Finding our way out of lockdown
A blog by author Simon Reed.
I’ve just passed an unsettling anniversary. On Friday 13 March 2020, my temperature started rising and didn’t stop until it reached 38.5 degrees, and every time I tried to move a paroxysm of coughing set off. I collapsed into bed in our spare room to stop the rest of the family getting what I’d got. When I emerged again over a week later, the world had changed while I’d been away. I live 20 metres from one of the busiest roads in London, and when we sat in the garden after Boris told us ‘You must stay at home,’ all I could hear was bird song.
I’ve been in Christian ministry just about all my adult life and this was the first time that everything had literally stopped. I’ve got to be honest and say that for the first few days it was incredibly liberating to wake and have nothing to do! Then the God-given vocational instincts kicked in and I started to think about our people and what might help them. My immediate thought was to share something which I do every day. I’m one of the Guardians of a dispersed Christian community, the Celtic inspired Community of Aidan and Hilda. Part of our Way of Life is to pray daily using our Community prayer patterns. I simply prayed into the voice recorder on my phone, added in the Bible readings of the day with a quick off the cuff reflection, posted it on the church website, and emailed everyone to say it was there. Then I did it the next day, and the day after, and the day after that.
As I’ve written in my book Creating Community, I believe a shared daily rhythm of prayer is an essential part of building a healthy church. When the building is open I’m in there every weekday, but I’m only joined by one or two others because our lifestyles don’t make it easy to just drop into church to pray as people would have centuries ago.
Technology is an amazing gift from God. Immediately after I started posting my daily reflections on the church website, I began getting messages from church members. One kindly said how reassuring it was just to hear my voice, but others said how helpful it was to be able to connect with prayer at any point during the day. Then messages came from abroad. A retreat house in France tunes in regularly. A friend in South Carolina said she was listening in the car. A university researcher in Canada tells me how much she is learning through the little daily reflections.
God works for good in all things (Romans 8:28) and whilst there’s nothing good about a pandemic, God has brought a freshness into our praying as we have been able to connect unexpectedly with these ancient rhythms and patterns of prayer.
Besides helping people to pray, my second focus was wanting to help people to sustain and deepen their walk with God day by day. So often we rely on church as a weekly pick-me-up, but becoming what the Bible calls ‘mature in Christ’ (Colossians 1:28) is a seven days a week process of seeking to connect more deeply with God and to connect God with the whole of life. Currently I’m teaching my way through the ten waymarks I shared in Followers of the Way, which enable us to be imitators of Jesus in things we do every day.
As other things have been stripped away I think it’s helped many of us see what really matters. We’ve wanted to deepen our relationship with God. We’ve wanted to connect with each other even if it is only through a rectangular box on a screen. We’ve seen that, no matter how much we want to get back, church has to be more than a gathering on a Sunday. We’ve also seen that the world doesn’t stop even when there’s a pandemic. We’ve seen the best in people as we rallied round to support the NHS and been inspired by people like Sir Tom Moore. Sadly, we’ve also seen the worst in people as safety rules get selfishly ignored, racism rears its vile ugly head even as we seek to stop it, and the lives of too many women are treated as expendable. I don’t want our churches to come out of lockdown and go back to what they were. I want them to come out better. Our world needs the Jesus Way, but will only see it in people who are lovingly living it out, following God-given signposts, and rooted in a rhythm of prayer. As Jeremiah said, we do stand at a crossroads (Jeremiah 6:16). So let’s rediscover the ancient paths, walk in them, and find the good Way.
Simon Reed is vicar of two Anglican churches in West London and one of the three Guardians of the international and interdenominational Community of Aidan and Hilda, a dispersed new monastic community which draws inspiration from Celtic spirituality. He is the author of Creating Community (BRF 2013) and Followers of the Way (BRF 2017), both of which explore Celtic insights into how we do church and imitate Jesus in our discipleship. Outside of lockdown Simon is a hillwalker and climber and an active Tranmere Rovers supporter.