For many of us who are readers and subscribers of Anglican Life, one of the most important relationships that we have in our lives is with the Church. We love the Church, and it’s been a constant for many of us through good times and bad. This relationship has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s something that has had an effect on many “good Anglicans” from leaders on down.
The thing about relationships is that you have to want them to work, and sometimes, that can take more effort than it did in the past. How often do we hear things like, “So-and-so just doesn’t seem to care anymore,” or “you’re not really listening to me.” Whether the relationship is between parents and children, between friends, or between partners, they’re never successful if one party ignores the other, or stops making them a priority.
For his part, I think that God does want our relationship with his Church to work, but sometimes we don’t really want to put in any effort. We complain that things are not as good as they used to be. We belittle others for their differing opinions on worship or leadership. We grumble about wearing masks (when we have to), and not getting to sit in “our pew.” We criticize the Church for not allowing singing, even when we know that it is a high risk activity. We say, “This isn’t what I want!” as if it isn’t a living relationship with God’s Church, but rather a service that we’re paying for, like entertainment.
It’s easy to feel this way—I have myself. We all have been through a lot, and the mental health of everyone I know is fragile at best. Those of us who have turned to the Church for comfort in the past have wanted so badly for it to be the thing that doesn’t change, especially when we’re scared or confused. But just as our human relationships rarely stay exactly the same, so the experiences of the pandemic must effect our relationship with the Church. For those who have walked away, for whatever reason, they must decide if this is something that they want to return to, and invest in, in the future, and not just in a financial way—that can lead back to the an idea that you have paid for a service that you expect to be able to control.
We need to trust that God is, for his part, committed to this relationship, and we need to deepen our bond with him through prayer and reflection, and by attending worship when we can (in person or online), even when it isn’t exactly what we want.
The wonderful thing about God is that even the most broken relationship with him can be mended—you just have to want to make things better, and to be willing to work on it. I think that it’s worth the effort.