I write with some disappointment and frustration, but no surprise following the Prime Minister’ announcement yesterday evening.
We are very grateful that we were able to hold some Christmas celebrations this year. In fact, the restrictions forced us to be creative and our street Carols with the Saxman, churchyard decorations and outside carol services in all three parishes were much appreciated. We were also still able to go ahead with some of the usual events.
I thought it would be good to write and explain some of the ways we’ve decided to move forward together in the immediate future.
Whilst lockdown may make everything harder, it does not change the commands of the God who made us and has saved all who believe.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
26 ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’
27 He answered, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’
28 ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’Luke 10 (NIV-UK)
We are called to love God with everything. I hope that you have certain habits in your life that help you remember and obey this. I have found that the problem with lockdown is that it turns all our patterns and habits upside-down.
Make sure that you are daily drawing near to God – reading the Bible more than you’re reading the news headlines, listening to God more than to government advice. I have found that putting aside a certain time each day is essential, whether it be putting on some worship music, using a guided daily reading or watching our Thought for the Day, Make sure that you’re doing something every day.
The second great commandment is to love our neighbour as ourselves. I know that this is hard – the parable Jesus tells immediately after this exchange shows how hard it is to love our neighbour – especially when it doesn’t come naturally or, like now, when it feels that we need some love ourselves. Perhaps now is the time to look around you and seek a neighbour to care for.
For Christians, there are many ways in which this is to be done towards each other. We are the family of God and the means of his comfort and encouragement to one another. Most of the commands in the New Testament are not to individuals but to the people of God. You may like to follow this link and see just some of the many things we are told to do for ‘one another’.
In Hebrews, we read that because of all that Jesus has done for us…
…22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10
There is a significant link between drawing near to God and drawing to each other, and so we are instructed to not give up meeting together. How do we manage that in lockdown?
I’ve been struck that, as we’ve concentrated on online services and Christmas events, the practical restrictions have limited our ability to fulfil our duty to one another. So I’ve been pondering the question ‘how can we better spur one another on towards love and good deeds?‘
We were already holding most of our events online, but we have decided that we need to further limit the physical gatherings of the church. The wardens and I have made the difficult decision to move all our events online from now on. This decision will be discussed at the upcoming PCC meetings in early February.
We will continue to stream services at 10.30am on Sundays and Wednesdays. Most parts of the services will be pre-recorded, whilst some may be recorded live. Click here for the link. And please join the weekly Zoom Coffee after church on a Sunday.
We are also going to show the service live in church, so small numbers, especially those without adequate internet access, will be able to join in.
We have a pastoral support group in the church who helping support those in particular and we are considering forming a new lockdown support group to help those who are self-isolating or need specific support during this time. Please let me know if you or anyone you know would benefit from that kind of support.
Supporting One Another
We need to get better at supporting one another. We all have a duty to one another and even in this third lockdown, there is much we can do.
Idea A: Exercise outdoors with one other person. Following the best advice on hands, face, space, we may meet one other person each day. Let’s do that wisely with people who are isolated or under additional pressure at the moment. Let’s make that exercise spiritually encouraging too – sharing a bible verse and praying together.
Idea B: Get on the phone. Everyone has access to a phone – let’s stay in touch. Why not choose a handful of people that you will call regularly to encrouage. Again, make these calls more than a social catch-up – share something you’ve been reading or learning and turn the sharing of news into prayer.
Idea C: Form a prayer triplet. I did this with two other local vicars in the Autumn. We now meet online for 30 minutes every week, sharing our lives and supporting one another.
Idea D: Using WhatsApp, the ChurchApp or your preferred messaging app, why not form a group for sharing and mutual encouragement. We already have one for the Wednesday congregation and it’s lovely to hear from everyone and pray for each other.
A Great Resource
I’d like to recommend the resource ‘The Word One to One‘, a great resource to open John’s Gospel with a friend. I know one church where 40% of the congregation are now working through the material together during this strange time. It may be a great thing to help make those conversations more intentional and spiritually encouraging.
I know that many of us are finding things difficult at the moment. So let us remember and remind one another all we’ve just celebrated at Christmas
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.Isaiah 9 v 2
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, and certainly not covid-19, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.