October 15, 2020
Reflection from Rev. Dana
One of my Diocesan responsibilities is facilitating a program called Fresh Start for clergy during their first year in a new parish. Our topic this month was “Transitions” and one of the analogies or metaphors that are used for transitions is “unfreezing,” of how things are done and as new relationships are being formed. This fluidity allows for the necessary changes that happen as clergy and congregation adapt to each other, each bringing their own perspectives and ways of doing and being to their new ministry partnership.
It struck me that this is also an appropriate metaphor for these times in which we are living. The pandemic has thawed or unfrozen, everything in society, from the ways that decisions are made, to how we organize and run events, even to how we relate to one another. If anyone a year ago had thought that most meetings and interactions, from the House of Commons, to business meetings, to concerts and galas, to church services and even family gatherings, would be held virtually; I think we would have laughed and said it was straight out of science fiction, and yet that is exactly what has happened. The rules and ways of doing everything from voting in the House of Commons, to huge conferences, to praying and social interactions now mostly happen over Zoom, Facetime, Google Hangouts, Facebook, Instagram, and other similar platforms. The pandemic has created a very fluid way of life, allowing for greater adaptation as the situation constantly changes.
If we look at history we see that there have been other times when there has been great fluidity that has brought about great change. Biblically, we think of Noah and the Great Flood, the Israelites in the wilderness and the Early church following Jesus’ resurrection. In each case, the way that things had been was in the past, and the way things would be was still part of an unknown future. Their identity as a people was shifting, as was how they related to the world around and their day to day activities, all adjusting to a new way of being and being shaped by their new reality. We are experiencing a similar time of transformation and change brought on by the pandemic and heightened by other societal changes that have flowed out of this time of being unfrozen.
Transitions tend to be times of high energy, either energy invested in trying to stabilize the shifting ground beneath us or creative energy to explore new directions and opportunities. In part the energy is the Holy Spirit at work in and through us, inviting us to use the gifts of the Spirit to respond to the changes, transforming ourselves and the world around us, to explore new ways of being and doing, and of serving God and humanity. That for me is the exciting part of this fluid state we are living in; all the possibilities and opportunities for a new and better society to emerge from this time. The pandemic means we cannot do what we did before, the status quo is no longer an option, so we can either lament and try to get back what is gone, or we can do something new. The latter option is a more positive approach.
This state of unfrozen, of flux brings with it benefits and challenges. As individuals and families, this has included how we work, how we spend out leisure time, and how we interact with others and the wider community. The benefit is not having to spend long periods of time commuting whether to work or meetings. The challenge is needing to define and differentiate work time and space from our leisure or family time and space so they do not all blend into one. Families are spending more time together, but individuality and personal space and time is more challenging when we are always together.
As a diocese this time of fluidity has helped us to look outside of the box of what we have always done and how we’ve always done it. This diocese is relatively large, but we have been able to gather people for meetings and conferences who might not otherwise be able to attend because of distance. As a diocese this fluid time coincides with some other big changes namely our diocesan leadership, as Bishop Peter retires and Bishop Jenny steps back into parish ministry and we go from five bishops to three. For over a decade we have been talking about the sustainability of our episcopal structure and this has forced the question. We have the opportunity to assess and to learn from other Anglican jurisdictions and other denominations about their best practices. Given the existing fluidity of the pandemic and the lessons we have learned through it, now is the perfect time to be asking these questions.
Within our own congregation of Trinity we have seen the fluidity of worship moving online and for the most part staying there, as the majority of people still access worship online. The pandemic was the impetus for this my weekly email, and the drop-in office time, both of which have been well received and I plan to continue. In worship itself, I have made some changes, and am planning to write an article for the November “News from the Pews” exploring and explaining these changes. The most exciting result of the fluidity right now, is the opportunity to celebrate a very unique service this coming Saturday, as we celebrate the baptism of Klara White via Zoom, where the participants will each be in their own environment but we can still be together for this joyous celebration. We would never have considered this an option even a few months ago, but now it seems like a wonderful solution to the challenges presented by the pandemic.
As I reflect on the fluidity, the unfrozen state in which we are living right now, I find it exciting to think what God may be doing in and through us, the ways that God is re-shaping and forming us for a future that is not yet fully, but which we are living in the cusp of. In creation God took a formless void and created what we know as creation, all held together by the wonderfully complex and precise perimeters necessary to support the existence of that creation. I am excited, to see how God will take and use this fluid time to bring about greater good in and through us, through the power of the Holy Spirit.