Blackburn Church Related Community Worker reflects on lessons from lockdown

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Lifting others

Lockdown has been hard on many communities and households but as we move beyond our restricted lives, what needs to change and what needs to remain? asks Mal Breeze, a Church Related Community Worker from Blackburn.

The words of the song and album "The Times They Are a-Changin", written by Bob Dylan back in 1964, must have felt as true then as they feel now, 57 years on. Perhaps even more applicable given the last 18 months of Covid-19.

As individuals we have changed, families have changed, our communities have changed. So too have our churches, and many of us have had to rethink how to carry out our ministry.

As communities, we have endured lockdown after lockdown not knowing when they will end. Families have been kept apart for long periods of time, and our churches have had to close.

The word ‘lockdown’ has tripped off of everyone’s tongue faster than it takes to melt a knob of butter on a hot potato.

It has often caused resentment and conflict, not only within communities but also within the church, as we explored what life might be like after it.

As individuals we have changed, families have changed, our communities have changed and so too have our churches, and many of us have had to rethink how to carry out our ministry.

A new reality 

While there will be a new reality for the church, our mission will of course remain the same. However, we will need to seek and find new ways of being a church, carrying out our mission and ministry in that new reality.

For many, including myself, the last 18 months have seemed like a marathon. Having walked, run, and cycled marathons over the years, I can speak from experience! However, I would certainly prefer to take part in a marathon again than re-live the experience of the last year and a half.

One of the positive things to come out of the pandemic for the church is that it has given us an opportunity to reflect on how we do things and this has raised many challenging questions, which we need to think long and hard about.

These challenges include the following, but it’s not an exhaustive list:

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  • When can we safely open our buildings?
  • Have we got enough finances to carry on or not, as the case may be?
  • Do we do worship in the same way and at the same time or do we think outside the box and be completely radical?
  • Do we fall right back into the old ways, the ways we’ve always done things?
  • Have we got enough resources and people to do what’s needed?
  • Are there different ways in which we can use our buildings?
  • Have we got a clear ‘Vision for Mission’?

Then there is the wider question for Synods and the United Reformed Church as whole: do we have too many churches given the reducing numbers in our congregation and the number of ministers?

This is a very big hot potato but it’s a question we need to ask ourselves and seriously explore.

Prayer, discernment, working in partnership and ecumenically are the keys to unlock the future of how we move on and be more effective in our ‘Mission and Ministry’.

So how do we move on?

You have fought the good fight, you have finished the race, you have kept the faith, so to speak, and now things are easing up we need to stay focussed, find new ways of doing things as Missional Disciples of Jesus Christ, and discover how we work together to make a difference.

In the words of David Bowie’s song "Changes", we need to "turn and face the strange……… time may change me, but I can’t change time". Well time has changed us and the communities we serve, and it’s now up to us to find new ways of being church in times which are unknown, we need to take risks and face the difficult questions head on.

We can do this in the assurance that Jesus our risen saviour will be with us every step of the way to the very end of the age.

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Find out more about Church Related Community Work (CRCW) 

If you would like to find out more about Church Related Community Work and how you can become an agent of social change, contact the CRCW office by email for more information.

Photo credits: 'Scrabble' photo by Brett Jordan and 'Isolated' photo by Annie Spratt both on Unsplash

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