Vicars’ Blog – August 2020 – Return from Exile

VICARS’ BLOG: Return from Exile

Some theologians have said that much of what we are experiencing during the Covid19 global pandemic is like the time when God’s people were forced into exile in Babylon towards the end of the Old Testament. Some would say that as Christians in the increasingly secular world of the 21st century, we were already experiencing exile.

One word that describes what we feel in exile is disorientation – suddenly things are not as they were. Things we thought were secure are shaken; financial security, jobs, travel, visiting relatives.

Our values are challenged and sometimes rightly so. Do we really need to take a four hour flight to attend a one hour meeting? We are reassessing things like the impact we are having on the world and environment, spending long hours at workaway from our children, the value of spending time at home and in our town of Walton-on-Thames.

I wonder if we feel disorientated, as we have been forced out of our church buildings for worship. In a strange land, in exile, Gods people felt like they had lost their story of God. Maybe we feel like that too. The people of God had one of two reactions – some wept, singing “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” and gave up on God, while others said, “We have lost our story, but we have found that God is here in this strange place”.

What is your reaction as we haven’t been able to worship in our churches? Have we lost our story of God? Have we wept, and given up on God, or have we unexpectedly found God in new places – on a walk, and in our homes? God’s message is I am with you, whatever you are going through.

As we begin to make plans again following the lockdown, we may need to repent of unhealthy behaviours we have been jolted out of. We also need to pay attention to God’s Spirit moving us forwards, always closer to him. We are delighted to say that we will be holding worship services in the church during August. One each Sunday at St Mary’s only. St John’s has the high calling of being used exclusively for the Food bank at the present time. Meeting together with those who feel able to come will feel like a real privilege, but let’s remember two things, God is with those who are still worshipping at home and God is with us wherever we are.

Owning the cost of ministry together
Sadly, the parish is under severe financial pressure, brought to a head by the Covid19 crisis exacerbating the deficit which we have been running for over ten years (average £21,000 pa) which reserves covered until last year. The PCC are taking two courses of action, increase income and make significant cuts in costs. They will be launching a “Giving Project” aimed at helping every one of us to be enabled to own
the costs of ministry of our church in Walton-on-Thames. It is hoped that a concerted effort can bear fruit by early 2021. Reducing operational costs has included the furloughing of three staff members and could result in staff redundancy. This is a very sad state of affairs for a church with so much life and growth.

These are difficult times of exile. As the people of God returned from exile, they rediscovered the book of the Law – God’s word. We, too, should look deeply into God’s word and into our own hearts. As Hebrews says: “Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.” Can we once again find our
story and continue to find God in different ways and places? God’s message is I am with you, whatever you are going through. We trust in his faithfulness.

Cathy and Jonny