- Together Apart
- Next Gen
“You’re on mute!”
It’s got to be the most uttered phrase of the year. In every Zoom call, every Google Teams meeting and every WhatsApp video conference, those 3 little words have come to define this year.
I wonder what we’ll talk about when we look back on 2020 in a decade’s time?
Will we remember home-schooling our kids, working from home and walking miles and miles in the streets around our houses to do our “daily exercise” with rose-tinted nostalgia? Or will the harsh realities of the weirdest, most emotional-rollercoastery year in living memory be recalled for what it truly was for most of us: insanely tough?
Will the memorised reality of this year be on mute too?
The answer is, probably. My husband and I have already started reminiscing fondly on what we once nicknamed “the dark days” of April and May 2020, when we were close to sinking under the pressures of holding down two demanding jobs whilst also trying to entertain, educate and sustain our two young boys.
“Wasn’t it lovely though, in a way?” we cooed the other evening as we reflected on the year gone by. “We’ll never have such intense time with the kids again. Think of the memories we made. Think of the bonds that were built between them.”
Feel free to insert your own eye-rolling emoji here!
Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to reflect on 2020 in that way, to try to look for the positives in it, but the reality is, for millions of people around the world, this year has been utterly devastating. In addition to the truly horrifying (and growing) statistics of those who have died with Covid-19 (currently standing at over 67,000 in the UK at the time this article was published), the knock-on effect of this pandemic continues to grow.
1.5 million people are currently still waiting for hospital appointments for health conditions they’ve had for over 6 months. Cancer services were severely disrupted for most of the year and a recent report by Macmillan Cancer Support estimates that there may be “as many as 50,000 missing diagnoses”.*
The constant disruption to classroom teaching due to self-isolation has meant that at some schools at points in the Autumn term, only 42% of children were learning in a classroom environment. Schools provide consistency and safety for millions of children in the UK. School closures earlier in the year and the resulting “loss of learning and confidence”, as well as the impact on the mental health of an entire generation as a result of this pandemic, although hard to capture statistically, will be evident for years to come.
And then there’s the economic impact. Redundancies are now at a record high in the UK with 819,000 fewer workers on UK company payrolls than at the start of the pandemic.
500,000 more households with children are claiming Universal Credit than before the pandemic hit. Schools are reporting high increases in the number of families seeking free school meals for their children.
Mass unemployment and extended furlough schemes have increased the financial burden on families, forced to spend time together in lockdown, creating pressure cooker environments for all involved. One report found that “teenage girls reporting mental health difficulties were more likely to have seen an argument at home” at some point during lockdown.*
The reality is that long after mass vaccination has taken place and things are “back to normal”, the repercussions of 2020 will linger for many years to come.
And so here’s the important message for the Church in the area as we move forward into a new year and one step further into a new decade:
The Church cannot be on mute.
We must have something to offer and something to say into these situations, long after we are physically vaccinated against this virus. We have to position ourselves to offer hope, life and opportunity for people to prosper and believe in their future (Jer 29:11).
It goes way beyond simply getting our Sunday services running again. We need to stay focused. We cannot rose-tint our view of the society we’re now living in. What will our corporate vision for our communities be for the decade ahead and how will we outwork it relevantly, with the greatest impact?
Surely the answer, now more than ever, has to involve one simple word: TOGETHER.
On Saturday 4th January 2020, we gathered 2500 Christians at the Bethel Convention Centre in West Bromwich. We now believe that night was more significant than we ever imagined when we planned it. We knew God had told us to gather the Black Country Church to welcome in the new decade together. It’s only now, a year on, that we’re beginning to comprehend the prophetic significance of what happened that night.
The problems we will be facing as a nation in the next decade as a result of this pandemic will be insurmountable if we don’t stand together to tackle them. Why? Because we need the power of Jesus. And His true, full, life-changing, area-transforming power is only revealed in and through our togetherness.
At Together 2020, we gave out seeds to everyone who came. On those seeds was written one simple word and a bible reference: “Together – Matthew 18:20”.
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (in their midst).”
As we approach a New Year, can I challenge you to find the seed you took home with you that night back in January 2020 if you were there, hold it in your hand and re-commit yourself, right now, to do all that we can to stand together and work together as ONE CHURCH to impact our area for Jesus.
The Black Country needs the transforming power of Jesus, in every sphere of society. Let’s re-commit to being one in heart and purpose as the Body of Christ in this region so that He is revealed and our area transformed.
The problem is too loud for the Church to be on mute.
*MacMillan Cancer Care(2020), ‘The Impact of Covid 19 on Cancer Care’, [Online]https://www.macmillan.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/we-make-change-happen/we-shape-policy/covid-19-impact-cancer-report.html
*BBC News, Tuesday 15th December 2020, ‘Covid: Twelve charts on how Covid changed our lives’, [Online]https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-55313752