Easter Sunday: Recognising Jesus in your neighbourhood

united nations covid responseSteve Summers, United Reformed Church(URC) Development Worker for Church Related Community Work (CRCW) and Special Category Ministry, explores how we can use the resurrection of Jesus to build back better post pandemic.

I don’t know about you, but as I write this reflection, it feels as if we are still experiencing gloomy and troubled times, although lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease.

As Christ’s disciples, how can we alleviate loneliness, reduce poverty, address the shortage of decent housing, and improve poor job prospects – especially for young people and women, that the pandemic has highlighted?

When can we open our church buildings to be a community hub and for gathered worship again?

While acknowledging and respecting these feelings and questions, perhaps this Easter, more-than-ever it is the resurrection account of new life and salvation for all people and for all creation that brings much-needed hope to the horizon.

I wonder why Jesus is resurrected?

One response is to centre upon the words of Jesus in John 10:10. That it is in order that we may, collectively, have life. Life in all abundance everlasting like a cascading waterfall, overflowing into our neighbourhoods, providing vitality and nourishment to stimulate flourishing communities.

As T.S Eliot said in his poem ‘Choruses from the Rock’: ‘There is no life that is not in community.”

What might flourishing neighbourhoods and communities look like, and how should we ‘reboot’ society and ‘build back better’ post pandemic?

Again, you may have your own answers.  For me, I see aesthetically beautiful and environmentally clean and tidy places where no one is excluded and absolutely everyone experiences and contributes towards abundant living, regardless of who we are or who others think we are.

In life-flourishing communities, we all experience meaningful, just and joyful relationships, coming together for shared encounters with no-one left out or excluded.

They are pollution-free places, with parks and open spaces to play in, with plenty of recreational and leisure clubs and facilities readily available for the sake of our mental and physical good-health.

There are respected medical services for us all. There are good schools that stimulate children to reach for the moon and beyond. There are safe spaces where young people can hang-out together without being moved on, and there are opportunities for us all to learn and develop.

Flourishing communities have enough jobs and a sense of purpose for all to be fulfilled. There are plentiful amounts of money and assets being justly distributed and there’s more-than-decent housing for everyone to be accommodated.

There was Mary at the tomb, like many women I know or have encountered, with the ability to be in the right place at the right time, not taking long to recognise who Jesus was and having a meaningful conversation that mattered, to both her and Jesus, leaving her with infectious enthusiasm to make a difference.

In my work I glimpse numerous examples of enthusiastic ‘signs of hope’ and embodied faith by individuals and churches in many different contexts across the URC and beyond. You have provided incredible and invaluable hospitality this past year, as in many other years.

Many CRCWs and other disciples have been significant contributors in Covid-19 emergency response teams, and there is optimism that these partnerships will be developed further going forward.

I have been greatly encouraged this past year by the works of Teresa McCarthy-Dixon, a local pub landlady who, in the words of author Ann Morisy, has ‘enacted hope in troubled times’ by converting her redundant pub into a food pantry and charitable foundation. She even won the Northampton Inspirational Woman of the Year award

Where do you see the resurrected Jesus and signs of new life and hope in your neighbourhood and communities? How may you join in with these initiatives, generously offering the God-given spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical and financial assets that you and your church hold?

May we, this Easter time, find the time and energy to pray, contemplate and act our part to join in with God’s mission in the places and times that we find ourselves, encouraged by our neighbours and by the Holy Spirit.

Let us come together in partnership to build flourishing communities where all are included, where we can all freely express ourselves and where society is transformed for the common good.

Image: United Nations/Unsplash
31 March 2021

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