Living with it - Living with new realities

Rev Stephen Richmond

5.1.2021 | Congregational Life, Refined

Having moved out of 2020 into 2021 the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is still with us. Even though hope of the return of a greater normality is on the horizon, we still find ourselves ‘living with it!’ Rev Stephen Richmond, minister of Donegal Town and Stranorlar congregations, reflects on his experience of living with new realities.

Difficult, different and still disrupted

We all know the story so far – it’s been difficult. Our lives have changed so much. Life and ministry are so different from what they were and so different from what we would want them to be. What we thought was going to be a few weeks or a few months of disruption has now turned into a year. Looking ahead there is some hope that the vaccine will improve things in 2021 but undoubtedly things aren’t just going to return to “normal” for some time.

These are just some reflections on what has helped me cope so far and what I am trying to focus on going forward into 2021.

Acceptance not avoidance

Looking back, the initial weeks of Covid-19 brought me huge uncertainty, change and anxiety. I struggled to come to terms with the new reality and I found myself being quite stressed. I was constantly wishing for it to all pass so that I could get back to normal. I remember during the early summer finally coming to a place in my head and heart where I accepted that for a considerable period of time personal life and church life were going to be very limited and very different and very difficult. I accepted that was the reality in which I now had to live and work. There was going to be lots of things happen that I didn’t want to happen and also lots of things that I wanted to happen were not going to take place.

Rather than simply wishing for it to all end and go away I had to focus on living and ministering in the current messy reality. Covid-19, and all the implications that come with it, have had a real impact on many things over the last nine months or so. Undoubtedly going forward it will continue to have an effect on individuals, churches and church programmes. Accepting that as reality has been important for me because it has freed me to make some adjustments to my attitudes and actions. Rather than simply “longing for it end” or “waiting until it is over” I am trying to live and minister in this day. Rather than looking too far ahead I am seeking to live out Matthew 6:33-34:

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Mourning not moaning

I moan far too easily. It would be so easy for me to spend my days giving off about what I can’t do and feeding the frustrations that I feel. It is so easy to judge and criticise and complain. I see the same tendencies in some other people and it is so tempting to draw alongside them and fan the flames of our mutual discontent and moan with them. Some days I waken up and feel myself drawn to paths of dark moaning and places of despair and despondency. Instead of moaning I have been deliberately trying to mourn instead.

To lament and mourn are biblical models and concepts that are far healthier than moaning. There is so much material in the Bible that allows us to express genuine negative emotions and sorrow without simply becoming negative or critical or judgemental. The Scriptures are full of God’s people wrestling through hard experiences and battling with dark emotions and expressing those to God fully and openly. Often these laments finish with declarations of praise and confessions of continued trust.

There are many things to lament in these days. There is so much brokenness, darkness, lostness and sinfulness to mourn. There are many people who need to be held up before God and supported. Many of us are living with a sense of loss for all kinds of things. So I mourn for the brokenness of our lives and long for the fullness of life Jesus promised.

Creativity not crisis

Blog_Jan_SR.jpgThere are many things that I have been unable to do, but rather than focus on those things I have decided to concentrate on what I can do. The things that I can do - I want to do well.

I have always enjoyed being creative and over the past few months have found myself working hard at trying to find new ways to connect with people and new ways to share the Word of God as effectively as I can. Sometimes I feel more like a film producer than a minister of Word and sacrament, but the reality is I have probably had more regular input into the lives of most of my flock through online media than I would have in a normal year. Rather than a weekly sermon I have sought different avenues to share short, regular connections with God’s Word. Over the different months of the autumn I tried to take a different focus and find a different way to connect people to God and to one another

Recently our Christmas celebrations were obviously incredibly different from the normal patterns and routines. I actually found great freedom in that and had the opportunity to explore different ways to worship Jesus and celebrate his coming. Rather than simply doing the same things in the same way on the same Sundays, I have had an opportunity to celebrate Christmas with fresh eyes. Yes there are many of the Christmas things we missed, but there were also new Christmas things we hit on.

And finally the challenge that faces all disciples at all times:

Faith not fear

The most often repeated command in the Bible is “do not be afraid”. I often have worries and anxious thoughts about church and people. What will happen to this? What will be left of that? Will we ever see them again? How far have they drifted? Will this ever be the same again? Will this ever start again?

Like every other person who has set out to follow Jesus, I have to continually lay those fears and worries aside and choose to trust the promises and purposes of God. Whatever lies ahead in 2021 God is there. His love is constant. Jesus will still be on the throne. My life is, and will always be, in his hands.

Rev Stephen Richmond is minister of Donegal Town and Stranorlar Presbyterian churches.

This blog is part of the digital programme series, Refined, to help move our denominational conversation on from what was needed to initially respond to the Coronavirus pandemic, to seeking God’s leading and guiding for this next season of church life together.

Visit the Refined hub here.

Back to Blog