Stuart Radcliffe, our Missional Discipleship Enabler, shares some ideas...
Being Disciples Whilst Socially Distant
Do you remember when you used to get that ‘Friday Feeling’, the week was ending and we had the weekend to look forward to? Now all our days seem to merge into one.
In these strange new times in which we live, for me, Thursday is now the new Friday!
On our street like many others across our nation we stand outside our houses and clap for the NHS and our other key workers. However, this is more than an opportunity to show gratitude for those caring for us in this our time of need, it is an opportunity to connect with our neighbours, whilst observing correct social distancing of course.
Thanks to our Thursday evening encounters we have met those whom we live amongst (we haven’t lived here all that long), and we have learnt their names. More than that we have swapped stories, heard about their families, listened to their fears, and shared their hopes.
I have seen even just over a short space of time a growing awareness of spirituality and an expression that there must be more to life than ‘this’! Here in this quiet suburban street in Chester on a Thursday evening I find myself being part of the kind of church that previously I’d only ever dreamt of starting.
It’s messy (albeit without craft and paint), it has no structure, it isn’t traditional in any sense and yet…, the apostle Peter asks us to always be prepared to give an account of the hope that is in us.
And so, with two of our neighbours, whom we have now discovered, are also Christians, that is what we are doing. We are serving, loving, and witnessing to the hope we have that God works in and through the most desperate of situations. Finding the way to be Christ to our neighbours and our new friends and Walking the Way, Living the life of Jesus in our own small part of Chester.
Our conversations and growing relationships allow us to share our belief that our God is the God of endless possibilities. The God who swept over a formless void and gave it life, the God who never allowed the darkness to overcome the light and the God who burst forth with new life when it looked as if death had said the final word.
Even in this time of social distancing we are all able to find ways to share our hope that even in this mess of Covid 19 God has not abandoned us. We can help people look for God in even the smallest of gestures and the most random acts of kindness.
So, I look forward to Thursdays when once again I can gather with friends to discover where God has been at work this week and give thanks for the even the smallest of miracles performed.
This time last year I was looking forward to beginning my sabbatical, wondering where it would lead and what I would discover? I was determined that it would help to inform my ministry and the work I undertake in the Synod.
Part of that was to think about how we as churches make disciples, and in turn grow the church. We often think all we need to do is attract people to our buildings and then through some process of spiritual osmosis, hey presto, a lifelong commitment to Jesus will shortly follow!
I hope it will not surprise you to hear, that I found this was not the case. Those churches who were taking the commitment to make new disciples were doing so because it was an intentional part of their overall work. So how can we be disciples and further the work of the kingdom of God when our doors are all shut?
I hope that this is something we can explore together, if you have different ideas to me then I’d love to hear them so that we can all learn from each other as think about making discipleship an intentional part of our daily lives and how we are Being Disciples Whilst Socially Distant.
What follows are some of my thoughts and ideas
We have often held the idea we are the problem. We think the church needs them out there and not us in here. In our current situation our first step is to recognise that God wants to work through us. We are all God has, so why not spend some time in prayer asking God how you can be used to further God’s kingdom.
Does your street have a What’s App group or other method to help people keep connected or get provisions whilst isolated? If not, perhaps you could set one up.
Could you use the What’s App group to offer to pray for people, or if you would rather not do it that way, could you post cards through people’s doors?
We have been baking for our neighbours and we have left gifts on people’s doorsteps to cheer them up.
Can you organise 15 minutes in a day where you and your neighbours meet up in small groups (observing social distancing) we meet at 8pm and find it really helpful for those on their own. If someone is particularly vulnerable you could meet outside their house and they could talk through the window.
Why not put a bear in your window so that local children doing their daily exercise can do it whilst ‘Going on a bear hunt’?
Put some posters in your windows saying thank you to the NHS and our key workers. Why not stick another one there as well reminding people that God cares for us all?
Write messages of hope, they could include little messages from Scripture if you like on post it notes and then stick them on peoples’ doors or in other places they can be found.
If you are able, then let some of your more vulnerable neighbours know that you are available and happy to help with shopping, trips to the post office or collecting medication from the chemist.
Perhaps the easiest of all, be friendly, smile and wave and simply say hello to those you pass on the street or those who pass your house. Let’s all try and make time to pass the time of day with those we live amongst, who know we might all get along!
How about sending donations of food or cash to your local foodbank? My mum who is 80 and having to shield herself, suggested neighbours dropped off food in her porch, and she then arranged for it to be collected. All done whilst maintaining the social distance she needed!
Jesus reminds us that we should love our neighbour as our self, so let’s remember to both and stay safe.