TMN is hosting a series of “webinar-like” conversations with leaders reflecting on the Emmaus Road text from from the perspective of our own experiences in these strange times. We’re asking: “Where are we now?”
Our dwelling in the Emmaus text is raising lots of queries. One person commented: “As Cleopas shares what happened in Jerusalem, he expresses the death and crucifixion clearly but has some unbelief around the resurrection. Is there a sense in this Emmaus story that there is a death that needs to be experienced for his followers so that they can embrace what the power of resurrection means for them? Is there a death we need to experience as clergy and as the church in the midst of this pandemic in order to experience the power of the resurrection today and see our future differently?”
Someone else commented on what is happening to leaders by saying: “Our scaffolding is falling down. How do we behave differently now?” That image captures the experience of many leaders. The scaffolding we’ve erected to be church and clergy isn’t working. It raises questions about our taken-for-granted roles and identities as leaders. How do we show up differently as leaders when it might well mean dying to some of our deeply embedded roles and expectations?
This crisis lays bare profound challenges to the established roles of clergy, particularly as those who are the dispensers of the sacred in a certain place. People in our congregations and neighborhoods are now rediscovering the sacredness, the re-sacramentalization, of their ordinary lives as they encounter people in walking, give thanks for check out clerks who gracefully bag their food, in recognizing that the working class people about us are the real “heroes” in our everyday lives. It’s not the big, self-important people riding the globalization train or working with venture funds who are making our lives work. It’s the ordinary people all around us. In strange, wonderful ways people and neighborhoods are becoming, again, sacramental centres of God’s grace.
We are in more than an awkward interlude before “going back to normal”. Something is happening that suggests there wont be a return to “normal” with its familiar, comfortable, role affirming scaffolding. The intuition of some clergy that their scaffolding has fallen down and they’re going to have to act differently is one we need to attend to. Let’s resist the temptation to put the old scaffolding back up rather than all the energy being put into finding alternative ways to continue the same (an overload of Zoom meetings so that we feel busier now that when things were normal) . Rather than this dizzying repetition of the old roles using new technologies why not test out some different behaviours. A simple one we’ll be developing in more detail over the coming months involves turning attention to listening to the stories of our people as they attend to their lives in the neighborhood, at the supermarket, and on walks. In these stories our people are re-sacralizing their lives outside the old scaffolding. There intimations in these stories of what the Spirit is saying. One, simple proposal for joining God when the scaffolding has come down.