By Rev Fiona Bennett (From Seeds Issue 96 – July 2020)
The process of “unlocking” life seems much more complicated than when we went into lockdown. It is harder to work out what is permitted and what is not as things keep shifting. It is hard to plan for the future when we are not sure what will be allowed at given points in time. One of my concerns of “unlocking” is how and if, in our drive to get back to normal, we will remember any of the treasure we have discovered during lockdown.
One of the treasures which has been revealed for me through lockdown is the strength of our community at AUC and the strength of our bonds with our TLC partners, the wider URC and the global Church. Members of the Church community locally and across the world have made great efforts to keep in touch with each other and offer support throughout this crisis. Many people have worked together to get meetings and worship services online and printed into letters, so that everyone who wishes can join in in some way. I think this has revealed the depth of commitment we have to each other as a community. The strength of our bonds as a church community (locally and globally) is true treasure.
I have been reflecting on this while slowly reading Rowan Williams’ book The Way of St Benedict. In one section, he considers what the Benedictine Rule has to teach us about what the church community is. He suggests that it teaches that the Body of Christ stands in opposition to anything that looks like a “tribal church”. It is a Body which looks beyond the natural affinity of ethnicity, politics, language, family, to sustained bonds that are, in their way, as strong as those of kinship or marriage. What unites this body is our calling by God to be the Body of Christ on earth.
St Teresa of Avila was a Carmelite nun who was unhappy about the religious community in which she was living. The community had settled into habits of convenience that meant everyone joining came from similar backgrounds and class. Teresa felt called to create a community of people who left their status behind and became part of the Body of Christ. One of her better-known quotes is:
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
She, like Benedict, saw the community of the church not as an elite club but as a community called with purpose, a purpose which was enacted in how its members existed and treated each other, and in doing so shone a light of hope into the world.
The phone calls, emails, cards, events shared across the URC, events shared from MCC, news and stories of care and support offered from across the world. . . they all represent the bonds of kinship and common purpose we hold as the Body of Christ, which the Covid crisis has starkly revealed.
I believe we are called not to forget this true treasure as we forge a new normal, but set it at the heart of what we honour, hold in high regard and invest in.
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