What have we learnt (as Christians) through this Covid-19 period? Covid-19 has been and is tragic. And yet there are things we have changed and learnt in this time that it would be terrible if we simply abandoned these and returned to life as it was before Covid-19.
I think the biggest change that could go on into the future is the movement into the virtual world. Long have I advocated that churches and Christian leaders enter the Third Millennium where people spend a large part of their lives online. Even many of those who in the past have said this is too hard for them have now done it and found that, actually, it’s not that difficult.
Many have indicated that they will continue this online presence alongside the return to In Real Life (IRL) worship in church buildings. And what form might that take? My hope is that (many of) those who have been streaming the Daily Office (Daily Prayer, Morning/Midday/Evening/Night Prayer) will continue to do so. Some clergy (sometimes with, sometimes without, other church leaders and laity) before Covid-19 prayed daily in their church building (or elsewhere). Come Covid-19, and all they did was simply stream their regular discipline online. For others, the Daily Office is a newfound discipline. Some have grouped together, taking turns in leading the Daily Office online. May this positive habit continue for them all.
I read this in a tweet I fell over recently: “After all the difficulties have been duly recognised and all the dangers of legalism properly acknowledged, the fact remains that unless we plan to pray we will not pray.” I have LONG been a passionate advocate of the Daily Office as a biblically-based discipline, a plan to pray. It is even more than being biblically-based prayer; it IS praying the Bible.
Pre-Covid-19, to have people join one IRL praying the Office was rare. But everyone I have been alongside is pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm and commitment of people as they join you praying the Office online. There is little to no effort involved, as you return to IRL worship, to daily set up your phone in the corner, streaming this prayer as an invitation for others to join when they can. And other people I have been alongside have said how much they value the ten minute pause at midday or before sleep – whatever best suits their rhythm. Keep it up people!
Long have I said that the Eucharist is the jewel in the crown, and the much-neglected Daily Office is the crown in which the Eucharist as jewel is rightly set. One friend of mine picked up my metaphor, highlighting that it does appear that, in too many congregations, the unset Jewel of Eucharist loses its lustre, rolls about in the clerical duffle bag from Monday to midweek communion on Wednesday, and then again from Wednesday to Sunday. It is prone to scratching, marking, perhaps dulling in such a dark and dusty accomodation.
This friend pointed to a reflection on Edward Pusey which could be inverted nowadays:
The problem was that Englishmen had forgotten what it was like to celebrate the Liturgy every Sunday. Because they had no experience of such a thing, they simply could not imagine its actually being done. And when an occasional priest who had been convinced by the Tracts tried to abolish ten o’clock Morning Prayer on Sundays in favor of a ten o’clock Liturgy instead, his congregation simply refused to have anything to do with it.Edward B Pusey and Companions, Renewers of the Church
Nowadays, Pusey’s pendulum may be swinging back the other way. More than three decades ago, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia formally removed the centuries-old requirement that clergy, church leaders, at least pray the Daily Office. In my mind, that decision has always been one of the most astonishing our church has made through the labyrinthine, formal processes of passing at General Synod, being voted on in all diocesan synods, and back for a more-than-two-thirds majority at General Synod, etc. This was not simply accepting that the ideal may not be met every day. It was sweeping away centuries of church discipline and practice to the point where I have met Anglican clergy running parishes in NZ who have not even looked at the daily prayer resources in our Prayer Book, let alone tried to use them!
Rewriting the above quoted paragraph: So in these decades, the problem was that Anglican clergy and Christians generally forgot what it was like to celebrate the Daily Office day by day. Because they had no experience of such a thing, they simply could not imagine its actually being done. And when an occasional priest who had been convinced to pray the Daily Office…
So, from now on, keep praying the Daily Office. Keep streaming, videoing, and sharing the Daily Office. Keep keeping your (church’s) online presence up to date. You see now that it’s not as difficult as you thought, or said.
Sure – also keep videoing and streaming other services also, funerals, weddings…
What else might be different in our post-lockdown IRL churches? I suspect that there will be some serious financial repercussions. Church communities, already stretched financially before Covid-19, may find they can no longer continue, or continue in the way they had limped along prior to Covid-19. Some people, I think, will stop coming to IRL in-church-building worship. There is a habit, a discipline to such weekly worship. Unless we plan to pray we will not pray. Others, who had no connection with church, may have made such a connection during the lockdown time and come to check out your IRL worship. There may only be the smallest window to make them feel welcome. It may depend on how you connected with them online (many people forget, in the early days of their online presence, that social media is social). It may depend on how your online worship connects with your IRL worship.
What have you learnt? What do you think will endure? What do you think should endure? What do you hope would endure? What do you hope might not return after lockdown? Let’s have a bit of honesty with ourselves (at least) and with each other – including (especially?) with our statistics.
Other posts beyond this site worth reading:
“Wash your own feet”: on singleness and the domestic church
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 1 (3 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 2 (5 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 3 (4 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 4 (4 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 5 Teilhard’s Mass on the World (4 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 6 Agape Meal (4 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 7 (6 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 8 (5 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 9 (5 minutes reading time)
Lockdown Liturgy Lessons 10 (5 minutes reading time)
Some of the other resources and reflections on this site for this Covid19 context:
Holy Saturday in a Covid19 World
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter in a Covid19 World
Coronavirus solitude self-isolation and spirituality
Streaming services, online spiritual resources in coronavirus times
New Zealand Prayer Book Daily Prayer
NZ in lockdown
Covid 19 moves churches into the Third Millennium
Carthusians Covid-19 and Communion
Learning from Hermits in a Covid19 World