The Spirit might be asking us to be brave, to not cling to the old but to be the pilgrim people of the moment

12 June 2020

The Government has announced that places of worship may open for private prayer from 13th June. Jude Levermore, Head of Mission for the Methodist Church in Britain, writes of her hopes for how the Church will move forward, by being 'the pilgrim people of the moment.'

When Methodism changed from a connexion of societies to become a denomination or church we began to erect and use separate Methodist buildings which became our churches. Methodism came first, our buildings came second.

As we begin to think about ‘going back into our buildings’ I am hopeful that we will take time to consider what we have learned from being out of them. I am hopeful that we will have solidified our understanding that church is not a building- we teach that to our children, but do we hold that in our hearts? We, the people are the church, the body of Christ meeting together in community, acting together in mission, longing together for the transformation of our world, responding together to our calling.

I’m praying that as we share a road map for leaving lockdown, with all its needful risk assessments and procedures, we will guard against entering another lockdown, that of being so caught up in our buildings that we miss the opportunities to be church without them. 

Anecdotally I have seen and heard of such amazing innovation and creativity over these last months, as churches seek to serve their neighbourhoods and be good news and speak good news. All around the Connexion new and wonderful things are springing up.

As our managing trustees consider carefully their next steps my hope is that they carve out time not only to navigate a way through the 29 pages of the risk assessment, but to first undertake a spiritual assessment; to what is God calling this church, this chapel? I believe the Spirit might be asking us to be brave, to not cling to the old but to be the pilgrim people of the moment. Let’s be a people of vision, let’s not long to get back to normal, let’s see what God might do if we allow ourselves to be led somewhere new.  

Let us be generous and gracious to one another, allow different churches and chapels to make the decisions they need to without pressure to get on with the usual, allowing instead time to consider the Spirit.

I am reminded of Charles Wesley’s wonderful Pentecostal hymn:

Jesus, confirm my heart's desire
to work, and speak, and think for thee;
still let me guard the holy fire,
and still stir up the gift in me

Let us guard the holy fire, and guard our buildings only as a means of that, let us keep walking the way together bearing the burden of grief for all that and those, which and who have been lost, in love for one another and in service to our world.