Lent and re-imagining

It’s a strange time.

As of this week, the UK has stepped up its response to coronavirus. My work meetings and workshops have been cancelled, I am working from home starting tomorrow, and even churches are suspending services.

This is a bewildering and precarious time, and change on this scale and at this pace is difficult to process. In many ways I am immensely fortunate, and I am feeling for people facing much greater uncertainty.

It’s also Lent.

Last year I wrote of Lent that it is not so much a time of retreat, as a time to reconsider our engagement with the world and see things as they really are.

The disruption of the past week is making me reconsider things – it is difficult to relinquish hopes for different events that were planned in the next couple of months, and I have been surprised by how emotional I felt about my church ending gatherings; church is perhaps the greatest constant in my life.

And yet, with disruption there is opportunity to reimagine.

The present health crisis is revealing the impacts of inequality, and the gaps we have in governance at all levels, and it reminds us our present way of living in the world is in many senses unsustainable and unjust.

Working in climate change, it is strange watching the world reckon with a health crisis at this scale in the knowledge that a warming climate, acting as a threat-multiplier, will cause the spread of many known diseases outside of their current regions.

I am concerned by major talks being postponed (including shipping negotiations, ongoing UN climate talks and an EU-China climate summit due to take place at the end of the month) and the impact this crisis will have on COP26. While global carbon emissions will drop as economies struggle, the long-term upward trend in global emissions will not be turned around, and in the meantime both issues will severely impact the livelihoods of many.

We need to redefine wealth in our societies. Living a ‘good life’ needs to be possible without high greenhouse gas emissions.

My hope is that this Lent truly will be a time of reconsideration.

As governments around the world announce economic stimulus measures, there is opportunity to invest the stimulus money in structural changes which will reduce emissions after economic growth returns (i.e. further development of clean technologies), and to reconsider the purpose of our world economy.

As countries and communities, there is opportunity to invest in relationships, and to reconsider the place of work in our lives.

As churches, there is opportunity to remember what being the church really means. I like this blog post from Kaitlyn Scheiss:

Church is not a special interest group… We go to church to form our identity as the people of God, people who have a mission in the world: to witness to the coming kingdom of God. We gather not for ourselves, but for the sake of the world.

And as people, there is opportunity to reconsider where we are putting our trust and to reimagine what our lives could look like if we put the resurrection at the very centre.

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