When I started my ‘Keeping in Touch’ letters/posts, I didn’t really envisage writing more than four or five of them. And here we are at number 9. Not quite enough for a book yet, but well done for sticking with me. And although the lockdown was eased this week, I suspect there are many weeks ahead of us when we will need to carry on ‘keeping in touch’ at arm’s length – or two arms’ length.
Staying connected on the phone and via social media, Zoom and all the rest is great. But if I am honest it is also tiring. I guess many of you are feeling that too? Our brains have to work harder to process only hearing a voice over the phone, or hearing the distorted voice and random background noises on a Zoom meeting or Skype call. We don’t have body language or non-verbal cues to help us. We make an amusing aside and find our voice clashes with someone else’s over the internet and no-one hears either person: chaos ensues. You do a round of phone calls and suddenly it’s lunchtime and you’ve got nothing else done.
I realise this is beginning to sound like the beginnings of a rant. But I think all I’m saying is that it’s great that we can keep in touch as we are doing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not tiring. Our conversation is very binary – we’re either on transmit or receive – and we’re not used to that. We’re used to something that feels much more two way and responsive. So don’t beat yourself up if you’re finding this a bit wearing (on top of all the other things you’re dealing with – whether that be feelings of loneliness and isolation, or the feeling that everything is on top of you – family, work, social life – in a confined space!).That’s why even a shouty chat on the driveway or across the fence feels like a breath of fresh air.
With all this in mind, I am reflecting that for the last few weeks I have been on ‘transmit’ a lot – transmitting services, transmitting these updates, transmitting signpost – and I would like to switch to receive and ask for some feedback. With the easing of lockdown, the Church of England is considering when we can return to our buildings. However, we are still a long way off gathering for Sunday Worship. So, I would like to ask for two pieces of feedback: 1. What have you found helpful in sustaining our church life and would like to see continue while we can’t meet in person? 2. What would you like to see continue after we get back in the building and what would you like to return to how it was before? Please let me know by email or give me a call.
Relationship is a two-way street. It is more than transmit and receive. It’s something much richer, with sight, and touch and tone of voice, and body language and stepping into each other’s space (within reason!). And this is how God relates to us. When humanity kept missing the point and turning away from his love, he didn’t just turn on a big heavenly transmitter with booming loudspeaker. He came to be with us as the person Jesus. The Son stepped into our space, into the complexity and richness of human relationships to call us into relationship with his heavenly Father.
Today is the Feast of St Matthias the Apostle and the Gospel reading is Jesus’ commission to his apostles, ‘go and bear fruit’ (John 15.9-17). But before sending them to bear fruit, Jesus invites them into a loving, sustaining relationship with the Father:
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. (John 15.9-11)
I’m not sure any of us feel our joy is complete in this current situation, whether we have been directly affected by the virus or not. But we can rest in the knowledge that God joys in us and calls us into relationship with him. And wherever we can bring some of God’s joy into our relationships we are bearing the fruit of his kingdom.
With my love and prayers for you,
All Saints Vicarage
The Feast of St Matthias, Apostle Thursday 14th May 2020