Just a few weeks ago I gave you a super quick introduction to the Holy Habits demonstrated by the early Church in Acts 2, (check out our animation of this reading here) and how they can be used in our lives today. I also said that I would write more blog posts about them in the coming months.
Now, this was definitely not the kind of blog post I had in mind when I originally said that, but as the whole world seems to have shifted into this new kind of existence full of self-isolation, social distancing, and lockdowns, these habits are just as important for us. In fact, it’s probably even more important than normal for us to be exploring these habits, as those which may normally happen naturally in our lives may suddenly need us to be much more intentional.
So, how can we practice the Holy Habits during a lockdown?
Whilst we cannot gather together to receive biblical teaching in the form of a sermon at our church, one of the benefits of living in a world full of technology and digital media is that so many churches have been able to provide biblical teaching, and all other aspects of church services, online whether via Facebook, YouTube, or other platforms. Be sure to engage with the biblical teaching that your church is providing, if they are able to do so. If your church is not able to do this, there are lots of other biblical resources out there – check out The Bible Project, Spring Harvest Home, and Ask Pastor John Podcast. You can, of course, also develop your own routine for studying the Bible at home. I have a number of helpful blog posts about this including: How to start studying the Bible daily, How I study the Bible, Top Tips for Reading the Bible, and Which book of the Bible should you study?
I think prayer is such an important habit to be developing right now – so many people are in need of prayer, and so many people who have never even considered God’s existence will be turning to prayer in desperation. All of the aspects of prayer that we may have been doing before should be able to continue, but we may want to adapt them to cater for the fact that we now have children home throughout the day, or just because we have more time. Perhaps we could use some more creative prayer ideas to pray together as a family (I have a whole collection of blog posts here) or start a prayer journal. It is also important to maintain a habit of praying together in community. Why not set up Morning Prayer meetings, or a Prayer & Puddings evening over zoom call to help you and your friends to continue praying throughout this time?
Fellowship is probably one of the habits that will have been most impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, as we are simply not able to meet together in person. But there are still ways for us to stay connected to one another. We can set up group chats (you can always mute the notifications if they get annoying!) or organise get-togethers on zoom in order to allow us the opportunity to chat, to check up on each other, and to maintain those relationships. In fact, being intentional about this can often lead to us reconnecting with friends that we may usually just be too busy to contact on a regular basis. A lovely example of fellowship that I have seen in the last few weeks has been neighbours setting up a chair in their driveway or garden, grabbing a cuppa and having a morning chat whilst maintaining a safe distance between them.
It can be difficult to think of the habit of breaking bread without jumping to a service of Holy Communion, but actually breaking bread could be as simple as breaking a chunk of bread together at the meal table before you start dinner. Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to explore breaking bread either alone, or with your family or household. I’m also interested to see the different ways in which churches lead communion services on their digital platforms, which will of course differ depending upon your church’s theology.
In many ways, a pandemic such as this can make opportunities to share our resources more obvious than ever. We can share our time by volunteering for different community support groups, or for the NHS here in England; we can share our own resources by donating money or goods to our local foodbanks, homeless charities and other organisations or people who are struggling during this time.
Whilst many of our normal serving roles may have stopped during this time, the church and those around us need us to serve in different ways during this time. Whilst we cannot help at the local youth group, or visit the local care home, what skills could we use to serve our community during this time? Do we have the skills to edit videos, or develop our church’s social media presence? Do we have additional free time to serve those around us by collecting prescriptions or doing their shopping?
Worship is a habit that we may be used to practicing primarily within church services, but it is of course not limited to within those four walls. Again, if your church is able to gather people together to worship in virtual ways, do take part in those and worship in community with your church. You could also set aside time for sung worship at home, or take part in services of Morning and Evening Prayer either with others, or by yourself.
Gladness & Generosity
It can be really difficult not to focus upon all the negatives happening right now. We are facing a really horrible situation, and it is right to take time to grieve the things that we are missing out on, and won’t get to experience, as well as remembering all those who are ill and losing their loved ones to this virus. But we also want to practice the habit of gladness and generosity, being a beacon of light and hope to those around us. The idea of putting rainbows in our windows, or teddy bears for a bear-hunt, are both super easy ways to share some gladness; but lets also look for other ways to bring joy to those around us, to recognise and be those examples of goodness and generosity in a difficult time. As we approach Easter, it’s a great time to reflect upon the hope that this celebration gives us.
I don’t tend to eat out on a regular basis, but I really can’t wait to be able to go out for a meal with my friends when this is over. Eating together is a really great way to connect with others, to spend time together and to be in community with them; but in this season it does have to look a little different. Why not set up a virtual meal together via zoom or facetime etc. and eat “together”. You could also be more intentional about eating with those in your household by creating a regular routine of eating meals together if this is something you don’t always do.
Making More Disciples
I would say that making more disciples is probably the habit that has dropped off of most people’s radar, as we have such limited opportunities to meet new people, and to engage people in what we’re doing is much harder as we’re still working it out for ourselves. However, this is still an important habit – we just have to think more creatively. Whilst you cannot run a youth group in the normal sense, you can run a virtual youth group via Zoom, and you can still invite new members as you would usually (you do still need to follow all of the normal safeguarding guidelines including having written consent from parents and the current ratios). You could also send out resources and activities and creative prayer ideas to help encourage discipleship at home whilst we cannot meet together. Discipleship at home is a great thing to be encouraging regardless of the situation, the pandemic has just pushed this to be even more of a priority than normal!
How are you practicing the Holy Habits during a lockdown right now?