Settling in a foreign land

The last few weeks have been difficult.  Most of us have never experienced anything like this depth of change at this speed, and responding has meant solving complicated problems at short notice, under significant stress.  It’s not been fun exactly, has it?

As Richard Cooke has said though, we’re moving from a sprint to a marathon.  The pace of change has slowed down; this week will probably be a lot like last week (maybe too much so).  When things have calmed down a bit it might be helpful to take a step back, take stock, and see whether everything has landed where you want it to.   

I’m going to suggest some questions to do that with, but first I have a caveat.  One initial response to the lockdown, particularly online, has been an explosion of creative ideas about how we can be productive while locked inside (or for those with kids, how to home-school like a pro).  Setting ambitious goals can be great, but there’s also wisdom in not making dealing with a global crisis harder by also taking up oil painting or parkour.  It’s a good time to go easy on yourself for a while.  Prioritise making sure you and those around you are secure and provided for.  If that’s not the case yet, some of the things on this list can wait.

So, how to take stock?  These are some ideas.  

For everyone:

– Do you have supportive relationships, and have they adapted to social isolation?  Whatever your family or household looks like, this is necessary.  If you need to, I’d encourage you to persist with new technology – while frustrating at first, being able to see people’s faces makes an enormous difference.  

– Are there people around you who need help?  Two obvious groups who need support are people who are vulnerable, and key workers in active caring professions during the crisis. If you’re not sure, take risks and reach out to people.  I was a bit shocked when I gave a neighbour a call recently and discovered she hadn’t spoken to anyone for a week.

For those in leadership positions in churches (PCC members, churchwardens, clergy, etc.), these are some more organisational questions and links to resources where possible:

– Does anything crucial rely too much on any one person?  While this is bad practice it’s often very difficult to avoid, but now is a good time to find ways to spread the load.  Sharing responsibilities could also help in another way by creating regular contact between people.  

– How are your PCC’s finances, and how will they be in six months’ time?  The Parish Resources website has a variety of useful advice and resources, or you can contact the Diocesan Finance team if you need specific support.

– Is your church building secure?  There is a very helpful guide on the Church of England website to caring for a church building at present.

– Are your systems for safeguarding still working?  The Diocesan Safeguarding Team has put advice on safeguarding during the lockdown online here.

Accept it and find ways to live well

I’ll finish this by being a bit more reflective.

I’m reading through Jeremiah at the moment (since before coronavirus really had an impact in fact; feels like a lifetime ago, but it’s a long book).  One of the messages Jeremiah gave was to the exiles in Babylon: “Build houses, plant, marry, work for the good of the city you are in.  You will be there for 70 years.”  That would have been hard to hear.  The Jews in Babylon wanted to go home!  Forcibly taken from their homeland by a conquering army, I can imagine that trying to build new lives in Babylon would have felt like giving in, almost like betrayal.  Yet God’s command to them was to accept their situation and do their best to thrive.

Our situation is less drastic, but there’s still a huge amount to wrap your head around.  An article I found helpful was “That discomfort you’re feeling is grief”, which talks about the different emotions this kind of situation brings out and how to deal with them.  This situation is going to last for longer than we want it to.  Accepting that, and finding ways of living as well as possible within it, will be important.

God’s purposes for the exile would have seemed almost impossible to understand at the time, but even then, he was at work.  I find that encouraging because the example of then helps me believe the same can be true now.  While there will be costs to this there will also be blessings.  He is faithful and we can trust that in the end, all will be well.

Images by Marc Thele from Pixabay.

Matt Jermyn
Learning Mentor for Effective Structures.