The New Normal

We have lived through one of the most significant cultural disruptions in a generation and will continue to exist in the rippled cultural water for some time to come. You know you’re in a serious historic moment when the production of Coronation Street is under threat and you find yourself teary eyed watching an advert for a bank. But, even the novelty of seeing everyone’s kitchen and living rooms, from TV personalities to the local MP, and watching endless “morale lifting” Zoom choirs has worn very thin as these strange times continue.

As with every cultural and social shift there comes the obligatory Oxford English Dictionary new entry contenders, and we are not disappointed with such words and phrases as, social distancing, the new normal, self-isolation, shielding, clapping for carers, and the infamous (and sometimes scarring) phenomena of “Zoom bombing”. The list could go on, but a new vocabulary often signifies the uncharted nature of the waters we are now in, with society and its pundits stumbling to find ways to describe the unfolding nature of our experience in the recent pandemic.

Culture and language co-exist with a level of symbiosis that is impossible to unpick, they are perpetually locked in a zero-sum-game, which makes this relationship worthy of thoughtful consideration. Indeed, to ask the narrower question, has the church’s vocabulary changed over these past months, have we begun to re-describe ourselves as kingdom people within a “new normal”, or are we clinging to a pre-covid church culture that only needs a vaccine to return? It maybe too early to ask these questions, but they are urgent and manifold and if there is a move of God over these troubled cultural waters we need to be open and engaged.

It maybe that after many patches and repairs the old wineskins of building centric and performance orientated church have finally burst. Many books, conferences, and honest conversations over a good coffee have tried to address this needed moment, and much of those engagements are valuable and still needed, but now conversation has given way to experience. We have been forced to close the building and cease the performance, an experience very few of us thought possible, but one we now live in the wake of. A unique moment and opportunity, tinged with loss and grief, but pregnant with Holy Spirit possibility.

It is to these possibilities that we turn in the articles and reflections shared here. A new normal has been enforced at one level, but a new normal is also being dreamt and imagined, with the Holy Spirit announcing a harvest from the newly cultivated cultural soil. Open teachable hearts, brave and discerning imaginations, and a renewed surrender to the Holy Spirit make for a moment traditionally called revival. Let’s forego our cynicism and revival fatigue, and instead faithfully make ourselves available to the possibility of a new normal, of a revived and confident church, no longer a people of the building or a people of the performance, but a people of the King.

Dr. Bart Woodhouse
<p>Currently church planting with the Methodist Church in north Kent, UK. Studied at Cliff College and later gained a PhD. in Postmodern Biblical Studies at Sheffield University. I'm a keen but poor runner and enjoy trying to rock climb. Married to Rachel with three amazing children.</p>