I have been reflecting in recent days on the story of Elijah’s encounter with God on the mountain at Horeb (1 Kings 19). Elijah is afraid and hiding, and God sends an angel to comfort him before being sent out to meet the Lord. God is not in the great wind, or in the earthquake or in the fire but in the sound of sheer silence – in the words of the famous hymn ‘that still small voice of calm’.
It is of course in that still, small voice that God is, in my experience, so often heard. That is why I am glad the reopening of our churches for public worship which will begin this coming week will be simple, gradual, low key even. We will not, we can’t, go back to what was normal, for the world around us has changed. We are rather seeking to discover for ourselves and for our church, the future that God is calling us to, and that involves us listening to each other, and above all to God.
So I do not expect that this coming Sunday will see most, or indeed many, of our churches open again for public worship. Largely we are simply not ready, not least because we have just received the Church of England guidance that we will need to apply. We will have to take the necessary time to see how it will work in our circumstances so that we keep those who may come safe. Over these coming weeks, I expect we will slowly see the beginning of a new pattern, with a mix of worship continuing online where that has begun, alongside some very simple, said worship. One of the first service forms I suspect will resume is the celebration of the Eucharist, in which our participation has so long been prevented. Our worship will be quiet, simple, plain even, and short. We will come and go, not lingering.
This will I believe be a gift to us, to be with God in the quiet, to listen, like Elijah to the still, small voice, to take time, to rest and recover, and to know what God asks of us for the season to come. I go back to the words of the prophet Micah ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.’
May we walk these coming days faithfully, simply, kindly with justice and humility as we listen attentively to the voice of God.
Bishop Rachel joins with me as we assure you of our prayers in these days,