New Church, Church Renewed?

Photo credit: Nicolo Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

By Michele S.–
I was deeply moved when I saw the above photo in a report by the BBC on how children’s drawings of rainbows have been appearing in windows and balconies throughout Italy.

Accompanied by the words “Tutto andrá bene”–meaning “All will go well” literally or “all will be well”–these pictures of rainbows are being used as symbols of hope in this challenging time. Tears came to my eyes as I thought about how the biblical message of hope was creeping back into the public imagination of a profoundly secularized nation and continent through the backdoor, with the image of the rainbow. The promise of the words “Tutto andrá bene” reminded me of that beautiful hymn that starts:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

As Christians, we have an eternal hope that does not fade with time or with circumstances–“All is well,” even now, with our souls. As St Teresa exhorts, in one of her prayers: “Let nothing disturb you, nothing distress you. While all things fade away, God is unchanging. Be patient, for with God in your heart, nothing is lacking. God is enough.”

But what does this mean “God is enough”? Are we not beings of flesh and blood, with emotional and social needs, and a deep desire for human connection? How are we supposed to live our daily lives, in community, embodying that teaching that “God is enough” through a computer screen? As followers of Jesus, we are the embodiment of Jesus in the world–the church or “ecclesia” in Greek. The word ecclesia comes from two words in the Greek that together mean “the called out (ones).” During this difficult time, what does it mean for us to be the church? What are we being “called out” to do in the world? How do we live out St. Teresa’s reminder that “God is enough” in very practical, down-to-earth ways in an age of quarantine and social distancing?

“Church” is no longer what it used to be. All of the things we are used to doing as “church” have been swept away by our current realities. How then are we to be the church in our context now? How do we live out the hope of the gospel both together and with our neighbors? It is urgent that we reflect about this now, that we pray earnestly and think prophetically. These days I get an email from “BU Wellness” every day of the week. That is a lot of “wellness” messages! It used to be only once a week. The university is proactively trying to address issues of trauma, isolation, depression, deprivation. And they are right to do so if predictions of the dire consequences of prolonged isolation on the human psyche are true. It seems that we, the church, should also be promoting wellness–“shalom” or holistic well-being is the biblical concept–with the same urgency, or an even greater sense of calling. We are the “called out (ones) after all.

THIS WEEK: 1) Would you please join me in reflecting further on the challenge of Noah’s account to the understanding of “church” NOW? 2) What can we do–and are already doing–practically to be a “new church” in this new and dreadful age?

Our ability to adapt and become a “new church” in this new age will determine whether or not we become a truly “renewed church” in the future.

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