It is Holy Saturday for real today, even though we have been living in Holy Saturday mode for over 3 weeks. The proclamation of the Resurrection is about to begin, so today is the day to record the positives from this time.
The origin of this extremely contagious and debilitating virus doesn’t matter, but the grace of the pause, of the taste of divine rest, of a time of fallowness does.
Sadly a lot of people aren’t getting the message to slow down, as evidenced by the erratic driving of some people seen when we have ventured out for groceries. What on earth could they possibly be in a hurry to get to?
In reality we are only catching up on all the Sunday-Sabbath rests we have ignored for countless years, and by God’s grace are beginning to get a taste for again. The Christmas Day quiet of suburban streets is lovely to experience.
Nature seems to be getting a bit of a rest too, with smog and pollution levels decreasing.
While it may seem quiet on the surface, there is a lot going on behind closed doors and in the depths of hearts.
The great majority of our usual distractions, football codes, theatre, restaurants, sport, libraries, local pubs, gyms, and even our church activities have closed down. People are having a chance to distance themselves from things that they were previously addicted to. Additionally they are finding that some of those things, like trips to the ice cream parlour or binge watching TV series, just aren’t satisfying them anymore.
In this time of pause, away from the normal bustle and busyness of life, there is evidence that people are reconsidering the whole God question. Those church communities that had existing online outreach, or quickly got their acts together, are reporting massive increases in viewer numbers for online church services. Granted some of these viewer numbers are not from the local area, and some are there because their own congregations don’t have anything online to offer, but many are seekers.
Reports are beginning to come in from those whose lives have been touched through these online ministries, and they include atheists and those with faiths other than Christian.
There is also evidence that the quality of family life is improving. This includes spouses reconnecting with each other. It includes the hearts of parents reconnecting with their children, and vice versa. Around the dinner table at meal times conversation is increasing. People are trying out new recipes, getting the jigsaw puzzles and board games out, and getting small to medium do-it-yourself home improvements done.
Many people have been on steep technology learning curves in order to stay in touch with each other and to be able to work from home. Rethinking is going on about how to run businesses better and clever people have begun re-purposing businesses to include home delivery, online ordering and adjusting product lines. For others rethinking their working lives is a necessity because the jobs they had before are unlikely to return.
The way we learn is changing too. With the aid of materials prepared by teachers and others, lots of parents have been thrown in the deep end of home schooling. The early responses were of gratitude to teachers, ‘I’ll never complain about you again’. But the longer this pause goes on, the more those responses are going to change. Parents will know exactly where their children are struggling and will be asking more perceptive questions of teachers. There will be parents who discover that their children are learning better and faster at home than they did at school. There will be children who discover that learning at their own pace, without the competitive peer pressure, suits them.
We won’t be going back to the normal we knew.
What might the new normal look like?
I think we are going to see a lot of No’s. Of people standing up and saying No, I am not going back to that, and having far less patience for the mediocre they used to put up with.
All of us have sampled online Masses and other church services from places other than our home parish. We’ve heard much better preaching than we have in years, and better choirs and liturgical observance. Far more of us are no longer going to be backward in coming forward and saying, ‘Father, you just have to do better. We need better preaching than this!’
There is likely to be anger, too. Anger at the non-communication from parishes that stopped printing parish bulletins, stopped putting parish bulletins online, and didn’t have existing email and Facebook networks. Our older members, who don’t have technology, will be feeling the most abandoned.
There will be others, I daresay mostly women, who will say ‘No, family really is my priority, I don’t want to go back to a toxic working environment’ and who will pioneer ways to set up cottage industries from home.
There will be families who will say, ‘No, I’m not sending my children back to school, this home-schooling thing is really working for us’. Definitely families will re-evaluate just how many extra-curricular after school activities their children will be involved in, and choose less of them.
There will be people in high pressure jobs who will say, ‘No, I can’t live like that anymore, it is detrimental to both me and my family’.
Hopefully communities, regions and states will take a good long look at where they found themselves to not be self-sufficient, and to take steps to rectify that, especially in manufacturing and production of medical supplies.
Are we ready for the new normal?
Do you remember that interesting prophecy about the three waves?
Firstly of prodigals, then of babies, and then of more babies.
When the social distancing restrictions are lifted, our churches will be overflowing, due to the number of returning prodigals and seekers. Are we ready to welcome them? Do we have resources in place now to assist an extra 200 to 2000 people who seek baptism and discipleship?
Do it now.
Remember the parable of the 10 bridesmaids, the ones who came with extra oil went with the bridegroom, the rest missed out.
With the lack of other things to do, and more time to improve and restore relationships, you can bet that we will see a physical baby boom from December 2020 onwards. Order your baptismal registers and certificates, baptismal candles etc now. Leave it till Oct/Nov and you won’t be able to get any. Train up extra baptismal preparation teams now, via Skype or other online interfaces if necessary.
Order extra marriage registers and certificates and paperwork too. Cohabiting couples will decide to marry. Marriages made outside the church will seek convalidation.
There will be more couples seeking to straighten out their tangled lives with God, so increase your orders of annulment paperwork too.
Then as the reconciliations with God take place, and healings begin, watch for that second baby boom of miracle babies to previously infertile couples to happen. Yes, you really do need to start ordering baptism related supplies now, and double what you first thought of.
This is the divine reset, back to God’s plan for Himself first, and family second.
The sky isn’t falling, it is about to turn the right way up for the first time in a very long while.