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Spiritual and Theological Reflections

We have put together a series of reflections on the Church's response during the COVID19 crisis.

One of the key inclusions is a 30 chapter ebook edited by Prof Heidi Campbell, leading researcher in online/digital religion, who managed to invite articles from 30 practitioners and scholars, cajole them into writing quickly, and published the ebook within the first month or so of the Crisis. The Distanced Church: Reflections on Doing Church Online ebook is available for download by clicking the title. Peter Phillips has a chapter included in the ebook.

One of the Centre's posts, by Peter Phillips on Medium, reminds us that the Church went Online decades ago and the post reminds us of some of the key reflections on this long-term experiment in ecclesiology and the need to remember that for many who are housebound and otherly-abled, the Online Church is the norm not an enforced novelty.

This post provides some key reading for new colonists and a warning to say hello to those already native here!

From Rob Warren in Northumberland...

My view is that we should not be trying to do the one thing we can't do during Lockdown (gather) but should rather 'cast our nets on the other side' and do what we can do during Lockdown and which, indeed, Lockdown gives the church a great opportunity to do: namely nurturing an engaging faith community.


  • Nurture the church's personal prayer life. In all traditions, the indications are that spiritual disciplines are in decline. So we need to take the opportunity to find ways to get people to 'be still and know that I am God'. Helping the church community hold together by some form of daily prayer, whether liturgical or not, helps people to listen to God through the scriptures and to find ways to express to God, not just their sins, but their hopes, fears, longing and aspirations. In doing so the church needs to find ways to help people actually relate to God. Simply saying a set liturgical order is not the goal. Building a relationship with God is. Prayer is relationship with God, and no relationship, certainly with the Divine, exists without emotional honesty. John Sandford, The Man who Wrestled with God, p.38
  • Recall the church to nature of being a Christian - as living the faith. This will involve discerning not just how to live life now, but how the benefits and disciplines of lock-down need to be taken with us on our journey not back to normal life, but forward into a new normality. Archbishop-elect, Stephen Cottrell has outlined a Christian lifestyle as sufficient, equitable, and sustainable. What would that mean for us, and do we think there are better words to use to define the distinctiveness of following Christ, perhaps to include listening, stillness and wonder. Rodney Stark, in The Rise of Christianity, has some searchingly relevant insights from the church in Carthage facing an epidemic (see chapter 4)
  • Building a deeper quality of relationships. Roberta Bondi, in her book To Pray and To Love, says: "One form of love destroying dishonesty is our niceness - never speaking our real thoughts and feeling in area of disagreement." (p.107) Somehow we need to find ways to building a deeper, intriguing and attractive, quality of relationships in the faith community.
  • Be a community eager to discover and do God's will in how we operate. Starting with the PCC to function as a church not by deciding what we plan to do for God, but what God wants to do with, for and through us. Maybe we could start by seeking to discern how God might be wanting us to be and do things differently, post-virus, in the new norm.
  • Be engaging! Finding out where the needs are and how God is calling us in intriguing ways to engage with them - as the Spirit leads. Finding our hopes and longing of others and working with them to bring about a better world. We need to meet others not just at their point of need, but at their point of aspiration too. Do just that might make us a creatively provocative presence in our communities.

Coronavirus-spreading churches: Bad theology has tragic consequences

Pete Phillips looks at the problem of COVID19 infections around church communities and argues the theological case for lockdown.

"Evil and sickness and suffering is a reality that we all need to face. In social isolation, when the dead are dying alone, when the dead are buried without their loved ones present, when care homes are forgotten places of sorrow, when NHS staff are fighting an illness often without adequate protection, when this illness hits the poor, the oppressed, the elderly and infirm more than any other groups, we need to take care of ourselves so that we can provide a barrier of love for others."

Emma Major has written a fantastic article in the Church Times reflecting on the impact of isolation on the disabled church, who have been excluded from physical church for a long time. Emma talks of isolation, loneliness and how the internet was already a place of community engagement for those isolated by being differently-abled.

Emma has also created a YouTube Video where she reads the article for those who prefer to receive her words in this way.