Welcome to the New Normal

A friend of mine was recently nostalgically reflecting on a Church service he attended on Sunday 22nd March 2020. It was the day before Boris Johnson did something which, only a few weeks earlier would have seemed absolutely unimaginable. On 23rd March, 2020, in response to the developing coronavirus pandemic, he imposed Lockdown.

22nd March 2020 was the last opportunity that any Church had to meet together in person before lockdown. To lots of people, it seems rather like the last ‘normal’ Sunday.

Since then, of course, so much has happened. Overnight, Church buildings closed, and many started to explore the opportunities of YouTube, Zoom and social media. Whilst some mature Christians struggled to keep up with the technology, others embraced new ways of meeting together enthusiastically. There is evidence that at this time of crisis, digital Church media has been viewed by a small army of people who have rarely if ever been to Church. But the weeks have passed, (at the time I write this, nearly 5 months have passed) I’ve been increasingly aware that many individual Christians have expressed some frustration as they long for us to ‘get back to normal’.

Some of the Lockdown rules have eased, and since 4th July, 2020, subject to some restrictions, we have been able to resume ‘in person’ services. Some Churches jumped at the chance, but for others, there was recognition that ‘in person’ services would be anything but ‘normal’. Many leaders have felt that their ability to deliver an inclusive and meaningful act of worship was so undermined that they would remain closed until the restrictions eased further.

I have many friends who are looking to the future with a sense of excitement. There is talk of a God given opportunity for the Church to break away from tradition, to find new expressions of Church, as we seek a closer relationship with Christ in our worship life. I love to hear this kind of talk, but as we pass the point of five months of restrictions, I’m concerned that there is a growing risk of inertia – of simply waiting for something to happen. 

Whether we look nostalgically backwards or excitedly forwards we can easily develop a sense of waiting for some kind of ‘new normal’ which is either indistinguishable from the old normal, or non-controversially different to suddenly appear.

It was the Greek Philosopher Heraclitus who pointed out that the only constant in life is change, and the Prophet Malachi who pointed out that the one constant in life is an unchanging God. This is a good time to remind yourself, and be encouraged by the fact that in the midst of a constantly changing world, God does not change. 

Whether you are looking forwards or backwards, we need to be clear that standing still must not be an option. we must not allow the ongoing uncertainties of the coronavirus world to drive us into a state of inertia, in which we risk missing the blessings and opportunities which are before us now.

Right now, things feel strangely different, but we need to reflect that in spite of the restrictions, Jesus Christ is still the same yesterday, today and forever. He is as active in the world today as he was before March 2020, and as He will be when this is all over. His Great Commission is not just for yesterday and tomorrow, it is for today. It is for now. 

The world is still in crisis, but it’s time to find ways to establish inclusive routines, practices and rhythms of life which enable us to be an active, missional, Christ centred Church ‘today’. 

Breaking news. This is the new normal. Let’s get on with the job.

Keep praying and be encouraged. 

First Published: 15th August, 2020

Richard Jackson is the Executive Director of LifePicture UK and part of the Leadership of The Hub Beeding Baptist Church in West Sussex, UK

email Richard here

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