In 1871 when the church was rebuilt it looked no different from how it had looked before. Even though it looked no different, the people who gathered there had certainly changed. They were different because of the challenge of deciding to dismantle, to number, to move and to rebuild their church somewhere else.
Nearly 150 years later we find ourselves in similar circumstances. Instead of having to deal with the challenges of having our building compulsory purchased by the railway company, we face the challenges of an ongoing Covid-19 situation. The present time is so uncertain and unprecedented in our social memory that we will have to recognise the fact that we may well never return to ‘normal’ again.
For the last 6 months we have experienced church in a way none of us have ever experienced before. The most significant change is the way we worship together. We no longer meet altogether, instead our predominant form of worship is by what we see and hear on a screen in our homes. We are no longer tied by a time or a place as to when we worship. We can choose to be inside or out. We can choose to worship in the morning, at noon or at night. We can choose to be alone and or join in with others in our house; though we may have no other option but to worship alone. We can choose to ‘Pause the Pastor’ or to fast forward him. We can choose to opt in or chose to opt out.
As we look ahead to the autumn and winter normality is not going to be rooted in our building, and all of the activities which we used to run out of it, but in our homes. What started as a stopgap on the assumption that we would be returning to back to normal, may well develop into defining who and what we are as a church.
In 1871 change happened not because they wanted it to, but because they were forced to. Instead of giving up they dared to listen to the voice of Jesus and to follow his lead and we as a church have reaped from their courage and prayerfulness to embrace change.
In 2020 change has happened not because we wanted it to, but because we have been forced to. May we also, like those who came before us, dare to listen to the voice of Jesus and to follow his lead wherever that may take us. May we be as equally courageous and prayerful like them that we may continue to be a blessing to this town and fulfil the calling of Jesus in our lives.