Essentials  (In the new normal)


Andy Hawes 


As the pandemic continues to shape the way we live I find that I spend a good part of the week on either Zoom, Face time or Skype in the exercise of my ministry. A salient theme that has arisen in past weeks: directees talk about shedding aspects of life that are not ‘essential’. One might say ‘ I am concentrating on the essentials in life,’ another might say ‘ I had forgotten what is essential’. Sometimes a realisation of what is essential can herald some major changes in life. One person I know described how she had realised that she had been spending all her time working away from the family home and had resigned because ‘being with the family was essential.’ 

This ‘reordering’ of priorities to embrace the ‘ new normal’ is not unique to Christians: social commentary in various kinds of media is highlighting the same trend. The ‘spirit of the age’ is one of reappraisal and re –imagining ways of living, and this openness of mind is one which Christians should embrace fully for within it an opportunity is opening up to attend again to the call of Christ in our life. Now is a good time to ask the question of God ‘ teach me what are essentials of my life.’

Here are few possible essentials. First, Church on a Sunday: the irony of the ‘lockdown’ is that this fundamental building block of Christian life was removed. In some of us a rather uncertain habit has been broken, in others a deeper hunger and need awoke. Where does Mass on a Sunday stand in your list of essentials? It is certainly the case that Sunday attendance has become irregular in every congregation. It surely must be an essential?

Secondly, there is the place of daily prayer and Bible reading. Locally the lockdown saw a meteoric rise in the numbers of those accessing daily prayer and study material online. Personal experience informs me that this was highly valued and produced wonderful benefits in the lives of individuals. I was told by several people ‘ I didn’t realise what a difference it made to everything.’ Is it an essential for you going forward? As the new normal unfolds will old patterns and priorities gradually reassert themselves. How quickly will we forget what was once so essential?

Thirdly, awareness of the world. Many of us have become more attentive to what is going on in our local community. There has been a reengagement with neighbours. Happily many church communities have rediscovered a place and role in their neighbourhood. To ‘love our neighbour’ and to be aware of the needs of others is at the heart of the greatest commandment of Jesus. Will this essential remain at the centre of our prayer and activity?

Finally, the pandemic has raised huge questions about God’s involvement in creation, and the nature of prayer and faith. I suggest it is an essential for all praying and thinking Christians to wrestle with them, for in seeking to discern God’s will and purpose our relationship with Him will be renewed and our witness to our friends ands neighbours given new light and life.