Back to Normal?

This article has been provided by our Eco Officer, Michael Dechane and is the first in an occasional series of “long reads”. Many thanks to Michael for taking the time to share his thoughts.

A note that a friend posted this morning caught my eye in the flood of news, videos, articles, and updates in my social media feed:

In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to. — Dave Hollis

I don’t know anything about Dave Hollis or his philosophy of self-help and improvement but I do love this counsel. Almost before the orders to shut things down, stay in, and bring our everyday routines to a halt were given, I’ve seen people yearning to ‘get back to normal’ or asking ‘what does everybody want to do once all this is over?’

Those desires make a lot of sense to me. I’m certainly feeling a great many things I wish I was not in the midst of all this upheaval, tragedy, suffering, and sorrow. I would much rather think about something else or imagine everyone’s health, freedom, and livelihoods being restored.

And yet.

As I survey all that I am feeling and mulling over in these new days I am also beginning to see that there are parts of my normal life, routines, habits, and commitments that I don’t want to return.

As I have had surprising, meaningful, and life-giving conversations with family, loved ones, and people I counted dear but have lost touch with over the years, I see the poverty of my correspondences. I see how busy I normally am and how that crowds out time, energy, and space for sharing life, crying and celebrating, with my community of folks, near and far. I don’t want my normal kind of busyness to return.

As I carefully make a list of groceries to buy so I can limit the trips to the store and possible exposure to this virus, and as I think more deeply (and creatively!) about the meals we will plan to enjoy, I see the poverty of our table. I see how difficult I typically find it to enter into deep gratitude for being fed, or to savor the food before me with conversation and the everyday invitation to communion. I don’t want my normal ways of thinking and feeling about food—the ways I deny the sacredness of eating or sharing a meal—to return.

How about you? What are you seeing about yourself or your normal way of going about life in the midst of these extraordinary days? Are you sensing that some things are out of place or given the wrong priority? Are there things you hope will change?

I sincerely hope so, to be honest. I believe there is so much in our world that must change as God continues to establish his kingdom among us. That’s lofty language that mostly gets short shrift, if it gets any attention at all. What a good time this is to meditate and reflect on how God is at work in our world. What an opportunity we have in the midst of our lament and sorrowing, our loving sacrifices for one another and our neighbors, to consider how we can participate in God’s ongoing work for justice, healing, and redemption here and now.

A week ago last Sunday, a handful of us gathered (in a manner of speaking) for an hour to talk about ecological concerns and issues that we might work together to address. During our video conference meeting, we began to surface areas of our life together at St. Andrew’s that deserve more attention.

We’re largely a commuter church: how can we encourage attendance and participation in the corporate life of our church while also reducing the environmental impact of our transportation as we get to and from services? Is there an opportunity for ridesharing or alternatives that foster more togetherness or a deeper interdependence on one another?

We use lots of ‘disposable’ plastic cups during our time for coffee and fellowship. Are there viable alternatives to how we serve and take our tea? Would you consider bringing your own mug from home? Invest in a folding/collapsable camping-style cup? Purchase a handmade cup to support a local business and be a part of our church tangibly doing good for our neighbor?

We have lots of questions and a few ideas. The next time we pick up this conversation, I hope you will consider being a part of it. As your new Eco Officer, I want to work to make space for us to gather and work together in the perpetual process of discerning what God is calling us to do as faithful stewards of all that he has given us.

I’m neither an ecological activist nor an expert on much of anything. But I am a good listener. And I deeply love helping make room for people to connect with one another in meaningful ways. I also care a great deal about our community and our world. There are things we can address in our corporate life together. And there are a multitude of things we can all address as individuals and families. I want to find out what those things are and help us pursue them together.

Would you like to explore some options for participating? Consider the following:

  1. I am working to collect good resources about ecological issues here in Switzerland and around the globe. Have you seen an article, video, book, or another resource that might be good to share with others? Would you send those to me, please?

  2. Are there ecological issues that are important to you? Do you have ideas about what we can do together at St. Andrew’s to address some aspect of our corporate ecological impact? Would you share those with me, please?

  3. I’ve started making a list of what I’m noticing about my normal life and our household choices now that life doesn’t feel normal at all. I encourage you to do the same. Make notes. Start a list. Reflect, read, and pray. Talk with your family about these things. If you feel inspired, I would love to hear what you see, or what changes you hope to make.

  4. St. Andrew’s has joined an Eco-Church scheme in the Diocese of Europe. We will be posting more information about our progress in this certification process on the St. Andrew’s website soon. Stay tuned for that update. In the meantime, however, there are many resources for individuals and families on the A Rocha website. You’ll find things like a lifestyle audit, ways of connecting with nature, as well as resources about food, energy, and waste. Spend some of your quarantine time reviewing these resources. Let me know what you might find helpful or challenging.

Send me your thoughts or responses to any of these ideas with an email by clicking here

These are hard days full of suffering and so much uncertainty. I hope you know and feel that you are not alone in them. We are here for you and with you. Please reach out to our churchwardens if we can help with your practical needs, including grocery shopping, prayer, or a phone call to check in on how you’re doing.

May God nurture and strengthen the faith he has given us. May we live lives of bold love for one another and our neighbors, even if we aren’t going outside our own doors. May there be fruitful time and attention for us to reflect on all that we’ve counted normal about our lives and may we together invite God to rewrite some of that. God bless you and Christ keep you.

Michael Dechane

Eco Officer

St Andrew’s

One thought on “Back to Normal?

  1. Thanks, Michael! I find myself thinking similar thoughts here at home. Because I’m elderly, I can’t make much of a contribution to the ongoing debate at church, but I do value your ideas!

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