Being able to meet in person and worship together after so long is a real blessing but there are a few areas where we may experience a bit of friction. Many things have changed for all of us over the last year and we all respond to those changes in a different way. Becoming aware of those differences is an important step for us all as we start this next chapter of our journey together.
Incumbents, Churchwardens, those leading services may well be more anxious than usual. They are responsible for making sure that all the (myriad) COVID regulations, guidance documents, and laws are implemented properly and fully. So, if they look a bit tense or it feels like they are “telling me what to do”, it is probably out of concern for your safety, others’ safety, and the need to do the right thing.
The experience of being in church will be different for us all. We may not have a choice of where to sit, the music may be different, we cannot sing, the service may be shorter, we may not be worshipping in the church building we are used to, we can’t share coffee and chat. We know all this of course, but it can still make us feel a bit disoriented or out of sorts.
Being aware of how we feel ourselves can help us manage how we respond to others. It can help to name how we are feeling to ourselves and to those around us: “I’m so glad to be back but it’s going to take me a while to feel comfortable with the revised service/ lack of hymn books/seating arrangements.”
Some of us have already returned to church, in which case, we will be used to some of the differences. It is worth bearing in mind that for those just returning now, everything may feel new and strange. People need space and time to adjust.
One lesson we all learned this year has been fear. We have learned to be afraid of being in groups of people, of uncovered faces, of physical contact. The lessons have been important but the fear impacts each of us differently. For some of us, just being outside our home is a very scary experience whilst others are delighted to be out and about.
Whatever we may feel, it’s key to recognise that other people may be experiencing things very differently. It is often worth asking others, gently, how things are for them. Then we can avoid assumptions that might make a hard situation even harder.
Many of us have had life-changing experiences in the last 14 months. None of us has been untouched and we will do well to seek out and recognise those changes in each other as we take these next steps together with God’s grace.