Coming out of lockdown I am repeatedly asked "When can we get back to church?". Of course this is the wrong question from the outset, since we never stopped being church ... so it is not possible to 'go back'! But I also must admit from a personal perspective that in many ways I don't want to go back ...
Yes I want us to gather together as the extended family of Christ-followers. Yes I want us to join together in an expression of worship with each other, a gathering into which we can invite God to speak to us together. Yes I very much want to gather into an environment where the Spirit is free to move and we see ministry among us. And yes I basically want to see, chat, have coffee with and generally be alongside my fellow believers. I want all these things and I miss them like many others.
But I don't want the inadvertent magnetic-field that I worry can go with such regular gatherings, wonderful though they are. The force that turns us inwards, that captures our attention and our focus, that risks making us 'building-centric' or 'sunday-centric'. The pull that stops us from looking out to the incredible, exciting (but also very risky!) things that can happen in our missionary discipleship out there in the periphery. The power-house that tempts us to rely on it rather than paying proper attention to our own rhythms and diet of personal discipleship, discipleship done with trusted partners - discipleship journeyed in the rough and tumble of life.
All these out there things some of us (I hope many of us) have experienced and explored because of lockdown and our inability to gather centrally. We've had over 3 months of the magnetic-field abruptly turned off: it has been difficult, it has brought many challenges (not all overcome), but it has also brought a healthy re-focussing of how we live and grow in our faith, alongside fresh mission endeavour. Yes we have lost many things, and it has raised many questions, but I have seen much blessing and what I believe are healthier for the long term habits arise.
So yes I would dearly love for us to be gathering again - as soon as we meaningfully can - but please don't turn that magnetic field back on!