So, in case you have forgotten what I wrote about last time (as if) it was just after we went into lockdown, and I reflected on the upbeat subject of death … this time I want to think about new starts … life coming back …
I was chatting to CVM’s Michael Cooper who served in the RAF (sorry) and he was saying that he had joined up 40 years ago that day and we were thinking a bit about the whole idea of change and what had happened since. This got me thinking about the massive change that occurred the day I walked through the gates of HMS Fisgard to join the RN some 41 and a half years ago.
I remember being picked up at Plymouth railway station in a 4 tonner and being driven from the station, across the River Tamar on the Torpoint ferry, and then onto HMS Fisgard. We were ‘unloaded’ outside the gates and ‘marched’ through to start our new life. We were told from day 1 that we were no longer civvies and had to start thinking differently. We were in the Navy now. Those first couple of days went by in a bit of a blur, I remember signing for stuff … all sorts of forms and kit. But it was all good, this Navy stuff was OK … we were all in the same position, the staff were (generally) very understanding at this stage and …. then it happened. The ‘old hands’ came back after their Christmas leave. It was no longer just us new entries. We were officially ‘sprogs’ … and didn’t we know it! Life changed at that moment. I won’t go into any details (for fear of possible legal action .. ), but I am sure you can imagine the sort of things that went on. I will just say however, that around HMS Fisgard were large open static water tanks which were used in the event of fire, and when we had a fire exercise in the third or fourth week I was used to break the ice so they could get the hose in for the pump. Nuff said. It was a new start in the RN, which started off well but things changed dramatically when others appeared on the scene with different ideas and a bit of knowledge.
Of course, like virtually everything across the world the church went into lockdown and shut its doors. Its physical doors. There were lots of memes and stuff on social media reminding us that the church is not the building but the people, and so we saw the rise of online streaming of services, of zoom services and facebook live. Some was good, some not so. Of course at CVM we reinvented The Gathering on line to some success. There were reports of huge growth in the numbers watching services (not sure how accurate these were though). It was a new way of doing stuff and many became very happy with how this on-line church stuff progressed and the opportunities it presented. And now of course we are allowed to go back into the buildings and meet up again (with huge restrictions, no singing, social distancing, maximum number of people in the building etc etc).
Let me take you back to HMS Fisgard and the arrival of the ‘old hands’ … it shook us new entries to the core .. and for some it was such a bad experience that they left. Thankfully it has changed since then as much was way over the top, bullying and initiations that were just plain wrong. But in amongst all that there were some positives. These guys had been round the buoy and could (and did) offer help and advice on how to settle in, tips as to how to bull our boots and even little tricks to get one over on the PT staff (I liked those).
So, as we come out of lockdown it’s a massive opportunity for us to learn and move forward in all areas of life. Not just to automatically go back to the old ways of doing stuff, but to look at the best and the worst of pre and post lockdown and create something new. For the Church that probably means some form of physical meeting in a building but also the growth and development of our on-line presence. Time for a new start. (And be assured we will be looking at how CVM emerges from lockdown over the coming months).
Looking back at Fisgard I learnt from my experience in that first term and can hand on heart say I fell into the ‘help the sprogs’ category rather than the ‘use them to break the ice’ category.
So, were you one of those who dipped into an on-line service during lockdown but will never darken the door of an actual church building? I hope that you will continue to find something on line that points you towards Jesus, that it doesn’t all just shut down and the local church once more expect you to walk through that door … if so I apologise now on behalf of Christians everywhere for not listening!!!
I think we have an amazing opportunity now to reinvent what’s being called ‘the new normal’ .. let’s just make sure it mixes the best of the old and the new and not just a simple regurgitation of all that went before lockdown. Like breaking the ice with a sprog. That needs to go.
See you next time ….