Article of the week: A time for renewal?
16 May 2020
Captain Rebecka Cotterill explains why the coronavirus pandemic could provide a unique opportunity
LEADING thinkers predict that the world will never look the same again, as the coronavirus pandemic threatens globalisation at its core. In the future we will refer to the world before and after the pandemic.
I am on maternity leave, so life in lockdown does not look much different from my everyday life before the outbreak. In the midst of nappy changes and feeds, I couldn’t help asking the question: What is God saying to us as a Movement?
Theologian Richard Rohr has said that we are experiencing ‘a highly teachable moment’. Between the restrictions, suffering, hardships, remote working, change, isolation, grief, conference video calls, daily exercise and anxiety, we have an opportunity to learn great things.
So, what are we learning as an organisation?
John Milton’s famous line in Paradise Lost has perhaps never been more apt: ‘The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.’ Let’s make this hell of rapid change and disruption to normal processes and rhythms a heaven for growth
and development, and use it as an opportunity for organisational change.
The war against Covid-19 will reveal our adaptability and resilience. Within
a couple of weeks of the lockdown I began to see change in our Movement: new ways of training cadets, creative online gatherings and initiatives in response to the crisis all over the territory.
In addition to these encouraging stories, I have seen glimpses of culture change in terms of operations within the Army. For example, I have received daily communication from senior leadership, with a constant flow of information from all relevant units. It has offered direction, transparency and helpful resources, and I have been surprised by how connected and invested I have felt in our mission because of this. Communication has the potential to shatter the ‘us and them’ attitudes between corps, DHQs and THQ as we all focus on the mission of responding to need.
An opportunity for organisational change has been thrust upon us whether we want it or not. The health crisis is forcing us to remobilise to fight injustice, isolation and poverty. We have all had to quickly adapt, be spontaneous and invent new ways of doing mission.
As the entire territory’s efforts go towards responding to the pandemic, we are being realigned as one. And when I say we, I mean everyone who identifies as being part of The Salvation Army: employees, officers, pioneer leaders, cadets, adherent members, friends, soldiers, attendees and volunteers. This realignment will look different depending on our contexts – whether we are key workers or those who contribute by staying at home.
Regardless, this is when our Kingdom values, our Christlike attitudes, our Imago Dei (image of God) reflecting purposes will come alive! We can each do our part: little or big, publicly or quietly, on social media or in non-technological, creative ways. If we dare and boldly display the gifts of being an Army whose strength is to adapt, we have an opportunity for renewal and revival – we can come alive by plunging into love.
This is not the time for us to moan,
be disillusioned or use demoralising language – this is the opportunity to move, and move in new ways, all in the same direction.
Let us stop trying to reinvent activities that are not missional and, instead, reimagine our response and resource the real needs of our communities.
Let us stop the business of self-improvement, church-growing models and dead traditional gatherings, and be taken on the adventure of following the wind of the Spirit to new land, to the place where we belong, to where there is need. Let us forget about politics, bureaucracy or past leadership disappointments, and allow the grass roots to evaluate and mould the shape of our Movement.
If this is a highly teachable moment, let us use it and set off a wave of change that aligns us as one, setting alight a new energy of love in this God-raised Army so that we move in unprecedented ways into uncharted territories.
The world will not look the same again after the coronavirus pandemic, nor will The Salvation Army. Let us welcome change and let the need of the world drive us to our roots.
CAPTAIN COTTERILL IS SUPPORT OFFICER, INTERNATIONAL PROJECTS OFFICE, THQ