By Ven. Perry Chuipka
When I was ten years old, I remember my older brother getting a brand-new bike for his birthday. After the celebration inside we all went outside to watch him ride his new bike.
When he came back from the ride, my whole family (two other brothers, my older sister, my mother and father and I) were still outside watching him. Then my brother got off the bike, turned to my Dad, who we had never seen ride a bike, and said, “Dad how about you trying it out”?
My Dad’s first reply was a stern “no”. Then all my brothers and my sister chimed in, “Aw come on Dad, we have never seen you ride a bike before”, to which he replied laughing, “I am not sure I remember how.” Then my mother said, “Come on Nes, you used to drive a bike all the way to Copper Cliff (10 miles) to see me when we were dating.” My Dad’s reply still chuckling, “I did that, thirty years ago!!” Then my mother said, “Oh go ahead and try it, you know the old saying, you never forget to ride a bike.” And to our surprise my Dad got on the bike.
Now we all watched intently as my Dad at first wobbled on the bike, put his foot down, stopped but got on again. Pretty soon he was going up and down the street with a huge grin on his face. When he finally got off the bike, he said to us, “I had trouble finding my balance at first, but then I got it!”
As I think back on that story, I would like to look upon my Dad’s experience as reclaiming his balance. From time to time we all need to find the balance in our lives. I think our experience of this pandemic period is a time to reclaim our balance.
The other day I discovered through some research, that there have been several other pandemics in the past two centuries. But what I really found interesting is this poem that had been written at the time of the Russian Flu Pandemic in1889 and put in the paper near the end of the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1920.
This is Timeless… History repeats itself
And the people stayed at home
And read books
And did exercises
And made art and played
And learned new ways of being
And stopped and listened more deeply
Somebody meditated, someone prayed
Someone met their shadow
And people began to think differently
And people healed.
The earth also began to heal
And when people found themselves
They grieved for the dead
And made new choices
And dreamed of new visions
And created new ways of living
And completely healed the earth
Just as they were healed.
Notice the caption “This is Timeless… History repeats itself”. It may well be history repeating itself but I would like to think of it in another way. This pandemic is about us reclaiming the balance in our lives.
Let me give you this analogy about life. Our journey is like driving down a road in a hurry to get somewhere. Then there is a curve. Sometimes we manage the curve well while other times we end up heading off the road. When we head off the road, we get out of balance and end up in trouble. While we are in trouble we reflect inward and we also reflect outward. When we finally get back on the road we have learned some new ways on how to drive. We are not going as fast and we learn to handle the curves better.
This challenging time can be looked at as negative, but it can also be a really positive thing for us. We have been given the gift of time to reflect and to find our centre again. How we use this time is very important.
The other day, while out for a walk, I met one of my neighbours on the street. I knew him before but really didn’t know much about him. We stood six feet apart for what turned out to be over an hour (we were both surprised when we looked at the time). We got to know each other in a whole new way. This all happened because of the pandemic as I had more time to look at my relationships–look at where I live –look at my neighbourhood in a whole new way.
In our coaching team we have been looking at the Joining God initiative which encourages churches to establish new relationships in their neighbourhoods. This can still happen even in this time of self isolation and social distancing. I see the ideas we are learning from Joining God as helping us as a church to reclaim our balance. The mission of the church was never about just looking inward, it was also about looking outward. It was balancing the two perspectives.
When I spoke to Sara Jane Roxburgh Walker from the Joining God initiative, she shared her idea about this challenging time:
“There are certainly lots of legitimate worries and issues for us to be dealing with at this point in our lives. We are all dealing with various anxieties on a daily basis. When anxieties are managed, disruption, like we are experiencing now, can open people up to new ways of seeing and experiencing God at work among us. These are some of the questions that I am thinking about in terms of using the Joining God principles that we learned. What are you and I learning about our neighbours through Covid-19? What are some of the stories we are hearing about “being with” during this physical distancing? How are we experiencing or hearing stories of people receiving from others in our neighbourhoods? If these are questions people are able to engage now (or in the near future) this helps you and I continue to lay the groundwork for a different imagination about being with others and joining God at work among us.”
Let me go back to the story about my father finding his balance again in riding a bike. Reclaiming our balance is a life long journey. This pandemic is enabling us to find our balance for the mission of the church. We all have heard the reason why Jesus created the faith community-the church. He lived it with his life.
“He didn’t come so that others could serve him. He came to serve and to give his life so that others would be free.”
Free to help others reclaim the balance in their lives. In this time of reflection and introspection let’s think of new ways that we can free people with God’s power of love.
Ven. Perry Chuipka Archdeacon of Congregational Development.