by Sally Coleman.
So, we have made it past the celebration of Easter Sunday and are making our cautious journey into this vastly different Easter Season. We did not gather as we normally would, did not break bread together, share breakfasts, or family celebrations in a gathered way. Instead from behind locked doors our cries of Alleluia may have been heard. I know one or two took to the streets to do so, but whatever we did this Easter Sunday just past was completely different to what we may have been preparing for.
Some say that our experience was perhaps more authentic to that first Easter morning, reflecting that the first disciples were gathered behind locked doors for fear of the authorities who had crucified the one they called Lord and who called them friends. Those who did venture out came away scratching their heads in disbelief, and doubt and questions were voiced. ‘Alleluia! Christ has risen!’ was not proclaimed on that first Easter Day.
Even Mary, who encountered the risen Christ was confused at first; she did not recognise him until he spoke her name, and when she went to hold onto him was told not to. He needed to ascend, to complete his work of transformation. Instead she was told to go and tell the disciples that Jesus would go ahead of them.
I wonder then what that means for us today, we have a sign on our building at Wesley Hall, Sheffield that says the building is closed, but the church is still alive and well – at home, worshiping, caring and praying. We are scattered yet connected, and in some ways have become more outward looking. We have been sent from the buildings to different corners of our communities. I wonder if we are beginning to encounter the Christ who has gone ahead of us into our homes and neighbourhoods?
One thing that we have done is to invite community members to join us in lighting a candle at 7pm every evening and placing it in an outward facing window. Interestingly this practice is growing as people share with their families and neighbours what they are doing and why. The church is lit up with prayer every evening, if only through the simple act of lighting a flame.
We have also been forced to slow down. Queues at Supermarkets offer unexpected opportunities for conversations, and people seem more ready to talk (from a safe distance). Has Christ gone ahead of us here? My suspicion is yes, and while I acknowledge that being able to go out wearing a collar has always opened a number of opportunities for people to converse with me, if you’d asked me earlier this year if I thought I would find myself praying, not once but a number of times with people in queues and car parks, I would probably have laughed.
What it has shown me is that people are asking questions of eternity and do want spiritual assurance of hope. These people may never have entered our churches on Easter Sunday, and our practices may have seemed strange to them, but here and now in the simple art of conversation, and in the lighting of a candle in prayer, the church is alive and well. Perhaps we need to hear Jesus’ words: do not cling to what was, for I have gone ahead of you.