#36 | March 2020
What a difference a month makes. With the spread of Covid 19, our mailer finds many of us in lockdown, routines upturned, imagining alternative futures to those from just a month ago.
The pandemic presents huge challenges for life, vocation and mission, even as many of us find ourselves in impossible contradictions - how to express compassion while maintaining social distancing? Ways to 'do church' and renew congregations, as crisis piles up - redundancy, bereavement and loss. How to grow community, respond to need, as we self isolate? How will business survive - what will our commercial activity look like locally as economies tank? How will culture flourish as artists struggle ever more precariously? Even as we confront our own fears about the virus.
Central to HeartEdge is a belief that Kingdom communities are built on wisdom and faith found in exile and rejection. Our default is church and our cultural, charitable and commercial projects nourished from a place of exile, abandonment and adversity. And here we all are.
In our context of lockdown, quarantine and exile, a rapidly shifting global pandemic and a static front room, kitchen-office or one-bed flat.Here, our emphasis turns to making connections, sharing insight and growing solidarity online.
We've had a few Zoom workshops (we're getting used to it). 100 of you joined the HeartEdge Practitioners page on Facebook. We share frustrations, find encouragement, be listened to and find resource.
Following an online workshop last week one Church-of-England vicar wrote: "As the only priest in the parish here, it feels like having some colleagues... It was just so helpful to sit with others, with uncertainty, to reflect together... in a space that I didn't have to hold, plan, prepare for, know all the answers... I could participate in, be nourished by. Just thank you."
Here's to more of this solidarity and usefulness.
Normal service is unlikely to be resumed. So, we are all working out the implications and changes together. We are trying new things and using social media, and our website to engage, equip and resource in this changed landscape. Plus our regular mailer, a slightly plumper, Covid-19 edition this month. Lockdown and our emerging way of life will remain a theme.
Let us know ideas or topics you want covered and we'll get onto it. Got articles or blogs to share? Be in touch via the website.
In the midst of these strange days, we hope you will make contact, share insight, find solas and join in.
The HeartEdge Team
"A monthly smorgasbord of ideas,
focused around HeartEdge 4C's."
"Running around an organising stuff is good but if we are in this for the long haul and having some idea what the long haul looks like, what else can we do?" Karen Wellman's excellent blog about living with the pandemic and 'after the heroic phase' here. Karen clocks the 'guidance for ministers as the coronavirus deepens' all here.
"Because health, sanity, vocation and relationships matter in ministry. And who else really gets it?" The Sheldon Hub is an excellent free UK-based resource for people 'doing healthy ministry' to meet, share and support each other. Like HeartEdge you can join, connect and find useful resource, forums and opportunity to share insights around their virtual 'kitchen table'. It's here. From a US perspective try the Institute for Collective Trauma & Growth - resource and support for a pandemic - here.
"Getting involved in community support will become one of the ways churches continue to express their worship and service over the coming months..." The UK, Public Issues Team cover a range of church responses to the pandemic - start here. They have useful blogs with insight on homelessness and domestic violence here. Hannah Brown calls us to act here.
- Mutual Aid Networks have been set up across the UK to support those unable to access resources. Find your nearest here.
- Support for refugees - via the Refugee Council - here.
- Updates on temporary changes to the asylum and immigration process in the UK here.
- Translation for migrant / refugee communities on how to respond to Covid-19 via 'Doctors of the World' here.
- Need emergency food? Trussell Trust in the UK have an emergency response for 3-days food supply - detail here.
- Finance questions? The UK Just Finance Foundation have compiled a signposting page to help you navigate financial difficulties - here.
- Working from home and domestic abuse concerns? Use the information here including a translated church pack for use - here.
- Advice on staff, volunteers, beneficiaries plus contingency and planning implications here.
- What charity trustees need to be thinking about - here.
- Working in prisons or criminal justice? Keep an eye on the Clinks blog here.
"There are many of us, people who are already in poverty and people who could be swept into it, who will not yet be feeling like they have been offered the lifeline they need to weather this storm..." Joseph Rowntree Foundation update on vulnerable communities here.
"When a force of nature attacks... It is decency, and kindness that will see us through this. Do everything you can with kindness..." Irish playwright Lisa Tierney-Keogh is spot on - on Covid-19 here.
