The new normal

How will Church be as the lock down ends?

30. April 2020By Scotty Williams6 Minutes

We cannot go back

As countries begin to slowly emerge from COVID-19 lock downs, there are many people expressing a hope of getting back to normal. In fact, there are even some who have protested for normality, but the hard truth that we must accept is that we can’t go back to how things were. Dr. Bréne Brown writes that we have to “settle into a new normal”, and this includes our worship lives or gathering within the Church. Of course, there are some things that will stay the same and continue, but there are many things that will not be the same when services start up again.

So, for example, numbers of the elderly have died during the pandemic, and many of them were faithful members of parishes for decades. Their loss means more than just a lower number in membership, it also means a loss of wisdom that has carried congregations for many years. Furthermore, the pandemic has suspended celebrating the Sacraments, and when they are celebrated again it will be under several restrictions. Those who serve Communion might have to wear gloves and possibly masks, and baptisms might take place outside of regular services. And then there are those within the risk groups who must stay at home, and not enjoy the fellowship of gathering with the body of Christ.

Indeed, there are many things that will change when Churches reopen, and the goal should not be business as usual or getting back to how things were. The main goal of every congregation should be settling into the new normal and helping people to navigate the new world this normal has brought about.

We’re going to have to settle into a new normal while grieving the loss of normal, which is a big ask of people, collectively. – Brené Brown

An exit plan

For the past few weeks, the All Souls Council has been thinking and praying about the new normal, and after much discussion they have begun to see a way for our community to settle in. Of course, there are many unknowns and things must be done day by day, but the Council feels that we need an “exit plan” like the one that Switzerland is following now. As we emerge from quarantine we cannot jump back to full services, for there will still be federal restrictions for all public worship gatherings. In other words, we will gradually make our way back to the sanctuary, and we will do so in stages following those that the Swiss Federal Council has set.

The first stage will focus on Inreach and bringing our community back together, and this will be done through small gatherings led by Elders called “shepherding groups”. In accordance with federal regulations these gatherings will consist of five people, and they will meet for an event where they can have fellowship while social distancing and have a short time of discussion on a spiritual topic.

In addition to shepherding groups, we will continue with Social Distance Worship on Sundays, and our pastor will be offering a weekly study series via Zoom on the early Church called, “Didache”. We will also be intentional about gatherings for those in risk groups, and will create events where they can participate, fellowship with others, and receive pastoral care. Those in risk groups are encouraged to share ideas for events that are suitable for them, and you can do so by contacting Charmaine or our pastor. The inclusion and safety of those in risk groups is a top priority, and we count it a privilege and a blessing to assist them in this time.

Again, the first stage of the exit plan will be bringing our community back together, and our Council will send regular updates on the next steps in the coming weeks. In this process of reopening All Souls they hope that others will be inspired to join us, and settle into the new normal which is filled with joys that are yet to be discovered. Despite the hard truth that we cannot go back to how things were, we have the hope that we can go forward to greater things than what we had before. And with this we have the hope of the constant presence of the Lord, the Lord Who was with us in the old normal, is what is now, and leads us on.

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