Readers of this column may recall my disappointment a couple of months back about not being able to visit an art exhibition at the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate. Well the good news is that it’s opening again this week, and we have timed tickets to visit one day next week. Hooray! It’s an exhibition about art, music and culture in the deep south of the USA and its relationship with the Civil Rights Movement. You may recollect the title – ‘We will walk’. The café will be shut, but seaside fish and chips is a good substitute.
This first venture into a space that has been closed for some while is an exciting opportunity to reconnect with a wider world. Paying such a visit will have always been stimulating, but it was also a thing you could decide to do on the spur of the moment, at the drop of a hat. For the moment you’re not able just to pitch up. The tickets come with precise instructions and the booking system requires you to accept the conditions at several points. No doubt many of us are experiencing something similar if we are planning trips out over the summer.
So what of our churches as some go for ‘soft’ relaunches in August? How will things be arranged? Will we have to book our pew and sign in? Will we have to sign a form that says we accept the conditions of our being there? Masks? The wealth of guidance from Districts and TMCP will certainly help with these questions, and so I’m not going to offer more than a reminder to study these guides with care, making choices that work for your own setting.
This is, however, again a plea to think beyond the practical measures to the relational issues that may be affecting people coming out of lockdown, uncertain about what the new climate means for shielding or affected by the consequences of isolation or forced and, at times, unwelcome close proximity to others.
If face to face church is going to be a place of fresh excitement and real opportunity for collective worship, then meeting the needs of body and soul, physically, emotionally and spiritually in an integrated way is critical. In London, we have already published some guidance about how to spot and address safeguarding concerns that have become evident. As local statistics about adult safeguarding referrals suggest, this is a further reminder to keep an eye open for signs of self-neglect and domestic abuse. Likewise for children, listen to their stories with great care and attention. This is an important message and merits re-stating.
Opening doors is a great next move. It promises so much. I’ll let you know if ‘We will walk’ measures up to expectations. And I still won’t mention anything about football (it’s a difficult topic in SE25 just now) and stadia doors possibly opening in October!