Let's Not Rush Back - A Pastoral Note by Jenny

Dear friends,

In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider

which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”

Dave Hollis

There are a few phrases that have cropped up this year which, when I hear them, cause me to roll my eyes. The phrase which I currently find most annoying and troublesome centres around the search for “a new normal.” I see this from two differing perspectives. On one hand, my heart and soul ache for a sense of normalcy to return — for there to be some certainty, and the possibility of making plans that have even a remote hope of being carried out. I long to be able to do many things that I could do “before,” but which are not possible now. I yearn to be able to put my arms around someone who is grieving or struggling with the stresses of life. I desperately want to be able to have face-to-face gatherings where I don’t run the risk of putting someone’s health, even their life, in danger (I haven’t been tested for this virus, and have no idea if I am a silent carrier of it). And I lo-o-o-ong for the time I can again enjoy the simple luxury of sitting in a cafe drinking a freshly poured, hot cup of coffee with a friend! “A new normal” offers the hope returning to some of these things, and even more it seems to offer some stability and predictability that is very enticing!

And yet, on the other hand, when I think about the Church in this season, “a new normal” fills me with fear. Why? Because it seems like we are crying out for things to return to what they used to be as recently as March this year. However, we know, when we pause to reflect, that statistically the Church was in decline. It was - and this is a generalisation - becoming increasingly irrelevant to society around us. There has been a growing disconnect between what we do as “Church” on a Sunday morning, and in many instances throughout the week also, and the communities in which we are located.

Mostly, though, I think I am afraid of “a new normal” emerging for the Church because it will bring stability and predictability - two things that I long for in my life and which seem to me to be directly oppositional to the movement of the Holy Spirit. In John’s gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). If the Church is truly going to be a movement and not a monument, if we are going to live into the call and claim of the Basis of Union that we are “on the way to the promised end,” (my emphasis) I really believe we have to abandon the idea of “a new normal” and abandon ourselves to the will and wind of the Holy Spirit.

So this is my prayer for the Church, and for us as the people of God in this time and place who find our spiritual home in the Uniting Church: that there will only ever be “a new normal” in as much as it becomes normal for us to follow wherever the Holy Spirit takes us and join in with whatever it is that God is doing amongst us. That is a “normal” I can delightfully, wholeheartedly, fear-fully and joy-fully embrace!

Blessings and peace,