Churches Together Apart

Claire Crowley, County Ecumenical Officer for Churches Together in South London, shares our Reflection of the Month for April 2020.

Claire Crowley, County Ecumenical Officer for Churches Together in South London, shares our Reflection of the Month for April 2020…

Churches Together describes Christian networks which encourage togetherness, and this has never been more vital to the church’s flourishing than in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the world. However, churches have had to delve deep into what this means. We know that church has never meant the building, and for now it does not mean that we gather together in person either. This togetherness is about being united in our faith, in our witness and love of our neighbours. It is about praying and supporting our communities as one body, just not in one place.

In recent weeks in practical terms, we have seen church communities connect through WhatsApp groups to help the sick and self-isolating, and seen services move to online streaming via Facebook and to interactive platforms such as Zoom. Some churches are struggling with the technology so this is one area where churches together groups have an opportunity to get involved – either through providing telephone assistance to enable other churches to get online, or through simply opening up the online services of one church to others. Our church services can now be more ecumenical than ever before as the physical walls are no longer between us.

Let’s continue to strengthen unity in Christ by offering to support one another through extending hearts, prayers, messages of love and, when necessary, errands on others’ behalf. Thanks to technology for remote interactions, we have this means to help connect and protect our communities, the most vulnerable, and ourselves from the virus’ threat.

Kindness is key: there have been some fantastic community initiatives to connect people via WhatsApp and leafleting – with those delivering them being urged to regularly sanitise their hands. London boroughs are organising Covid-19 support WhatsApp groups by Ward, contact your local councillors for details of your network. I saw a prime time news reader do a section on the role of kindness on the weekend evening news – never before!  People are sharing stories on social media of #coronakindness and #covidkindness, about how we can think of our neighbours and ourselves in order to slow the spread. Many have connected with residents nearby for the first time to build virtual links and enable all to be supported when most in need. Our collective response for our neighbours depends very much on unity: working together as the body of Christ to manage this pandemic.

It has been a privilege to join millions of others around the country and further afield for prayer at the same time, and for timed moments of applause to thank our key workers on the front lines. Despite living the reality of physical isolation to save lives, let’s seize this moment to promote unity and find ways to be together, apart.

Claire Crowley is County Ecumenical Officer for Churches Together in South London and parent to a lively 7 year old. Before working overseas in Namibia and France, Claire was Deputy Director at Dance UK, and Executive Director for Springs Dance Company, an interdenominational Christian organisation and one of the UK’s longest established professional contemporary dance companies. Claire has taught Dance, Maths and Religious Studies, manages community, education and arts partnerships, and maintains a research interest in doing theology through the arts.