Uncertainty In Exile

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GUEST POST://   William Davie is a second year ordinand studying for a BA in Theology, Ministry and Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He has previously been a Church Intern and Journalism student. He thinks too much and blogs when he remembers at https://disturbingthecomfortablesite.wordpress.com/

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One of the worst things about being an ordinand during the Coronavirus outbreak has been the tidal waves of uncertainty and confusion and the feelings of powerlessness, that crash in upon you with increasing force and increasing regularity.

First, there was the uncertainty over when and if College would come to an end. And when that did happen, over one Tuesday lunchtime with a handful of hours’ notice, a whole new set of concerns reared their heads. Questions of essays and placements, of how we could be of help to our placement churches, and what College would look like in September (if it even goes ahead). A million questions, far less than a million answers. And for those of us who have another year of study ahead of us, there is the extra pain of watching our leaving friends struggle with questions of moving dates and ordinations and being powerless to help them.

And those are just the local concerns. Nationally on-top of the worries about Coronavirus, I have spent months watching the Church of England entrenching itself into factions. In debates over virtual communion and the importance of buildings, strawmen have been set up and demolished again and again, and vitriol sprayed at an alarming rate, with no signs of accord or ceasefire in sight. While I am sure this has passed by the majority of those outside the Church – those who don’t read the broadsheets anyway, – I worry that the Church will find moving forward post-Corona that much more difficult now that all this bad blood has been spilt. And of course, the question of what type of Church I will be ordained into is an ever-present concern.

The image I have come back to again and again during this time is one of the Exile. Like the citizens of Judah, we sit by the rivers of Babylon and we weep for what we have lost. During this key part of the Christian year, we have been cut off, at least physically from each other and from the rituals and the traditions that matter most. Almost overnight we have had to overhaul our worship and our understanding of Church. While Zoom and YouTube can replicate some of what we have lost it is not the same as being a physically incarnate community. Like the Exiles we will have to find new ways of worshipping and living out our faith, and that will be hard for many of us.

What I have held onto during this time of uncertainty and exile is the belief that God is both good and faithful. Just as the Exiles eventually returned home, so will we. And while it might not be the same Church, while it might not look, or feel or act the same, we know that the God whose body the Church is, is unchanging. We know that this situation, as horrific and distressing and bewildering as it is, is factored into the plan of God, has been since before the beginning of the world, and he will bring good out of it.

In a sermon in 1933, Dietrich Bonhoffer said,

It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province.

That is some comfort during this time. God will out of these days of Corona bring something good, of that we can be assured. So, while the tidal waves of uncertainty crash above my head, I will stand, with my feet firm upon the solid rock of Christ.

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Are you an ordinand? Would you like to write for ‘Confessions of a Trainee Vicar?’ Use the ‘Contact’ page to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you – and I know others would too!

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