By the time you read this, it will be sixteen weeks since we were last all together in church. And for some of you it will be even longer. It has been good to hear news of you, to know that most are joining in our online worship and we are now becoming even more connected with live-streaming worship on Facebook (so we can greet each other) and zoom coffee sessions, not to mention the many other online meetings, garden socially- distanced-socialising and the recent introduction of social bubbles, enabling two isolated people or households to meet together.
It is not all bad and most of us have much to be thankful for. But it is starting to dawn on us that this situation is not suddenly going to disappear. For the last three or four months we have been in “emergency mode,” reacting to a sudden and huge crisis. Now we are entering a new phase, as the restrictions on our lives slowly begin to be lifted but, with the threat of the C virus still very much present, we cannot simply go back to “normal.” Nor is there any indication that “normal” will happen any time soon. We are now called upon to start thinking “long-term crisis” but with very little idea of how this crisis will develop.
Speaking as an archetypal control freak, I find this very frustrating! And so, no doubt, do you. We are people of planners and projects. We like to think long-term. As a church we had, only a week before the lockdown, given enthusiastic approval to Charlie’s two- and half-year plan for developing our Youth and Children’s Work and a six-month trial of an alternative worship programme. Now both have been on ice for four months and let all the people jump up and down in frustration and refuse to say “Amen!”
But the good news is that this time has forced us into a space where we have simply had to turn to God for guidance and direction. And, with most of our normal church activity being suspended, we have been able to allow God the time and the space in which to enable us to re-think a lot of what we do. This is not a bad place to be.
It is quite possible that St John’s URC will never go back to how it was on Sunday 15th March, when we last gathered together. But it is entirely possible that it will become something new and even better, because this is what God does when his people turn to him and learn to rely on his guidance.
So, what do we do now?
- As a community of God’s people, I urge you to keep in touch with each other. Make sure that no-one is left isolated. Make a point of inviting new people to join in opportunities to pray, to learn together and to socialise.
- As a community of God’s people, I urge you to keep on praying for each other, praying for the future of our church and praying for the world. We need the power of prayer in our lives, in our church and in the world perhaps more than ever before.
- And as a community of God’s people, I urge you to watch out for opportunities to add your voice and share your thoughts on where God is calling us as a church. From time to time, Jon Henderson will ask for thoughts and comments in response to the weekly bulletin. THIS MEANS YOU! (Sorry, the capital letters are the nearest I can get to Lord Kitchener and his pointing finger…..) In this church decisions are made by its members and not by a hierarchy. The time will also come soon when we invite church members and friends to join in some discussion forums as to how we take church life forward through the rest of the year. Please look out for these opportunities and give them as high a priority as possible. If you have never tried “zoom” then take the time to look it up online and experiment with it so that you are ready. (Speaking as a technophobe, I have to say that even I have found it incredibly simple to use.) And we shall be ensuring that those members without internet access are also given opportunities to share their thoughts.
My loving thoughts and prayers remain with you all through these dark and difficult times. May the presence and power of God be very real to you in the places where you are. And may the promise of God that he is “making all things new” be an inspiration to us all through the months ahead.
With love and good wishes to you all,