Coronavirus: Missional & Theological reflections


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This week we have seen the continuing theological reflections on COVID-19 growing steadily. We have tried to categorise them in some way to make it easier to navigate.

For a number of years Christians have been considering how we re-imagine church in a post-Christendom landscape. The rupture to our normal lives has been dramatic. The way in which normal life is being changed and shut down provides an opportunity for the church to practice the two greatest commandments.  

During a crisis there are both dangers and opportunities. In a national emergency we have the chance to counter fear with peace and panic with the reassurance of God’s presence and love. In the last few days new blogs, prayers and reflections have been produced that might help us in an era of social distancing and isolation to start rethinking the mission of the church in these strange new times.

A new resource for churches dealing with Coronavirus, with three focuses: Prayer, Prepare and Proclaim has been produced by Hope1315.

More reflections on isolation and trauma

The SCM blog continues the series of theology in isolation this week with an article from Florence O’Taylor on a view from the middle trauma theology and covid-19. There are also interesting reflections on creativity and paralysis from Grant Stewart in South Africa and Emily Scott muses on how our brains don’t work as well during a time of crisis and trauma. On Tuesday Lucy Peppiatt (Principal of Westminster Theological Centre) wrote on charismatic Christians and coronavirus reminding us that ‘good habits that can become bad habits when exaggerated in a crisis.’ We shouldn’t underestimate the degree of trauma this will bring to us all.

Lament, judgement and moral challenges

CMS have created an excellent virtual lament space which is being added to on a daily basis and can be found here. Intended, perhaps, for lent initially this is a good place to browse. The heavy weight theologians have begun to offer reflections this week. New Testament scholar and former Bishop of Durham N T Wright’s article for Time magazine entitled Christianity offers no answers about the coronavirus: it’s not supposed to has been widely hailed. Wright says, ‘the mystery of the biblical story is that God also laments. Some Christians like to think of God as above all that, knowing everything, in charge of everything, calm and unaffected by the troubles in his world. That’s not the picture we get in the Bible.’ Ian Paul (Premiere Blogger of the year in 2017 and 2018) offers a longer treatise on plagues, judgement and the book of Revelation and Luke Bretherton reflects on how coronavirus presents a moral crisis not just a medical one.

Finally, the first online academic conference has been announced for the 17th June led by Professor Neil Messer from the University of Winchester. Titled Christian Theology in the Midst of COVID-19 it aims to be, ‘an attempt to stimulate some initial theological reflection on the global COVID-19 pandemic.’ Offers for papers until the 30th April.

Preliminary Biblical reflections

One theme that is cropping up in the blogs of Ruth Gee (Assistant Secretary of the Methodist Conference) and Stephen March (Pioneer Development worker in the diocese of Leicester) is the subject of Babylonian Exile. Ruth reflects on a people in exile and a people of hope. Stephen’s blog fuel for pilgrims asks whether the coronavirus may be the saviour of the church? James Fox Robinson (Prayer and Spirituality enabler from the Diocese of Bath and Wells) has started a series of corona reflections based on the book of Jonah that are worth investigating and Kiwi missiologist Steve Taylor has a short vimeo clip on Reading Luke 10:1-11 in a COVID lockdown

Being isolated and alone

Other bloggers have been reflecting on the idea of being isolated and at home. A great post from Evangelist Canon J John is on being home alone can be found here. Theologian Karen O’Donnell has blogged on doing theology from a place that hurts and is worth a read from the perspective of trauma theology. It reminds us not to rush towards resurrection. Again the reflections produced by tragedy and congregations is helpful is the unfolding of trauma for larger groups like congregations, charities and other organisation. The Methodist church blog on mental health is also worth checking out. Finally the Revd Inderjit Bhogal has reflected on self isolation or sanctuary.

General theological reflections

There are a growing number of general theological blogposts around coronavirus that help us think about the issue in broader brush strokes and the kind of questions we might be asking. Israel Olofinjana (Baptist minister in Woolwich and leader of the Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World) has blogged around 6 responses to Coronavirus. Clive Marsh (Vice President of the Methodist conference) writes that God is in control of his wonderful and fragile world even in these strange times. Steve Latham’s (Baptist Minister in King’s Cross) Corona Theology post is helpful too. CTE’s Ben Aldous has blogged a general reflection on coronavirus and Acts 17:28. Paul Bradbury (Leader of Poole Missional Communities) has blogged on the parallel between our atomised society and the virus and finally Philip Yancy looks at the issue of suffering and plague times in relation to the unfolding situation.

Being a Good Neighbour

We already know the government has called on up to 250,000 NHS volunteers to help those who are older or frail and self-isolating to pick up shopping and medicines and we have seen a spectacular response of 405,000 people in 24 hours. Details of that here. An excellent blog on being neighbourly during coronavirus from The Life Beyond the Breadline Research Team at Coventry University.  Also a helpful page by MTAG (Mission Theology Advisory group) which includes thoughts on being a good neighbour.

Young people

A great blog from Youthscape Dangerous hope explores the challenges of Youth work in the coronavirus pandemic. Youth For Christ have created some materials to guide youth workers on moving their work online find out more here. And South West Youth Ministries have a great link to all sorts of useful tools here.

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