Coronavirus continues to have a profound impact right across our world.
For a number of years Christians have been considering how we re-imagine church in a post-Christendom landscape. The rupture to our normal lives from the COVID-19 pandemic has been dramatic. The way in which normal life is being changed and shut down provides an opportunity for the church to practice the two greatest commandments.
During a crisis there are both dangers and opportunities. In a national emergency we have the chance to counter fear with peace and panic with the reassurance of God’s presence and love. In this period, new blogs, prayers and reflections have been produced that might help us in an era of social distancing and isolation to start rethinking the mission of the church in these strange new times.
- Given the profound implications for yet another murder of a black man on the streets of the USA by police this reflection entitled It’s not just the coronavirus — bad theology is killing us by US Methodist minister William H Lamar is worth reading.
- Emma Pavey from the Susanna Wesley Foundation writes on the Fruits of the Lockdown as well as another blog called There’s a hole in my bucket list.
- Amongst the pain being unable to share the eucharist together for many Anglicans there is a fantastic ecumenical reflection on entitled On ‘Kitchen Table Eucharists’ by Baptist Steve Holmes.
- Mark Rodel asks good questions about the protestant work ethic going into overdrive during the lock down. Read his blog On working hard here.
- Sanjee Perera from the University of Birmingham reflects on her research with the Minority Anglican Project and what the BAME death toll in the current COVID-19 pandemic reveals about how far both church and society still have to go. Read here.
- An excellent vimeo video from Robert Beckford entitled Better Must Come! Black Pentecostals, the Pandemic and the future of Christianity. Beckford reminds us that ‘less visible are commentators from black churches on social issues.’ So the video counters the silence with some black church noise! It’s really good to hear some Pentecostal reflections and prophetic challenges around coronavirus and the unequitable effects it has had on BAME communities.
- The Theologian Ruard Ganzvoort from the Netherlands has posted a short video on YouTube about the virus of shortsightedness in Dutch with English subtitles.
- Bishop Graham Tomlin entitled How coronavirus is giving us a crash course on a different moral universe.
- Alongside this is an excellent piece from ABC on Practices of resistance during coronavirus lockdown.
- Bishop Dr Joe Aldred reflects during an interview with the Woolf Institute in Cambridge on how his own faith community have been affected by the pandemic having lost close personal friends and mentors during this time. In Joe’s personal blog too he reflects on Easter Sunday and COVID-19.
- There are other general theological blogposts around coronavirus that help us think about the issue in broader brush strokes and the kind of questions we might be asking. Israel Olofinjana (Baptist minister in Woolwich and leader of the Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World) has blogged around 6 responses to Coronavirus.
- Clive Marsh (Vice President of the Methodist conference) writes that God is in control of his wonderful and fragile world even in these strange times.
- Steve Latham’s (Baptist Minister in King’s Cross) Corona Theology post is helpful too.
- Paul Bradbury (Leader of Poole Missional Communities) has blogged on the parallel between our atomised society and the virus.
- Philip Yancy looks at the issue of suffering and plague times in relation to the unfolding situation.
Biblical themed reflections
- Katherine Dell (writing in Church Times) rightly reminds us not to compare the current pandemic with the plagues of Egypt. Important to be reminded that the coronavirus is NOT an act of God.
- One theme that is cropping up in the blogs of Ruth Gee (Assistant Secretary of the Methodist Conference) the subject of Babylonian Exile. Ruth reflects on a people in exile and a people of hope.
- Stephen March’s blog fuel for pilgrims asks whether the coronavirus may be the saviour of the church?
- Paul Bradbury (Pioneer minister and Author of By Another Route Home) dealing with exile themes explores how the current pandemic might impact our understanding of Church.
- CMS have created an excellent virtual lament space which is being added to on a daily basis and can be found here. Intended, perhaps, for lent initially this is a good place to browse. The heavy weight theologians have begun to offer reflections this week.
- New Testament scholar and former Bishop of Durham N T Wright’s article for Time magazine entitled Christianity offers no answers about the coronavirus: it’s not supposed to has been widely hailed. Wright says, ‘the mystery of the biblical story is that God also laments. Some Christians like to think of God as above all that, knowing everything, in charge of everything, calm and unaffected by the troubles in his world. That’s not the picture we get in the Bible.’
- Ian Paul (Premiere Blogger of the year in 2017 and 2018) offers a longer treatise on plagues, judgement and the book of Revelation.
- Luke Bretherton reflects on how coronavirus presents a moral crisis not just a medical one.
Isolation and Trauma
- The issue of the Eucharist and rages on some social media feeds. Revd Alice Watson writes poignantly about the loss she feels. She writes, ‘My spirituality is centred on receiving God in the Eucharist and I feel strange and empty. Deprived even, of the guilt that comes with having willingly skipped mass. Guilt I can deal with. Gloom is harder to shift.’ Read here.