"Already, the coronavirus has achieved something government policies and moral awakening couldn’t: it is pushing us into green living." Amongst the punditry there are some astute comments about life after Covid-19, one by Simon Kuper here and another by Robert Shrimsley here - both in the FT.
"As normal life comes to a standstill, meaningful action... looks like supporting people near us, in our families, apartment blocks or streets..." Mary Harrington on social distance and new connections - here.
Theologian Luke Bretherton hosted an impromptu discussion about Christian ethics in a Covid-19 world, covering social distancing, suspension of ethical norms and moral alertness. How is Covid-19 changing health provision, ministry and mission? Recorded 16 March 2020 - here.
"After medical help, I found that taking a walk through the cemetery instead of down a busy, polluted road, made me feel noticeably calmer and lighter..." Lucy Jones on the science and healing power of awe.
We were sad to hear about Rev Paul Nicholson, C-of-E vicar and anti-poverty campaigner who died on 5 March 2020. Paul's compassion and campaigning was rooted in the experience of neighbours in Tottenham, London. "Many will be aware of the protest... made outside Church House just last month. In solidarity with our street-homeless comrades, Dad sat in the cold for hours and begged for money to compel the governing body of the Church of England to make better use of its own land in tackling homelessness. On the day he was taken ill, Dad was planning to do the same outside Number 10, to bring attention to Taxpayers Against Poverty’s Elimination of Homelessness Bill." In 2016 Paul risked prison for refusing to pay council tax in solidarity with those hit by benefit cuts. Read an interview here - Paul won the case. Read a selection of the letters he wrote here. Read more tributes here.
"Always something useful, every month.
It's become essential for our team."
The excellent 'Just Enterprise' has produced a helpful info-graphic about support for small enterprise, businesses and organisations with a focus on Scotland and the UK - here.
Social Enterprise UK have resources to help social enterprises navigate the pandemic including webinars. Details of their programme are here. Their latest briefing for small social enterprises here.
There is lots of writing on churches copying business and commercial tactics (why would the church ape business?) Less insight on business taking from the church. We are interested in the dynamic - are you a church running a business? We would like your insights on how your business is distinctive. Share your insights here.
The Federation of Small Businesses in the UK have updated their pages for advice and support on cash flow issues, premises questions and trading and much more - start here.
Here are five ways to support your employees working from home - including getting connected to Zoom or Microsoft Teams - here and here.
"The church has an opportunity in these days to become an incubator for social transformation and enterprising business... to be such an incubator will take creativity and faith for it to happen through and alongside the church. And perhaps it will require a new breed of church leader to facilitate its growth." Commercial activity and the church - time to establish that business? More here. HeartEdge is very keen to learn more about your commercial work - a story to tell? Tell us here or on the website!
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"I've had more human contact this week than normal - weird I know - by phone, Zoom, email, livestream, podcast. and like everyone else, having to be a sponge in soaking up 'new ways' of doing what I've been doing for almost 10 years. It is like those first few weeks after being born, but in which I was programmed to soak up everything. But today, I am... tired. So, if you are tired, that's okay. If you are frightened, bewildered, unsure of even the basic normalities of life, that's okay..." Vicar of St Michael and All Angels, Harrow, Jody Stowell makes sense in her tweet here.
"Worship for many churches has been radically disrupted by the advent of COVID-19..." 8-tips for leading worship online from W. David O. Taylor here.
And more helpful 'how to' broadcast your service using only a mobile / cellphone and a tripod from US HeartEdge parter Lorenzo Lebrija at TryTank - here.
"Yes you can sit in the same seat every week, its your couch..." An alternative guide to online worship here (hilarious!).
What to say? Sam Wells and Sally Hitchiner host a regular weekly sermon workshop - Join each week at 4.30pm GMT on Tuesday. Find the videos for week 1 and 2 here.
"The first thing to hope for as we approach the reality of death is to find or receive the grace to be present, to live in the present tense. Finding the ability to live in the present is very similar to what many people call being ‘at peace.’ To live in the present tense and be at peace in the face of death requires two things..." In the context of a global pandemic Sam Wells from 2011, on death and how to die here.
"What it means for communion in some ways to be enhanced in this lockdown season... This is a time when Christians can identify with and learn from Jews like never before..." Thoughts on virtual communion in a lockdown era with Abigail Kocher and Sam Wells - here. More useful articles on the HeartEdge website - here.
