This week, Roberta shared with us some thoughts about the church and community.
I have been thinking over the past few weeks about the church, about whether, if or how the church can reopen. We’ve filled in surveys, there have been multiple versions of guidelines for meeting safely and like everything else in life, we’ve had to make decisions about what is the right thing to do and what is safe for ourselves and others. What does it mean if only a few are gathered in the same place, while others are connected digitally? What does it mean if some cannot participate in the same way due to their health, their families’ health, technological limitations or their work? Can the church function without the community gathering together in a physical way, especially when our most important sacraments emphasise the very real, physical practices of touching, eating, drinking and laying on hands?
This week has been the first week back for my students and I’ve been reading much on the subject of how to teach online and how to create a sense of community when we never meet in person, and sometimes never even see their faces or hear their voices. One paper I read contained this thought which I thought was relevant to the questions about the church:
“ a community is what people do together rather than where or through what means”
We are not a community because of where we are or how we go about worshipping. We are not part of the bigger community of the worldwide church because of these things either. Whether we are in a church building, watching a service at our kitchen table, catching up with it in little chunks between work or even have struggled to connect with it at all; Whether we kneel to pray and stand for the gospel, or stand to sing and sit to listen; whether our church building is big, small, built for that purpose or we meet in a borrowed hall. We are a community because, as it says in Galatians, we bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ. We have done this over the past 6 months in these Sunday evenings, in phone calls, emails, prayer, coffee on Zoom, meeting in gardens, delivering essentials to those who need it, wearing masks to protect others, and in a multitude of other ways.
As we worry about the coming months, about Christmas restricted and stricter public health measures, we can hold on to this community we have and that we continue to build. A community built on what we do together, worshipping, praying, creating, laughing, weeping, protecting and supporting each other through these hard times.
This evening we'd like to share a recording of the Raindrop Prelude by Chopin, recorded for us by Gina Baker this week. The photos were taken by Una and Sarah. After you've listened to it, you might like to read the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins and a contemporary psalm from Desmond and Mpho Tutu which you can read here.
'Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend'
By Gerard Manley Hopkins
Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum; verumtamen
justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c.
Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?
Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build – but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.
Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985) - accessed here