The new normal? – a reflection from the Archdeacon of Oakham

We find ourselves living through extraordinary and demanding times, where many things that might previously have been relied upon to be reasonably stable and secure have suddenly become quite provisional and uncertain – whether that be income and employment, education and future prospects, health and wellbeing, or even what will be able to happen in our church life and worship, week by week.

We have had to become used to lockdown, to greater working and studying at home, to wearing face masks and keeping our social distance, to being restricted as to when we can meet up with our wider family and friends, to conducting worship online and taking part in meetings on Zoom.

Life for us has quite suddenly taken on some of the precariousness and fragility that was familiar to the generations who went before us and who built many of the places of worship that we now cherish. We in the western world, perhaps rather naively, thought that we had moved on from, and escaped, the deprivations and challenges that had afflicted our ancestors (but which remain the characteristics of life to this day in many less developed, stable and privileged parts of the world). We had been encouraged to believe – or, at least, to act – as though we had ‘come of age’ and were in control of our destiny.

Now, however, the bubble has burst, the illusion has been shattered and our human vulnerability has become all too obvious to us and to those around us. Some of us have been ill, many have lost loved ones, and the caring professions have been under immense pressure.

As this has unfolded, online worship seems to have attracted greater numbers than had recently attended face-to-face worship, but whether that will lead to greater numbers of active disciples, we do not yet know.

However, whether or not our numbers have immediately increased, we ourselves have surely been chastened and challenged to recognise afresh our own need of God. We have been starkly reminded of what we really did know all along – that all that is around us is of a transitory nature, and that there is only One in whom to put our faith, and to whom our eternal wellbeing can be entrusted.

I wish you every blessing as we adapt to the evolving nature of the ‘new normal’, and as we seek to witness afresh to our unchanging and dependable God, and to his love for all people and his desire for them to be in a conscious living relationship with him.

For them and for ourselves, we pray:

The Lord bless you and watch over you,
the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you,
the Lord look kindly on you and give you peace;
that we who are wearied
by the changes and chances of this fleeting world,
may rest upon his eternal changelessness.

Gordon Steele
Archdeacon of Oakham

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