I have found this ‘lockdown working’ more emotionally/physically challenging than I would have thought.
Initially, I was energised by the need to grasp the opportunities. I worked hard with the staff team and volunteers to discover how we could make the steps to an on-line life and presence, and how we could maintain good pastoral contact when we cannot physically meet together.
In many ways, I feel deeply encouraged by the progress we have made as a church and congregation. I’m also heartened by the contact that we’re having with those who don’t see themselves as regulars at Christ Church. If that’s you – thank you for visiting us: we’re delighted to walk with you in these troubling days.
On the other hand, I’m processing the enormous cultural changes that have overwhelmed us. We’ve been knocked sideways by the complete wide-ranging variations to ‘normal’ life, whatever that was!
We are part of a generation that is going through huge cultural change and there will be good things that come out of it and some really sad (or is that bad?) things: I’m particularly worried about the young school children learning that life outside the home is lived 2m apart – surely that will affect them socially and psychologically as they grow up? They will be the Covid-19 generation.
But back to the emotional and physical challenge. A former church member here, James Webster, helpfully wrote that undergoing major cultural change is not new. Overseas missionaries, of which James was one, experience similar challenges as they move wholesale to a new way of life:-
It requires considerable energy to process change. Working overseas, we are told 3 out of your 4 cylinders will be taken up with the bombardment of new sights, sounds, smells and so on. In our current situation, the ways of relating, new programmes etc. similarly require much energy as we adjust to the newness of everything. Thus you will not be able to achieve what you feel you should, or normally would, and you will get more tired in doing so than normal. Don’t feel guilty at this ‘under-performance’ – it is normal and indeed necessary as you assimilate the ‘new normal’. Certainly don’t push yourself or you won’t properly enter into this process of assimilation and adjustment.
In the days of missionaries getting a one-way ticket for a six-month sail to India via the Cape, the head of a mission organisation was standing at the docks in Southampton. As the boat cast its ropes she cupped her hands to shout some last pearls of wisdom to the embarking missionaries. She said “Don’t forget to eat and sleep well”. She knew that, just as a new baby spends most of its time eating and sleeping (and crying!) as it copes with everything new, again, eating and sleeping well is fundamentally important and a necessary response to a radically different life. And then there’s the crying …
All this newness leads to (culture) shock. The timing and severity of this will vary from person to person, but it is a well know trajectory that everyone goes through. You will run on adrenalin for a while, and the thrill of rising to the challenge, but eventually these motivating chemicals and factors will wear off and you will crash. ‘Depression’, not necessarily clinical, will set in to one degree or another. And as you begin to mourn the loss of the former life, you may even begin to resent the new one. Keep in touch with these emotions and don’t suppress them! Make space and take time to grieve for what was.But take heart: we are not going overseas; our culture has much that is the same; we have not chosen this way of life for it has been forced upon us.
Nevertheless, we actually need each other more rather than less at the moment: to support, to encourage, to pray. God is still at work. He is still listening. He is still building His Kingdom among those who seek Him.