I wonder how many of you have achieved all the jobs you set out to do at the beginning of lock-down? I certainly haven’t! However, one job that’s been ongoing for weeks is sorting my study. If you’d seen it in March you’d know why it’s not finished yet! But I’ve unearthed all sorts of interesting memorabilia, photos, articles and assorted junk – and it’s taken so long because I’ve been stopping to read or look through so much!
One document I discovered this week was an article I’d written in 2003 for the old church ‘Together’ magazine, about that year’s Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, Judy Jarvis (whom I’d known slightly from our previous Circuit). In it I’d quoted some of what she’d said in her inaugural address to Conference, when she talked about the concept of ‘church’ as ‘Hospitable Space’.
As we emerge from lock-down and life returns to some sort of semblance of normal (though will it ever be ‘normal’ again?), it seems to me that what she had to say then is of some help to us now. We are trying to determine what the Church will be like in the ‘new normal’, how we should function, what changes should we make in our worship, our service to the community, our discipleship and our proclamation of the Good News about Jesus? Judy’s explanation of ‘Hospitable Space’ gives us, perhaps, some basic parameters on which to base our moving forward.
She says that first and foremost the Church must be a Welcoming Space, in which everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, and whatever their background, finds a sense of their own value in the church community.
The Church must be Safe Space, in which we provide “a safe, caring space in which people of all ages are free to develop, explore, experiment, take wings and fly!”
The Church must be Challenging Space, where worship is participatory, fresh and lively, where all are encouraged to learn, and where injustice is challenged at all levels of society.
The Church must be Still Space, valuing time for quiet, reflection and silence.
The Church must be Overflowing Space. Important though these other things are, we need to see ourselves as the Church of mission, “where we are so surprised and astonished about the experience of being wanted by God that we seek in every way to share it with others.” Instead of being complacent and self-satisfied, or depressed about decline or the difficulties posed by the Covid-19 outbreak, we need to be “surprised, delighted and excited by the joy of the Christian message and …… recover the ‘wow’ factor, rejoicing in the power of God working in and through us.”
Most importantly, she concludes, the Church must be Sacred Space – “a Church where God is at the centre, a Church in which Jesus becomes the host and bids us welcome, a Church in which the Holy Spirit warms, inspires and invigorates the hearts of all its members.”
In these uncertain times that is surely a message to inspire and encourage us all.
The reflections here are written by members of our congregation.