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Pastor's Pen 3rd May - next level

Having been deprived of takeaways for weeks and weeks (first world problems) it seems a lot of folk were prepared to queue for long periods to get a taste yesterday as level three rules re-opened the wondrous possibilities of fast food. Local councillor Richard Hills posted a picture on Facebook of the crush of people waiting for their orders outside Glenfield Burger Fuel. Apparently, the smell of grilled beef and bacon overpowered the sense of personal space developed assiduously in level four. Social distance be damned!

The other day I tried Mairangi Bay Countdown, which I would guess has one of the most poorly designed carparks in the Southern Hemisphere. However, inside all was a picture of Covid-19 serenity as a flowing system of floor arrows guided us through the store without having to pass another shopper going the other way - Except for the elderly lady clad in PPE who I passed not once, but three times furtively scuttling against the flow of arrows and people in order to get what she wanted. At times like these, having expressive eyebrows is a great benefit. She probably would not have appreciated what my actual thoughts were, had I shared them.

Not to worry, one of the skills I have been honing during the lock-down is leaping out of the way of folk during my bush runs at Centennial Park. There have been some humorous moments and friendly banter. I’ve been glad this particular park has been left open, as it provides all the benefits of trail running in a compact suburban park. I’ve been careful to identify the wider trails to avoid those awkward lock-down dances when you come round a blind corner into the dreaded spit-zone of another potentially microbe-infested human.

My observation is that Covid-19 rules can bring out the best or worst in people. Creativity, kindness and humour emerge like winter sun through the blinds on a fine morning. Dark corners of self-interest, aggression and plain old stupidity also become apparent. With some grace we might put those down to stress.

I'm encouraged by our church's response to the situation we find ourselves in. Participation in online services and phone based social and pastoral catch-ups have grown and settled to a kind of 'new normal'. Nothing really changes in dropping from level 4 down to 3 as far as church goes. The interesting question will be what happens at level 2? It seems to me a kind of grey area. We may end up with a hybrid system of some wanting to attend actual worship, but also providing a recorded or streaming version for those who (by virtue of risk status or caution) prefer to remain isolated. I do hope the national church will provide some timely advice hot on the heels of any government guidance. I'll need some tech help with that scenario I imagine.

In my time of morning quiet I've heard the following the last couple of days; 'Don't be afraid', also 'I will provide.' People are turning to renewed prayer at this time, as they should. God is calling us to this. It is a season to draw close and listen, we would be foolish not to. Lent and Easter have been and gone, but Pentecost is coming. Are we bold enough to expect that God will pour out the Spirit's presence on God's people?

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