Over the last few weeks, as the UK has sought to respond to COVID-19, we have seen incredible acts of community. Hundreds of Mutual Aid groups have been set up across the country, for neighbours to offer support to those self-isolating. When the Government released their ‘GoodSam’ scheme to recruit volunteers to support the NHS, over 400,000 people signing up in a day. Almost overnight, communities across Britain have strengthened and established a safety net for those most vulnerable.
For many churches, this kind of community response is something we might have only dreamed of in the past. For a long time, churches have played a key role in their local communities, offering a safe place for people to turn to when they needed support and guidance. For many, building community has been a key part of their mission and ministry, church buildings serving as hubs at the heart of local spaces.
However, the nature of the coronavirus outbreak has made it difficult for churches to respond in their usual ways. We have felt keenly our inability to meet together, and to offer our spaces and presence as a way to respond to the trauma and challenge people are experiencing at this time. We have been unable to reply with the comforting phrase ‘our doors are open’, when we have had to lock them shut for the safety of those around us.
Instead, we have watched as community has been built around us. And, whilst the doors of our church buildings have closed, it seems that something resembling the life within them has begun to spill out onto the streets.
The way life has changed over the last few weeks has unsettled all of us, restricting our normal responses and challenging our ways of doing things. But what if we can use this unsettling as a chance to see things differently? What if this was the nudge we needed to move our posture, and instead of struggling to access God behind the locked doors of our church buildings, we might open our eyes to where God is moving in those around us?
Where might we see God’s healing love at the hands of our NHS staff?
Where might we see God’s reconciling love in new friendships flourishing between neighbours?
Where might we see God’s sacrificial love as the contents of a shopping trolley is offered to the foodbank collection?
Perhaps this is an invitation, a call to join in with where life was already waiting below the surface, and is now blooming. Perhaps, as our normal methods of response and action are curbed, we are provided with an opportunity to understand better how we might listen, and learn. Equally, as we are all affected by these difficult times, perhaps we will learn unexpectedly from our need to receive help ourselves, as well as offer it to others.
As we step out to serve and respond at this time, might we be able not to seek only space of our own, but be overjoyed as we are welcomed into the space others have already created. Might we seek not to reshape situations, but find God in the movements that are already happening. And, as we do, might we play a part in understanding better and revealing God’s presence to those we have come alongside, welcoming and responding to where God is already at work.
JPIT is gathering information about how you can support your local community. You can find our COVID-19 guidance and support here:
JPIT wants to hear from you if you know of people falling through the net. We also want to know about good projects that are providing support to vulnerable people during this crisis. You can email us with any information at email@example.com.