Tag Archives: learning

Learning from Lockdown #4: Gaining Access

Throughout August I will be encouraging us to reflect on things we have learn and are learning through lockdown about self, God and being Christian community.

On the 1st September 2016 we moved to Queens Foundation, Birmingham where I was to begin my training. As we’d only got a small, 2nd floor flat for the 4 of us, college had offered us a garage, and, at first, we parked the car in it.

On the 2nd September 2016 we took a trip to the supermarket. We got back, unloaded and I shut the garage door – it was quite stiff to shut, but I kept pushing, thinking, I must get some WD40 for that… until I realised I never locked the car…or shut the boot. I went to re-open the garage door to discover that the boot and garage door were now hitting each other – I couldn’t open the garage door beyond a few inches.

I spent about an hour trying to work out how to solve the puzzle. In that time, I met various other students and members of college staff, their first introduction to me was seeing a stranger trying to break into a garage…thinking back I’m not surprised those conversations started with some suspicious looks.

Eventually, I managed to reach through the top gap of the garage door get some rope tied to the car boot, then reach through the bottom gap and pull it down to get the garage door open. The car boot had a few scratches, but at least I’d got access.

Default ‘church’

Before lockdown, my experience of church communities is that our default way of people accessing ‘church’ was by attending a church building. Within these buildings we hold services of worship, community drop-in’s and coffee mornings, prayer groups and bible studies, toddler groups and quiz nights.

As lockdown came in access to all these things was stopped. Our buildings we’re locked as part of the nationwide effort to reduce physical gathering and push down the spread of COVID-19.

So during lockdown, our default way of accessing ‘church’ – by gathering in a church building – was suddenly blocked from us – just like my car was when I foolishly shut the garage door.

This led to two things – firstly – creativity. Utilising post, email, phone, blog posts, YouTube, video and telephone conferencing and more. Creatively developing lots of different ways for people to engage with church without the building. – to be a scattered church

Secondly – it led to greater self-responsibility. What do I mean?

Well I mean that because accessing ‘church’ has not been about gathering in a building, individuals have had much more responsibility themselves as scattered church for nurturing their faith and relationship with God. The format moved from what could perhaps slightly crassly be described a passive attendance to active engagement. People had their own space and freedom to choose how to engage, how to be church.

Not only that, but people who for one reason or other were much more cut off from the worshiping community, for example living in care homes, working on Sundays or caring for relatives, feel they are included and connected to the worshiping and spiritual life of the church community in ways they never did before.

Matthew 19:13-15

In the gospels we read the familiar story of people bringing children to Jesus for him to bless them. The disciples try to stop it – children, it seemed didn’t matter.  But Jesus rebukes them and says let them come to me – the kingdom of God belongs to them too.

It is a passage that’s often used within infant baptism, that vulnerable, innocent children are welcomed by Jesus.

But I wonder, if we take a step back from the story itself, and see it in light of Jesus wider ministry, healing the blind and crippled, spending time with tax collectors and zealots, the excluded and the vulnerable, this passage may take on even more meaning for us.

I wonder if this passage might challenge us as worshipping communities to reflect ourselves on where we might, intentionally, or un-intentionally, be excluding people from being a greater part of the community.

Developing an attitude of access

Lockdown has forced me to look differently at our church communities and makes me wonder if we may have fallen into the trap of letting buildings become too central to our common life together. It makes me wonder how passive we’ve allowed that life to become – and how it unhelpfully and unfairly excludes those who for one reason or other, cannot access it.

But it’s also show me that there are simple ways to begin to redress that balance and build a more accessible and inclusive community.  That there are ways access can be achieved for those who are excluded – in part by having a little less focus on buildings, and a little more on discerning how best to connect with people where they are, not where they are not, with our focus on the kingdom of God.

And it’s also shown me the fruit that is borne when individuals have more active self-responsibility for their worshiping and spiritual life.

What may all this mean for the future?

I sense a strong challenge from God – challenging us to not build up ours walls in a way that they keep people out, but to build up one another in a way that allows us to bring people in.

What walls may we need to allow God to break down so that we can grow into a more inclusive and active community that keeps the kingdom of God at the centre?


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Learning from Lockdown #1: Diversity + Difference

Throughout August I will be encouraging us to reflect on things we have learn and are learning through lockdown about self, God and being Christian community.

Learning From Lockdown #1 – Diversity & Difference

These giraffes sit on my office windowsill, you might have seen them in previous videos. We bought them on a holiday in France in 2012 and they remind me of our holiday.

They sat on our mantel-piece in Cornwall, then went into storage while we were in Birmingham. When moved here Louise my wife thought we should get rid of them, I didn’t, so we found a compromise and they ended up in my office.

Now they not only remind me of our holiday, they also remind me that as human beings, include married couples, have differences of opinion.

Lockdown as a time to learn

I want to encourage us to reflect this month on what we may learn from lockdown, because I do not believe this is a time of life on pause that doesn’t matter. I don’t believe this is a time that God wants us to waste.

Just as the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness was formational for them, I believe our living in lockdown is a time that can be formational to us. Where God has and continues to speak to us, challenge us and change us. 

For some of us, we may feel like lockdown is over, for others, we may still very much feel like we’re in lockdown, for others again, maybe we’re in the middle.

Wherever we stand on that spectrum, it doesn’t really matter, it just goes to prove one of the things that I’ve been increasingly conscious of over the last few months – just how diverse and different we all are.

Diversity & Difference

And that’s where this month of learning from lockdown reflections is going to begin.

In the book of 1 Corinthians we read:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12, NRSV

The body of Christ, the community of faith, is made of lots of different parts, we all look different, we think differently, respond to circumstances in life with the full colour pallet of human diversity.

I’ve seen the diversity and difference in so many ways through lockdown. Some people have seemed to thrive during lockdown, Energised by the new opportunties and environments and challenges others have really struggled, and others somewhere in between – with good days and some not so good days.

Christian faith is not about conformity – not about creating robots that think and speak the same. It’s about being a community of faith that can call itself a communtiy while celebrating the fact we’re different.

It’s about being people tuned into God’s Spirit, collectively discerning what Gods Spirit is saying to us as individuals and as a community of faith

As we’ve worshiped from our homes, I’ve found my role as minister being less of a leader of worship, and more of an enabler of worship – offering lots of different resources by post and online, seeking to resource the diverse people that make up the churches I serve. It’s been a joy to see diversity thriving, but a challenge at times to keep up!

So as I encourage us to reflect this month on what we may be learning from lockdown, I want to start from a recognition of the diversity and difference among us.

And I want to encourage you all, to think and pray and reflect for yourself… what would you say you’re learning, or have learnt during lockdown.

And try to be go a bit deeper and further than saying I’ve learnt to use zoom.As much of an achievement that may be! `

Where has God spoken to you, challenged you or encouraged you?

What is God’s Spirit saying?

Join the Conversation

Comment below with your own reflections on leanring from lockdown.

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