These striking words come at the end of a column in The Guardian by journalist John Harris, triggered by ticking the ‘no religion’ box as he completed his census form. Reflecting on the ravages of the pandemic and lockdown, he observed that in our individualistic, secular society most people lack ‘even the flimsiest of narratives to project on to what has happened, or any real vocabulary with which to talk about the profundities of life and death’. He comments on the visible comeback of symbols and rituals of religion as churches have been at the heart of community Covid experiences; including increases in google searches for prayer and millions tuning in to online worship. He quotes research showing that church groups offer ‘solace and peace and relaxation and friendship, helping us in our spiritual quest for meaning and wellbeing.’
As Kingdom People, we are called to share hope and play a part in transforming our communities. So how are we to respond to this social tragedy crying out for action? As we limp out of lockdown and dare to look forward, we can make space to regroup, to reflect, to process and to mourn. And we can invite our communities into safe spaces to do this alongside us as people of faith. So many new links have been forged as neighbourliness has grown with church members finding ways to bless and serve those around them who have been isolated and cut off from families and far away friends. Many church members find it easier to serve practically than to broach the topic of someone’s spiritual needs, but we have the language and the wider narrative in which to frame and make some degree of sense of what has happened. We have tasted eternity. We know God’s peace which passes understanding, and we have relationship with a God who heals and provides, who comforts and gives renewed purpose and hope. Gently offering the opportunity to a neighbour to discover this peace, healing and hope is something all of us can dare to do, even if we are shy to talk about our faith.
There is a spiritual longing in a lonely and confused generation that has experienced a year like no other. We have a part to play in reaching out to those who yearn for something more, drawing alongside in the gentle sharing of our own experience of the God who loves indiscriminately. Let’s ensure that as we give thanks for the chance to gather in worship with our church family once again and as we lament loss with those who understand, that we invite and include those who long for a way to make sense of it all, but who have only just begun to glimpse that church might be the place to find what they seek.
The Venerable Nikki Groarke
The Archdeacon of Dudley