Are we nearly there yet?

Revd Steve Faber: Are we nearly there yet?

“Are we nearly there yet?” is a cry that probably most parents will remember, from bored children in the back seat of the car.

Are we nearly there yet? It’s something we want to ask about the end of the pandemic. It’s still too early to decide that. As I write, some European countries are entering renewed lockdowns, and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all increasing restrictions, albeit in a fairly limited way so far. Whether England will move to the Government’s “Plan B” for the winter is yet to be seen.

Are we nearly there yet? Can we start to call ministers to fill vacancies around the Synod. Aha! Some good news here, again even if in a fairly limited way. We are now moving forwards with creating a number of new posts for Stipendiary Ministers, although we know we will never have a large enough quota to satisfy anyone. We are having to learn how we might lead our churches differently, but at least we are getting nearer to calling some new Ministers to the West Midlands.

Are we nearly there yet? Many – and I think almost all – churches have found that a significant number of people are still reluctant to return to in-person worship and activities. Certainly, every church I’ve spoken with are finding that volunteers to keep the church running and engaging in missional activities are harder to find. Can we get back to “normal”? No. And let’s not try. The old “normal” was already broken before Covid; we do need to embrace a new way of being and doing things in God’s service, not just because of the pandemic, but it has certainly had a major ongoing impact.

Are we nearly there yet? Christmas “celebrations” continue to start earlier. I did see what is very definitely a Christmas tree in a neighbour’s house in the third week of November – not only before Advent but before even Christ the King Sunday. (I know many of my neighbours like to light up their homes for Diwali and other faith festivals; this was very clearly a Christmas tree.) But where, in these early celebrations, is there room for Christ?

The Church is called not to conform to the values of the world (Romans 12) but instead to allow our mind to be renewed. Let us be those open to the renewing Holy Spirit, ready to learn new things about ourselves and, more importantly, God. I don’t believe we will do that through decorations put up ever earlier (and removed on Boxing Day). I do believe we will grow in the waiting, like the prophets, and the searching, like the Magi. I do believe we can find renewed purpose and hope as we set out to welcome anew Christ into our homes and our churches. Will you come with me on this journey?

Revd Steve Faber
Moderator of the West Midlands Synod
November 25, 2021