A 'New Normal'
Updated: Apr 29, 2020
The phrase ‘new normal’ is one that is being increasingly used as people consider the impact of the coronavirus on our way of living. ‘New Normal’ refers to the way we adapt in response to a dramatic change that has transpired. Well, we have certainly seen a dramatic change, as, since the middle of March our lives have changed in ways that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago. Restriction of freedom to leave our homes, social distancing, hearing new figures updating us on the number of people who have lost their lives to the virus are just some of the things that are a part of the ‘new normal’. And for those of us who are Christians, we have had to adapt to the shutting of our church buildings.
Speaking to the leaders of churches across SWaBA reveals how amazingly many are adapting to the ‘new normal’. Virtual church services are springing up in many places via a variety of different mediums including Facebook Live, YouTube, Zoom and WhatsApp; others have been producing written materials, including daily reflections, sermons and full services. Creative ways of keeping in touch with each other, running Youth Groups, engaging with the local community and so on, have been incorporated into the ‘new normal’. It is amazing and encouraging to see the ways in which people and churches are adapting in the face of the challenges of the Coronavirus. Over recent weeks we have gone on a journey. The first stage sprung from the initial announcements of restrictions and working out what that meant for churches (Baptists Together have produced tremendous resources to help). Second, came the response phase – planning new ways of connecting and for many this included quickly learning new technology (I wonder how many of us had heard of Zoom at the beginning of the year!). And this led us towards Easter and a honing of our skills as we adapted to the ‘new normal’. And that leaves me reflecting on two things in particular this week:
how are we feeling about this?
What is the next stage of the journey?
How are we feeling?
Well, perhaps all that can be said confidently is that we are reacting in different ways. Some are energised by doing new things and being taken out of the routine whilst others are feeling tired and drained by the whole experience. Some are finding a new sense of purpose whilst others are questioning their abilities. Some are seeing new life in their churches as they engage with people in the community who previously were not a part of church life, whilst others are mourning the loss of loved members of the church family. One thing I want to address in this reflection is to recognise that there are people who are feeling anxious and stressed by being forced away from the ‘norm’ of life; people who are wondering whether they will be able to cope. You are not alone and struggle is not a sign of how strong our faith is. It can hit Christian and non-Christian; new Christian and Church leader – none of us is immune. But there is help out there. Let me share just one resource through the Baptist Together website. A series of webinars are being produced to help resource us at this time and one deals with anxiety and stress: https://www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/571177/Managing_Stress_and.aspx What next?
Do we simply continue with this ‘new normal’ until social distancing restrictions come to an end? Or is there something more?
I want to suggest that we are indeed entering a new stage of the journey. Let us go back to that first Easter. There was the surprise and joy at the empty grave. The news had come ‘Jesus is risen’. Something amazing had happened. But things were no longer the same. Yes, Jesus was alive, but the disciples had to adapt to a ‘new normal’. Jesus wasn’t with them in the same way as before his crucifixion. Everything was very different in ways beyond their imagination. What next? In our minds we might jump from the accounts of the resurrection appearances to Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit in such a powerful way. But there were 50 days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost. There was a time of uncertainty, a time of crying out to God and probably asking the question, God, what is going on? Is it possible that we can identify with this in a new way this year? Are we now in a period where we should be crying out to God, asking the question, ‘what are you saying to us God?’ How are you going to reveal yourself to us and the world in this time? How is society changing and how to we get the good news of Jesus across in these times? Is this a time when we are waiting on God to reveal himself and for us to keep asking, ‘God what are you saying?’ Again, let me link you to a part of the Baptists Together website that is entitled, From Easter to Pentecost. Here is a small quote from the webpage: We want to take time to receive the Lord’s blessing of peace over us and to be present with Jesus so that we can learn something of our presence in this strange world. Maybe, on our journey, we too will be able to speak peace and hope in the dark places of our communities today. Could this be a bigger part of our ‘new normal’? To seek to give extra attention to what God is saying - to listen and to look so that we might be ready to grow in the time ahead? Surely this will help us to prepare for the future and another ‘new normal’ that will emerge.