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Church building

Covid and Church

Church building

I lived through the earthquakes in Christchurch. Most church buildings closed. Some church buildings were destroyed with no chance of getting them back. In some areas, many people left, their houses being irreparable – church attendance dropped. Many church communities started to meet in their hall, or in another venue. This meant adapting, changing, being flexible. Then – for some, the church building was restored – back, essentially, to the way it was. For others, the church building they had was altered. For still others, a completely new building was built. And some, of course, are still waiting…

Some communities brought back into their permanent church building what they had learnt through the adapting in a different (hall) environment. Old, unhelpful habits were broken. For others, they were so delighted to be back in the well-loved space, they returned to pretty much exactly the patterns of prior to the quakes. And for others still: the lessons they learnt in the hall, they applied to the architecture of their new church building.

For many – this was their real Vatican II.

Along the way, too, some church communities were outward looking – focusing on helping people affected by the quakes; not focusing just inwards to their own worshipping community. For others, there was not really much or any outward looking, not really any concern beyond the church as support-group club – and now these had a significant clubhouse issue…

How will Covid impact us as church? I think there are parallels to my earthquakes reflection above.

We’ve shut church buildings for extended periods. Some people have “gotten out of the habit” of Sunday churchgoing. Other people have found online church better than what they get locally in the physical gathering. Communities that used to say how difficult it is to do ministry on the web suddenly found that all you needed was what each of us carries in our pockets: a phone. Add a bracket or a stand, and you have a Facebook-live video service, a YouTube recording, or a Zoom service…

Prior to Covid, people could arrive at a church service and end up juggling a Bible, a pew sheet, a hymn book, and a Prayer Book (or service booklet). Those churches have found that a whole service fits on about 6xA5 or 3xA4! Much easier for visitors!

Rituals have been simplified. Baroque additions have been trimmed back. There is more space for silence…

What else do you see Covid has changed?

And after Covid (whatever that may mean), how will church change? Will your community go back to the way it was pre-covid (abandoning the simple booklet and with it the chance to remove embarrassment for the visitor, and the chance to be flexible in a way that Prayer Book + Hymn Book + Bible could not be…)

After Covid, who won’t come back to physical church services, and why?

After Covid, will you still put your services online, and why and why not?

How has your church community been through Covid? Have you cared for each other, had clear systems in place that if someone gets Covid they are cared for? In a club-like way? Or, as some church communities, has your church understood “parish” as being everyone who lives within your parish boundaries – church-goer or not – and your church community has a system in place that anyone with Covid in your parish boundaries knows they can contact the church and have provisions brought around… What group, in your community, is reflecting on this? And planning into the future?

What will the model of caring be after Covid…

What is God teaching us through Covid?

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