It’s clear that the sustained period of lockdown is both a gift to some and traumatising to others. Some have been reflecting on the idea of being isolated and at home.
- A great post from Evangelist Canon J John is on being home alone can be found here.
- Theologian Karen O’Donnell has blogged on doing theology from a place that hurts and is worth a read from the perspective of trauma theology. It reminds us not to rush towards resurrection.
- Again the reflections produced by tragedy and congregations is helpful is the unfolding of trauma for larger groups like congregations, charities and other organisation.
- The Methodist church blog on mental health is also worth checking out.
- The SCM blog provides continues to post in its series of theology in isolation. Florence O’Taylor offers on a view from the middle trauma theology and covid-19, another asks if the current crisis might mean the church rediscovers the importance of the local.
- There is also thoughtful piece by Dr Sanjee Perera (Cognitive psychologist and Research fellow, of the Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion) who shares out of her own experience growing up in Sri Lanka and her Gethsemane moment.
- There are also interesting reflections on creativity or paralysis from Grant Stewart in South Africa.
- Emily Scott muses on how our brains don’t work as well during a time of crisis and trauma.
- Dr Grace Milton from Queens reflects on how COVID-19 reveals that, ‘many religious ceremonies and rituals have found new centres. Predominantly in two places that have in some traditions been viewed as secondary to the ‘official’ space of a religious building. These are 1) online and 2) the home. Each is finding a renewed importance during this time of crisis.’ Read more here.
Missiological and future church reflections
- Jason Mandryk from Operation World has produced a helpful free ebook entitled Global Transmission, Global Mission available to download here. In compiling this analysis, the Operation World team interacted with ministry and mission leaders in every region of the world, getting input on how to pray for different nations afflicted by CoVid-19 as well as strategic considerations from a wide array of missiological contexts.
- James Butler from The Susanna Wesley Foundation reflects on issues around practical theology in a Zoom orientated world with a great blog post entitled Has the Holy Spirit made it online? Practical Theology in a Zoom Room: Part 1
- Paul Bradbury asks if this time is a catalyst to consider living more simply – Life that is truly life II – Simplicity.
- Rachel Mann’s blog asks some simulating questions about the future of the C of E but will resonate with those from many denominations she says. ‘The church which comes out of lockdown will, I think, be digitally promising, physically smaller, more financially precarious and tentative, and potentially more flexible and interesting.’ Read more of her Where do we go from here blog.
- Some have been working furiously to put books together. A useful free downloadable eBook has been released entitled The Distanced Church: Reflections on Doing Church online. Edited by Heidi Campbell it includes reflections by priests and pastors mostly from the global north.
- Richard Passmore (Director of Pioneers in the diocese of Carlisle) excellent Sunday Papers blog is worth investigating. Especially his Beyond the Broadcast services to scratch the corona itch asks how participatory the proliferation of online services really are?
- Missiologist Michael Frost provocatively asks whether coronavirus could set the church back 25 years? Frost suggests that the spike in numbers attending online services may just add to the consumer mentality many have of the church. Frost says, ‘this spike in online attendance will be as illusory as the growth of megachurches last century. It will serve to mask the reality that less and less people are devoted to a wholehearted commitment to Christ, and more and more people see church as an event, a shot in the arm, a convenient uplift that doesn’t challenge their everyday life in any way.’
- Ruth Valerio (Tearfund) also has an excellent blog on decoding coronavirus.
- Stephen March (Pioneer based in Leicester) has written on Thin Places and how Celtic spirituality might be a gift at this moment.
- Jonny Baker from CMS asks that in the move to online church there might be more imagination and less control.
Being a Good Neighbour
- The team at Life on the breadline continue to update their blog with some great reflections. Experiences of being a priest in a Pandemic is a great reflection by Suzanne Vernon Yorke.
- Yourneighbour is an excellent website allowing people to connect with a number of resources including a helpline.
- The Methodist Church have launched a great social media called Love Yourself and Love Your Neighbour.
- An excellent blog on being neighbourly during coronavirus from The Life Beyond the Breadline Research Team at Coventry University. Also a helpful page by MTAG (Mission Theology Advisory group) which includes thoughts on being a good neighbour.
Easter during lockdown
- Bishop Stephen Cottrell (Archbishop of York elect) writes on Holy week without Church in the US edition of the Spectator.
- Al Barrett (Vicar of an LEP on the Firs and Bromford Estate in East Birmingham) has a series of blog on Resurrection Deferred? COVID-19 and the disruption in liturgical time that are worth investigating.
- Continuing the theme of isolation Saturday is a poem by Naomi J. (Naomi is a disabled part-time social researcher).
- Baptist minister Steve Holmes suggests that Holy Saturday might be a good day for us in the present conditions.