Minister’s Letter August 2020
“why are you cast down o my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise him,
my help, and my God.” Psalm 43, verse 5
As I write, the Prime Minister says that he hopes things will be back to normal by Christmas. As you may know, the churches were allowed to open at the beginning of July, as long as they adhere to strict government guidelines. This is to ensure that people can worship in safety. At South Aston URC, we are working towards re-opening for worship early September, more information to follow.
In this letter I want briefly to look at how as a church we have been connecting with each other during the current situation. Lockdown and social distancing has affected every church and every denomination in the country. At the moment churches are able to meet together, but not in the way that we did before. Churches, in this current climate, have had to be creative, and find other ways of communicating, and there has been an explosion of bible courses, webinars, seminars, zoom meetings. While all this technology is useful, and is keeping congregations connected with each other, it can lead, as a Minister friend of mine said, to "Zoom fatigue". But despite the complications and frustrations of zoom fatigue, there have been positive results as far as church connections and communications operate.
Although meeting person to person is obviously the ideal, lockdown has had its advantages. People have re-connected with each other by various means. This has been done by people taking meals to each other, by phone and in some cases a friend of mine discovered the lost art of letter-writing using a fountain pen, which I thought was very good!
People really have begun to contact with each other, and I know in my Churches people have been connecting with each other and conversing, much more than they ever did before the virus came. One initiative I employ at one of my churches is a twice weekly prayer meeting, over the phone. It is a free telephone conference, involves as many people as you want and it works!
There is something about "all in this together" which makes people help each other which is to be applauded. At one of my Churches I phoned an elderly member and remarked that her phone always seemed to be engaged. She told me that I was the 4th person from the Church that day who had phoned her to see if she was coping ok!
Whilst acknowledging that some good has come out of this pandemic in the fact that people have re-discovered that it is rewarding and beneficial to help the community, friends, family and neighbours to re- connect with each other, it has to be said that this virus has destroyed peoples’ lives forever.
I guess we all know friends and may be family members who have in some shape or form been affected by the impact of Covid-19 and ultimately we may know of loved ones, perhaps family members, who have died as a result of this pandemic, and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time. The current restrictions on funeral arrangements just adds to the family’s stress, (although as I write I think arrangements regarding funerals may be getting a little easier). As the churches learn to re-connect with each other, churches are simultaneously struggling how best to welcome people back into their places of worship, with the added restrictions in order to keep all safe.
As is often the case there are more questions than answers. Each church will work out what is best for their own individual church, and what suits them, whist following the guidelines. The answer is different for all churches and whilst there will be many creative ideas and suggestions, for some people the temptation to do nothing may be tempting and wait and see what happens. This is ok, up to a point, as none of us can be entirely sure what will happen. The same people who do not want to do anything, also say that God will provide and let things take its course, God will provide, but I believe he needs our help on the way! As Christians, we are his hands and his feet, and we need as Christians, to be seen as pro-active, working together to fight this virus, and working with our Lord and the Holy Spirit, to guide us in this crisis.
I believe that as Christians, to look to the future we need trust and commitment to our God and to each other. Of course there are practical things that we need, that have to be put into place, for our faith to grow, but spiritually speaking as Christians to make things happen and to keep our faith alive, in these difficult days, we need three little words, but each with a big message, and they are faith, hope and love.
I believe we need these gifts of the spirit, whilst simultaneously doing the practical things that need to be done, to enable God’s people to come back to worship. We may not have all the answers yet, and there may be no obvious explanations as to why things happen the way they do but God is in charge, and he knows like a loving parent what is best for us.
At the beginning of this letter I quoted from Psalm 43 and the last line has the word Hope. I want to speak of hope to conclude this letter, and we read in 1 Corinthians 12 verse 13 "and now faith, hope and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love"
Surely in these difficult, not normal times, three little words are words that as Christians we should cling to for without these words to comfort us, what else have we got?
Yours in Christ