Here & now: Victoria Turner
Victoria Turner considers how church can be community without physically meeting
I really have struggled to know what to write concerning the Covid-19 virus. It seems there is so much to say that beginning to say anything is overwhelming.
The United Reformed Church’s Daily Devotion piece on 21 March looked at the story of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane, before his crucifixion. Every time I encounter this passage, Jesus’ plea to his Father to ‘remove this cup’ fills me with me anger towards God. How on earth can I see him as a loving father? It confuses me, as I try and grasp the relationship of the Trinity in this context. But it also brings me a lot of strength: Jesus was completely human, feeling all our human emotions, even feeling overwhelmed. The incarnation gives us enough of a snippet of God to make him relatable in the midst of mystery and confusion.
In this global pandemic, where everybody is thinking about everything, how can the Church be that little bit of light and hope? I suggest the Church accepts its inability to be Church as we know it, and mourns that change while celebrating the release of its procedural shackles. The Church’s necessary requirement is community. Jesus said: ‘Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.’ At a time where it is impossible to meet physically as a usual worshipping community, we can think about what it really means to gather together in Christ.
How can the Church function when banned from meeting? The Confessing Church, founded to oppose Nazism in Germany, was exiled and forced underground from 1937. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an incredible theologian and ecumenist, was one of the founding members. Bonhoeffer was arrested in 1943 but continued his work in prison, and was martyred for his part in the plan to assassinate Hitler. He must have faced so much anxiety and isolation during his time in prison, yet his strength was amazing. He found solace through his faith and comfort through his ecumenical friendships. The theologian Dana Roberts said that for Bonhoeffer ‘the living Christian community was a “divine reality” that extended from this life to the next.’ Bonhoeffer did not feel any loneliness when worshipping alone on Pentecost morning, because, as he told his parents, ‘each and every one of you was part of it, as well as the congregations in which I have celebrated Pentecost in the past.’ The knowledge that other Christians were praying for him, supporting him and resisting alongside him gave him the strength to fight on. He understood the Christian community as a gift from God, connected through Jesus’ sacrificial act of love…
Victoria Turner is researching for a PhD in ecumenism at New College, Edinburgh. Visit devotions.urc.org.uk for URC Daily Devotions
This is an extract from an article that was published in the May 2020 edition of Reform