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Reform Magazine | March 2, 2021

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A good question: How will churches look after the pandemic?

A good question: How will churches look after the pandemic?

One question, four answers

NICOLA FURLEY-SMITH
‘God is giving us the opportunity to do a new thing’

The world will look significantly different after the pandemic if, as we emerge, we take action to bring about fundamental change. The Church is not exempt from this challenge: God is giving us the opportunity to do a new thing.

At the start of the pandemic, as buildings closed, some churches, and not all of them large, swiftly adapted to other forms of worship – online platforms, telephone services, delivering printed services – which often resulted in more people ‘attending’ Sunday worship. There was an explosion of choice and a ‘try it and see’ approach to church. Surprisingly, perhaps, traditional church adapted more quickly than other forms of being church.

The pandemic has reminded us that being the Church has become more important than going to church. The Church is not synonymous with buildings and ecclesial structures. It is possible to go on being and doing Church without them, and to stay connected beyond Sunday using technology, which does not rely on physical meeting places: telephone ‘visiting’, Zoom meetings, drop-in digital coffee mornings, online Messy Church…

Nicola Furley-Smith is the United Reformed Church’s Secretary for Ministries

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SINDISO JELE
‘Conversation with God has changed’

Measuring the impact of Covid-19 is relative, contextual and depends on the subject area and the intentions of the assessment. I will avoid the fallacy of assuming that what is true with the fraction is true with the whole – that is theological carelessness.

Firstly, churches depend on offerings from members. Now that members no longer have income, the churches’ economy is impacted. What it means is that churches in developing countries will now turn to those in developed countries to seek funding for mission programmes and social responsibility.

Secondly, the world’s current focus is on the Covid-19 vaccine. The question that Africa is dealing with is: ‘Who gets it and when?’ This question exposes the economic inequality in the body of Christ. …

Sindiso Jele is the Council for World Mission’s Africa Mission Secretary

RUTH MAXEY
‘We have stripped back to essentials’

Our church, Church Without Walls, looked a bit different to other churches even before the pandemic. We had no building and met in a variety of places: the local school, for Cafe and Dinner Church; the countryside for Forest Church; and we had just lost the room we were hiring for Quiet Church. That means that ‘church’ has never meant a place but has always meant the people. Relationships are at the heart of Church Without Walls, and while we have no yearning to be back in a particular building, we have all longed for the time when we can be together physically as a community again, sharing food, kids running around, Communion shared in a messy, chaotic fashion.

We have continued to meet throughout the pandemic, sharing together on Zoom on a Sunday and in small groups. And when restrictions eased, we erected a gazebo and our small groups flourished again despite the lack of home-made cake and coffee.

There has been a stripping back to the essentials which will, I believe, lead to a more sustainable future for our community …

Ruth Maxey is Minister of Church Without Walls, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

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REUBEN WATT
‘I am really excited to see what churches will be like’

I am actually really excited to see what churches will be like after the pandemic. During the first lockdown, I really looked forward to seeing the churches that I follow on social media advertising how they are having worship. For some, it may have been a multi-camera set up, with sound, graphics, the lot; for others it involved producing a short service that could be accessible by phone call. It was great to see people trying and adapting to the lockdown situation so quickly. Churches had been thrown into the deep end, and, where previously they probably had been reluctant to use technology, they were now jumping in headfirst. Post pandemic, I hope that people will embrace technology and not think of it as this scary thing. Yes, it goes wrong, and I think even I had a whole service that went out live and those watching couldn’t actually hear a thing! We are all learning….

Reuben Watt is the United Reformed Church Youth Assembly Moderator

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These are extracts from an article published in the February 2021 edition of Reform

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