away.” So what now?
We’ve taken another look at these 5 shared practices and want to share some stories and resources with you about how we can continue to show God’s love to each other and the world even in the midst of self-isolation:
Times of crisis can turn even the most kind of us into Mr. Hyde! We’ve seen this in the buying out of common needed items and groceries in our stores in the past weeks – empty shelves facing those who only were buying what they needed for that week and for those who lack the resources to buy a month’s worth of food/products at a time.
I faced those empty shelves for the sixth day in a row, looking for just one package of toilet paper as we were down to our last couple of rolls (yes this is, sadly, a toilet paper story – but it has a good ending!)
On day six, four 8–roll packages remained on the shelf of the local grocery store. And it was only eight in the morning! I bought one, praying that three more people could buy the others. I also discovered that there were a dozen or so containers of disinfecting wipes miraculously on an otherwise empty shelf, so I bought two of those.
The next morning, one of my sons dropped by to leave his young child here so as to get his shopping for the week. Same store. No toilet paper, no wipes, no soup, no pasta. So I gave him my package of toilet paper and a package of wipes. All will be well, I thought.
Next morning someone in our community stuck her head in my driveway gate to drop off a piece of frozen salmon she wanted me to have. Standing at a safe distance from one another, I asked why it took two bags to hold one piece of fish. “Other stuff.” she said. Looking in one of the bags I laughed out loud. There was an 8–roll pack of toilet paper and a baggie of wipes that she packed from her container of wipes she has at home. She had no idea I had just given mine away to someone else! She said it must have been some kind of “God radar.”
Can we all put up our “God Radar” on how we can bless those in our neighbourhood and extended communities during this time? Take the time to look out your window and see who you can be a blessing to.
It’s difficult these days—but not impossible—to make mealtimes a hospitable activity. One family in Cailey’s Mission Group gathers together daily at 3:30pm for coffee and snacks. This routine was in place long before COVID-19 came on the scene, but has become an even more important connect point for them in these times.
This family—comprising parents, two adult kids living at home and a third in high school—has even taken “Coffee Time” to the next level in the past couple of weeks by inviting other families “over” via FaceTime. For 30 minutes to an hour, the two families share in conversation online while enjoying hot drinks in their own homes. Why not try to share your meal or snack time with another person or family, even once a week?
In some ways, this one’s easy—has there ever been a season with more educational resources available at our fingertips? However, when Michael Frost says “Learn,” what he’s saying is learn Jesus for the sake of becoming like Jesus. This practice means more than buzzing in and out of webinars and Reddit.
Frost goes as far as calling us to “marinate our minds and souls in the story of Jesus… Through biblical study, theological reading and even the viewing of films (no matter how limited each of them might be), we slowly but surely orient our lives toward the things of Christ, and we become deeply familiar with His story so we can share it whenever anyone asks us for the reason for the hope we have in Him” (Five Habits of Highly Missional People p34).
Remember, it’s still Lent! It might look different with kids around or your spouse trying to work from home in the living room, but try to find a way for fasting, solitude, and meditating on Scripture to help you hear what the Holy Spirit wants to say to you and your community.
I was talking with another pastor yesterday of the minute by minute evolution of our ‘new not–normals‘ in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. He, like so many of us is scrambling to figure out how to keep the congregation connected when we can no longer gather in our buildings and homes. He mentioned how this seems to be dominating the minds of every pastor he has also been speaking with. He is also self-isolating and is unwell, so he’s been stressed about that as well.
In his accounting, yesterday morning, after being confined to home and having his every waking moment dominated by getting the church service online and his own health concerns, he looked out his window to the neighbourhood outside his walls.
That’s when it hit him – he had been so focused on ensuring his own safety and well-being and that of the congregation that he forgot about his neighbours – in fact, he realized, he hadn’t seen any movement whatsoever in the home across the street where an older couple lived.
Many churches have adopted the missional language of “being church.” Here, then is an opportunity to do just that, though in ways we haven’t even thought of as we navigate our way back to ‘normal’. For my pastor friend, the Spirit reminded him of the calling of the church is both to be gathered and scattered.
Here is the time, scattered as we are in the confines of our homes, to shine.
David Fitch offers this simple but open-postured example of a note they’ve been leaving in their neighbours’ mailboxes:
It’s Dave and Rae Ann Fitch. In light of the fact that some of us are likely to get sick from COVID-19 in the next little while and will need to stay home in isolation, we just wanted you to have our number and email address. If you run out of supplies like toilet paper or need someone to pick up groceries and drop them off at your door—we’re happy to help out as much as we can.
You can check out his whole blog article Faithful Presence During a Pandemic here.
As I was praying the other day, I was prompted by the Spirit to move from prayers of “God, where are you?” to “God, where are you at work right now and how can I join you?” We pray that all of us in this time will be able to notice and join the good work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, homes and communities.