No Sunday service? No problem... Ozzie Alan Hirsch in conversation with Michael Frost draws parallels between Covid-19 and chess. Want to be effective? Learn chess without the all powerful queen. When you've cracked it - put her back in play! For Hirsch the Sunday service has become the all powerful queen by which church is defined. With lockdown the queen has gone and we can recover what all the other pieces can do. Have a listen here.
"Dark is the night, the passing hours are long, Lone voices whisper sorrow’s silent song, Each faltering prayer will fear it’s made in vain, When will we sing the world to life again?" Easter Eve gets a new song from Ally Barrett - the tune is here.
Catherine Williams has a set of 4 mini-retreats you can make from home covering Lent, Holy Week, Easter & Pentecost. - have a look here.
Church from Scratch? "Some of us are lucky and join CFS with the opportunity to give back in acts of radical generosity...You are welcome to fully participate, regardless of age, orientation, identity, culture…" We like the sound of this and want to know how CfS do church in lockdown? (And what about you? How is your church adapting? Do you live stream or use WhatApp? Please let us know via HeartEdge.org or via Facebook or an email).
"Where in your life do you not have enough?" From 2018, the Nine-Beats Collective on scarcity, inequality, desperation - and gratitude. Some big ideas to inspire here.
"When this is all over we should not want to go back to normal because normal was already not working, for most people in the world, most of the time..." Martin Wroe lifts our head to see what maybe, in a great piece here.
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"I do not know how I will survive this with no savings behind me..." Covid-19 is hitting art workers. Yet according to Sue Hubbard "As with any traumatic event, it will be the artists and poets who make sense of it... This moment may, yet, become a tremendous artistic renaissance that will become known to future generations as Art in the Time of Covid19." Art and culture are central - HeartEdge is about nurturing space for art and culture to flourish. How is your church or organisation working to do this? Join HeartEdge to share your insight and stories.
The UK Arts Council is making funding available for individual artists and organisations receiving Big Lottery funding - this may be useful. It's here.
"Take a breath..." Referring to new emergency grants from Arts Council England, some wisdom from François Matarasso about post Covid-19 need for collaboration "We must see the cultural ecosystem in which every person, every organisation, every cultural expression, has a legitimate place. We must prize mutuality and solidarity above sectarian interest. We must use what resources we still have, whether we lead a great institution or a neighbourhood arts group, to protect the most vulnerable." More here.
Proost have made a new collection of poetry, prayers and postures by Tim Watson available for free here. Proost is a great resource - with more free stuff here. Our favourite is 'Did Anybody Else See' by Deborah Fielding - here.
"These challenging times are an opportunity to make positive changes to your organisation, such as to cease or alter off-mission and excessively costly activities..." The Counter Culture website has 10 useful top-tips for cultural organisations - such as churches - and Covid-19, here.
"The Sofa Singers has actually only just launched. It’s been set up... in response to Covid-19 and the potential for global self-isolation..." An online choir? We love this because of the sheer joy and determination - for days like this. details here. And here's a blog about a brass band - doing something similar online!
"I like to infiltrate projects into public spaces, institutions, and businesses in particular, to force participation with people who may be unaccustomed or unwilling to engage with more traditional art forms..." We liked this...
“Even really simple things like going up to the bar is a calculation..." From a different time but a great feature on arts, hospitality and disability here. Lots to learn from...
Working with artists? Arts Professionals have a great blog for artists or those supporting artists - here.
- People Dancing - the foundation for community dance - have avice for freelancers and performers here.
- Providing music groups? There's some advice and support here from 'Making Music' here.
- The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance have a page packed with useful advice for practitioners and organisations here.
Heard about the response from school children in England - rainbows springing up across the country? What are the signs of hope the church can share?
SCM have a lively series #TheologyinIsolation series looking at "what trauma theology teaches us about the risk of rushing to redemption narratives and easy explanations..." Start with Florence O'Taylor on pausing 'in the middle'...
This is gripping! Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie is compelling in her warning about only hearing a single story about another person or country. Here she talks about lazy racial stereotypes, how they come about and how they cause inequality and injustice. Essential.
A moment to absorb? Film anyone? A brief selection includes time-lapse of the Jutland landscape in Denmark here. Or Amsterdam in lockdown. And in contrast - a light, fun, hopeful take on Covid-19 - here.
