What's the church's future after the pandemic?
Will the church ever be the same again once the pandemic finishes and does God even want it to be? That was the question posed by Rev Tim Yau at yesterday’s (July 1) Transforming Norwich online meeting.
Addressing church and organisation leaders on Zoom, Tim asked “What is God trying to say to the church during this period of lockdown and how do we make sense of it for the communities we serve?”
Tim quoted Christian apologist John Lennox who talks about “fractured nature” - God made the world good and great but somehow it is broken and we know that.
“John Piper talks about the pandemic being a ‘bitter providence’ – and that really stayed with me,” said Tim. “Is this God’s providence to us – we have prayed against it and it has hurt so many people but what is God saying to us?
The Praise Song for the Pandemic by Christine Valters Paintner ends by hoping that we can say that love spread more quickly than any virus could and may we be able to say this was not just an ending but also a place to begin.
“As we are coming out of the lockdown, life is still not ‘normal’. Maybe God is trying to disrupt society and disrupt the way we have been, the way we do things, so how are we meant to be? I cannot tell you that – you have to work it out for yourselves,” said Tim.
“There are two parts to my job – being a Diocese of Norwich missioner enabler to encourage our churches to be engaged missionally wherever they are, and the other part is being in Cringleford among the young families and working out what church looks like there.
Of the 650 churches across the diocese, a lot of them may be on a cliff-edge and who knows whether they will survive after this pandemic?
“We are not talking about how to weather this but how we can think more creatively about what to do in the future. We have talked so much about resilience and keeping things going but maybe some of the things we do are not fit for purpose anymore and we need to let them die,” said Tim.
Finally he quoted theologian, Rev Rachel Mann, who said: “The church which comes out of lockdown will, I think, be digitally promising, physically smaller, more financially precarious and tentative, and potentially more flexible and interesting.”
“I have left more questions than answers,” said Tim, “but I am hopefully that if we are willing to let things die then we will be open to resurrection. Change is always difficult but the most important thing is to follow God and what he wants.”
Click here to read Tim’s notes and references for his talk.
The next Transforming Norwich meeting will be on Wednesday September 16 from 12.30pm for an hour. More details before then.