Today Milton Anglicans, of which I am a part, return to 'in place' Sunday worship together, albeit with significant restrictions. With what spirit do we come?...
It is certainly a moment in history, and not just that of our parish. All over the world, people of faith have played their part in addressing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including 'sheltering' and praying at home. 'Opening up again' is also not a simple thing to do, for, in Australia at least, we are presented by many practical and relational issues, due to health requirements, together with restrictions on numbers and space. Some Christian churches, such as MCC Brisbane with which I also travel, have therefore decided to wait further before coming together as a body 'in place' for worship. In the MCC's case, in the light of LGBTIQ people's needs, current restrictions magnify major considerations such as not risking turning away anyone and personal contact. Others, such as Milton Anglicans, are also acutely conscious of these things, and have had to be creative in response.
Within my principal Christian community, there is today therefore a mixture of great joy at reconnecting with one another in person and with much of what is familiar. There are also continuing and fresh anxieties, not least learning to manage within COVID-19 restrictions - notably only having 17 places available in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit (due to the current Queensland 4 square metres indoor space requirement for each person), so that we have another 'pod' of people worshiping together in Old Bishopsbourne with others in the Chapel itself (see our COVID-19 Safe Plan here). We also bring griefs and gifts of the greater 'lockdown' period and a renewed awareness of our human fragility and need for solidarity. Above all, we come together more closely today with a deeper sense of our need to travel onward with the God who creates, redeems and gives renewed life. My wife Penny's reflection today - see here - is a fitting one: reflecting on the vital #BlackLIvesMatter campaigns and drawing us into the mission of Jesus, which is a love for all, particularly for and with the oppressed, and a vision of fresh joy and strength. For 'returning' to worship and mission as it was is neither possible nor desirable. We are called to be and share in something much more loving, just, sustainable, and full of peace.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.