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- Join here.
It's the people that make a place. We love HeartEdge Joineriner-rers. Joining up is now simple via our website - here. And once you've joined - join in!
St James & St Anne’s Episcopal Churches.
The Willemien / Wilhelminakerk - here.
St. Barnabas Episcopal, Ohio.
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Hollywood & St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Eagle Rock.
St Peter's Church, Harrogate.
Llangollen Group of Churches.
St Isidore Episcopal Church, Houston.
Trinity Saints (The United Benefice of Holy Trinity with St Philip's Dalston and All Saints Haggerston) here.
Grace Church Hackney.
Westminster Presbyterian Church, Olympia.
- Research request: We're researching how churches practice any of the 4Cs - commercial, compassion, cultural and congregation. Once we're through the pandemic we need your involvement! Interested in finding out more and taking part? Email researcher Naomi Jacobs to learn more.
- The National Estates Church Network are asking 'what does it mean to be a Church on the Margins in a time of coronavirus?' They are hosting a weekly space for shared reflection - 2pm Thursday, for the next 4 weeks (2, 9, 16 and 23 April). Join here
- Every Tuesday at 4.30pm (GMT) there is a live preaching workshop on the HeartEdge facebook page here, focusing on the Sunday's lectionary readings. Two workshops have been held so far with Sam Wells and Sally Hitchiner discussing the lectionary passages. Watch and comment here and 15 minutes in here.
- Every Wednesday at 4.30pm (GMT) on Zoom HeartEdge host a Community of Practitioners workshop. This is an opportunity for ministers and other leaders of HeartEdge churches to meet together to reflect on issues relating to congregational renewal through commerce, culture and compassion. To join - email here.
- Living God's Future Now - the HeartEdge annual gathering is 21 and 22 September. Keeping costs down, we plan to be at St Martin in the Fields, London. Guests confirmed include Maggi Dawn - Principal of St Mary’s College (University of Durham) and Professor of Theology (Teaching), Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas - Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, Giles Goddard – Vicar of St John’s Waterloo, Anthony Reddie - Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture, Cormac Russell - Managing Director of Nurture Development, Rachel Treweek – Bishop of Gloucester and Sam Wells – Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields. More to follow. And when we can be sure - we'll open up for booking in.
Last Word: "This is the moment..."
From remarks made at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 15 March 2020 by Sam Wells, all about the 'moment' we've been waiting for:
"We come to church each Sunday, we pray and read our Bibles through the week, to prepare ourselves. Jesus grew up in Nazareth, travelled around Galilee to prepare himself for Jerusalem. In Jerusalem people discovered who he truly was, and what his words and actions really entailed. We’ve spent decades, many of us, preparing we knew not what for. Well, now we know. This is the moment when the world finds out whether being a Christian makes any difference or not.
In Britain, we say pray for a sunny day, but take an umbrella. I’m not saying in the face of the virus we don’t take sensible steps. We must follow public health advice. We do so not because others are a danger to us, but because we might, directly or indirectly, be a danger to them. We’re a community defined not by fear but by trust, not by scarcity but by plenty, not by anxiety but by communion. It’s time to show our true colours.
This is the time to find ways to overcome isolation that don’t involve touch. We have this opportunity to explore the hinterland of the word with, that doesn’t always involve physical presence, but still means solidarity and kindness, generosity and love. We will limit our contact to protect the most vulnerable, but we still need to proclaim that there’s something more infectious than coronavirus – and that’s joy and peace, faithfulness and gentleness.
It was in its most bewildered hour that Israel in exile found who God truly was. This is our chance to discover what God being with us really means. None of us would for a moment have wished this crisis on anybody, let alone the whole world. But our faith teaches us that we only get to see resurrection through crucifixion; that we see God most clearly in our darkest hour.
Remember what Isaiah tells us. You shall cross the barren desert; but you shall not die of thirst. You shall wander far in safety – though you do not know the way. If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown. If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed. If you stand before the power of hell and death is at your side, know that I am with you through it all. Be not afraid, says our God. I am with you like never before.
This is our faith."
Sam Wells is a preacher, pastor, writer, broadcaster and theologian.
He is vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields.
Thanks for reading.
We're back, in April.