“I can’t wait until we go back to normal!” That’s what a church leader said to me recently. I could sense the despair in his tone as he spoke about his frustrations of not being able to control the effects of the pandemic on his struggling congregation. 

My good friend Mal Fletcher is a futurist and social commentator. He has a special and profound way of making complex things understandable and palatable to us ordinary folk. I call it ‘bitesize philosophy’. In an interview he once said, ‘large scale events don’t change the world; it’s our response to them that shapes the world.’ 

Ponder the enormity and truth of that statement. Therefore Covid-19 hasn’t changed the world, rather it’s our response to the pandemic that is changing the world in which we live. 

No matter who we are, or where we are, how we respond is critical to our future. 

We are living in liminality. We are ‘in between’ what was and what will be. The world is changing day by day, city by city, nation by nation as we respond to this pandemic. We are all being ushered toward a ‘new normal’. It seems no one is exempt from responding to the global crisis we are facing. 

Unfortunately for my church colleague, there will be no returning to ‘normal’. 

Perhaps that is a good thing? Maybe some churches need a ‘new normal’? My local church does! Perhaps some of the changes we are facing are not negative, but necessary for each one of us to become more aware of our frailty, humanity, and interdependence? Maybe these changes will cause us to become more united and committed to the welfare of our neighbourhoods and towns? 

Crisis has a way of uniting people. 

Here in Australia we started 2020 with damaging floods, then we experienced the most catastrophic bushfires in our recorded history. No sooner had the firefighters and military packed their equipment away, then Covid-19 struck. Some Aussies have already called it ‘The Year from Hell’. Despite the challenges, the great fruit borne by this triple-headed crisis has been the mateship, unity and sacrifice people have demonstrated. 

Though we are social isolated and physically distanced, people have been pulled together by the pandemic. 

In particular, the church has had to learn how to work collaboratively and collegiately with organisations they don’t normally serve alongside. The church has been forced to rediscover its origins and emulate their early pioneers in The Book of Acts. Not just gathering in homes but scattered in society. Not just caring for one another but loving their neighbours. 

For many churches this is not normal. They have morphed over the years into something abnormal; something other than the powerful influential force for good described in the Bible. A body of believers that occupied every domain and department of the city. Like salt they permeated every sector of society. Their good works shone like blinding lights in every corner of the communities where they dwelt. 

Undoing rituals and learning new routines is not easy; especially as we get older. This is true for individuals and it is certainly true for churches. Doing what is expected is easy. Doing what is required is harder. 

This is why I love Cinnamon Network International. It helps churches re-engage with their communities. Cinnamon walks alongside churches, big and small, traditional and modern, and helps them discover new pathways into their neighbourhoods. Cinnamon helps churches to work collaboratively with civic, business and political leaders in their cities. Cinnamon can help churches discover their ‘new normal’. 

Gary Rucci, Lead Pastor of Rivercity Family Church and Chair of Cinnamon Advisory Council QLD/NT, Australia