The Covid-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives – not least our Christian discipleship and how we live that out day by day and Sunday by Sunday. To help us to reflect on the impact of Covid-19, of lockdown and of the many ways in which ‘church’ has changed for us in recent months, we are planning a range of resources and events around the Diocese to help that process of reflection. Resources for parishes/benefices will be both developed and ‘signposted’ by our Mission & Ministry Team.
Some events will be for clergy and licensed ministers only and details of these will be made available via archdeacons and area deans. Others will be advertised more widely. The Cathedral will also provide a venue and focus for liturgical and creative ways to mark the impact of the virus on our churches and our communities.
The following gives a taste of some of the resources and events which are in view:
Diocese Level- A Eucharist of Lament and Hope
The Eucharist of Lament and Hope will ‘replace’ this year’s Chrism Eucharist as a liturgical and ‘safe’ opportunity for clergy, lay ministers and lay leaders to gather to ‘mark’ the pains, losses and hopes engendered by the Covid-19 pandemic. As emergence coincides with the awakening to the deep inequalities - particularly regarding race - that exist in our society, this will also provide an opportunity to acknowledge and address this, and provide space for us as a Diocese to repent.
Archdeaconry level – An event for theological reflection in each archdeaconry
This will be an opportunity for clergy, lay ministers and lay leaders to gather for theological reflection, sharing (and moaning!) and an opportunity to begin to identify together what the ‘new normal’ of church and ministry may look like.
Chapter/Deanery level – A Quiet Day (or similar)
This will be a more intimate gathering for clergy (or ‘extended Chapter’ as appropriate) to continue to reflect at a personal level with space also for truth to be told, fears expressed and hope renewed.
Resources have been developed, suitable for use by home groups, preachers, children, youth – and ‘new enquirers’ perhaps – which enables people to reflect theologically, share experience and re-build community as they emerge out of the experience of lockdown
Personal level –signposting for clergy/spiritual directors/pastoral assistants
Sign posting of suitable ‘outside’ materials for individuals and small groups, including bespoke support for those who have suffered disproportionately from the effects of the virus (e.g. Grief Café; Good Grief courses etc) – recognising that people will emerge and be ‘ready’ to deal with this kind of material at different times and in different ways.
We recognise that different groups and different individuals will emerge from Covid-19 in very diverse contexts and at difference paces. In offering these events and activities the over-riding ethos will be ‘permission-giving’ and ‘flexible’. There is no requirement for people to participate, but we nevertheless hope that they will be helpful.
The timing and exact ‘shape’ of each of the above will, of course, depend upon what is possible when according to Government restrictions.
I am most grateful to our Archdeacons and Area Deans, led by the Archdeacon of Harlow, for consulting and putting together such a helpful emergence strategy with its apt milestones and suggested activity at each level of diocesan life going forward. I hope and pray that it will offer suitable rites of passage for us all to reflect on the demanding journey through the pandemic and renew our hope for a healthy spiritual and missional future, as God the Holy Spirit leads us.