Our church building lies cold and unused. Just a year ago its doors were open on Sundays, for two services and Junior church, tea and coffee and cake, chatting and laughter. On Mondays there was usually a deacon’s meeting in the vestry (or was that Tuesday? It’s all ancient history now) , and in the evening the Young Adults would meet for nonsense and study and food. Some Tuesdays there were house group meetings and some Tuesdays it was Bible Study in the church. Other, smaller Bible studies took place several times every week, and people would pop in to leave stuff for the FoodBank, or to leave a shoebox gift in the sanctuary, or for music practice, or quiet prayer. On Thursdays it was coffee morning. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings there were youth activities, then there were staff meetings and on Friday afternoons there was a wonderful sewing and craft session, on Saturdays the Street Pastors met in the Vestry to pray before setting off into the streets.
All that has gone, for now. But the church is more than bricks and mortar and wooden pews; We hear over and over again that church is people, church is family and I think this is mostly true. The Care Team is still in touch with people who are ill, taking meals when necessary, being with them when they need company, driving them to hospital appointments, doing what it says on the tin, ‘caring’. Friends are still able to study together on Skype or Zoom. And Zoom has come to the rescue again for our Sunday sermons, and for prayer meetings and a new course on Discipleship. When we see each other across the supermarket, or in the street, what happiness! Friends ahoy!
But here’s the thing – in lockdown, or covid, or social distancing or whatever assembly of words we choose to describe this strange time, the colder truth sometimes becomes obvious and we discover that those we thought were friends are just ‘people we know’ and barely more than acquaintances. That’s not a bad thing, because who wants to think they have friends when actually those people don’t give a hoot? At times of difficulty we discover those who matter to us and those who we matter to. Both are vitally important to our emotional and spiritual lives. Who you care about, and who cares about you – that’s your world. That’s your family. And that reaches way way beyond any institution or soft words. Real friends make time for each other. Real friends put you somewhere near the top of their priorities. Real friends will keep you alive and healthy and able to love. If you are loved then you will love in return. In turn, if you love first (there’s always one who loves first!) , you will enable others to love. That’s how we nurture each other, especially when the going gets tough.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17
Give me people who will dance in the rain with me. I don’t care if you’re churched, or unchurched, local, distant, old, young, man, woman… none of that matters. What matters is contact. What matters is that whatever the weather we find a way to show we care, we are interested, we enjoy each other.