Thank you to all who have completed our survey over the summer. As the Baptist Union warned us people have differing views based on their situations and experience as well as their perception of their own risk and those near to them. No question resulted in a clear consensus, which I believe indicates we need to pursue a range of options. I’m conscious we must not turn church into a consumer product but supporting a range of situations probably needs a range of options.
The first headline is that many people are not yet ready to return to in person meetings but a significant minority (about a third) are ready right now (or even back in July).
The greatest majority came in response to whether we should wait for a vaccine before returning to meeting in person. Just 20% thought “Yes, we should wait”. However, this should be read in the context of the majority also responding “Not yet”.
To my surprise, the majority did not see going without sung worship as a show-stopper, but around a third did.
I think the question about how to deal with limiting people in the building – rationing that space if you like – was tricky to answer with a Yes or No but I think this response sums up what others were also saying:
I would like to see the plans for church pre-vaccine focus on those who are most struggling/lonely/vulnerable and I’m not part of that group, so if only 20 people could come to church I would feel comfortable doing so but I probably wouldn’t come, because others would benefit more from the physical presence in church.
Probably it is not surprising that smaller groups have more support than full services.
And finally, a good number of people see this as an opportunity to ‘do church’ differently. Of course it does not mean all these people share a common vision of what to do differently but a common theme supported continuing the online services. For example:
We feel that streaming is likely to be the only effective way of maintaining effective corporate teaching for some while to come.
I think it will be important to continue church both in the building and online.
We have managed to utilise technology in a way completely new to church and it would be right to assess what could form part of our ministry going forward.
Now that the holiday peak is past, Oversight will be getting to work this week on how to best respond and I know Eddie is keen to share some concrete plans as soon as possible. More details soon.
Never let what you know be disturbed by what you do not know. ‘You have eaten too much of the tree of knowledge’ (often falsely so called), ‘eat more of the tree of life,’ said an old minister to a younger one who had lost his first love.
The answer to the dilemma of how we are slaves as well as those served by Christ is to get the order right. If we think of ourselves primarily as slaves, we’ll never believe that we are loved unless we’re working hard. If we see ourselves as friends of the Master, the bride of the King, sons of the Father, and only in that context as slaves of our Master, then we’ll enjoy our slavery, shaped by those prior relationships.
We were far away from God but have now been brought into his presence, into his very household. God has taken us in and seated us at his table. And he has done all this through the blood of Christ. He was forsaken and left out so that we could be folded in. The sign that we have received this kind of hospitality is that we offer it to others.
This post by weba_admin was originally published at Seventy Two
Nick emailed me in March, “Surely this isn’t going to last that long, I mean Glastonbury is still on!” How naïve this sounds after months of lockdown and coronavirus – but at the time it made sense. I’d announced that I was writing 300 words every day on each of the 150 Psalms in the bible. This would take until August 13th – nearly 6 months. Surely this virus thing would be over before that.
It seemed a good idea at the time. Four of us were trying to grab 5 days of ski-ing in France in early March, just as the French president announced the closure of all resorts, hotels & restaurants. As we sat on a ski lift, realising that our skiing was coming to an early end and we’d be heading home, I had an idea: “I think I might write a daily blog during this coming lockdown.” My fellow skiers encouraged me and asked what about. “How about the Psalms” I suggested? And the idea was born.
So, on March 17th 2020 I embarked on a daily discipline of writing and recording a 300 word reflection on each Psalm under the title “Love in the Time of Corona” (the name inspired by the novel by Gabriel García Márquez). It was designed for people who knew the psalms, and for those who have never read any of them – and may not believe in God. The purpose was to provide a daily diet of something biblical for people who were now stuck at home or whose routine was significantly disrupted. Some inspiration, encouragement and challenge in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty.
So off I went. The writing came easily (to quote Robert Louis Stevenson). I simply read the psalm and asked God for an idea – which popped into my head – and I was away. The Psalms are awe-inspiring, challenging, awkward, honest, brutal, gracious – and at times I didn’t agree with the writers. They need wrestling with – they are not always easy – and at face-value they can cause a problem or two. But as I have for years read a psalm every day anyway – they seemed a good place to go – and to encourage this daily practice in others.
What was surprising was how many people read them or listened to the audio. Every day I had comments from a wide range of people – churched and non-churched. Some were reading every day – others just now and again – but loads of people were engaging – and many were finding a way into the psalms that they hadn’t before. It was something that worked in the moment. If I did it next year, I don’t think it would have anything like the impact. It was a consequence of the pandemic and the lockdown that gave it ‘traction’. Like so many things – they worked because of the coronavirus restrictions – online church attendance soaring, Joe Wick’s daily exercises, the clap for the NHS and so on.
Working through the psalms showed just how often the writers felt under pressure and were crying out to God. This was ideal for people struggling in the pandemic.
All my longings lie open before you, Lord: my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbours stay far away. (Psalm 38:9-11)
But, and it’s a big but [this was my catchphrase for the blog] – again and again the writers cry to God, and the answer comes. This was the theme over and over again.
So, which Psalm for the next phase? How about Psalm 18:
He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.
I am very glad I did it, but I was also glad when I reached Psalm 150 and could take a break.
This post by kathylarkman was originally published at GRACE PLACE
10My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. 17Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the LORD.” 18I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. COLOSSIANS 4:10-18
As we conclude our praying of Colossians for the summer, may it bear great fruit in our lives; that we may continue pray your Word more and more for it is Your will for our lives. Thank you for all the examples of the close ‘one anothering’ in this passage. Thank you for their radical commitments of discipleship, reconciliation, comfort, encouragement, generosity, hospitality, and long-term perseverance. We also thank you for Epaphras who shows us the importance of praying for the church; and to pray focusing on God’s priorities. Finally, thank you for Paul, whose writing this letter from prison reminds us of his willingness to suffer. Cause us to be shaped to live out out our Christianity in the ways of these early Christians.
To the One Who gives us all we need for life and godliness,
This post by Nicky Harper was originally published at Seventy Two
Since starting Re:Imagine, we have met regularly as a leadership team to discuss and pray about where God is leading us.
The word “simplify” has been mentioned many times. We have been challenged to look at areas of church life which do not serve the purpose of bringing people to faith and are therefore not necessary.
Alongside Re:Imagine, we have been reading the book “Simple Church” by Thom S Rainer and Eric Geiger and as a result of this, we have developed a simple statement which is becoming the foundation of everything we do and are about, as a church of people at Milton Baptist Church:
“Love God, Love each other and Love Weston-Super-Mare”
Love God is the ‘up’ i.e. our worship to God through Sunday services. These are currently on YouTube!
Love each other is the ‘in’, through small house groups. These have become increasingly important through lockdown.
Love Weston is the ‘out’, where we seek to serve our local community and reach out to those in need.
We have begun to recognise the huge impact that COVID 19 is having on people’s mental health and this has spurred us on to follow our dream of opening up a Renew Wellbeing Space in our local area. We had previously discussed the possibility, but nothing had fallen into place until just over a month ago and we’re now in the process of securing a shop on a local high street!
This will be opened up, hopefully working alongside existing businesses (a mental health charity shop one side and a café on the other) and will be a place where people can come and just ‘be’. They can take part in activities which promote good mental health e.g. colouring, art, crafts, chats etc. There will prayer times throughout the day where people can join in if they feel they want to and volunteers will be trained to be able to come alongside people who enter the building.
We also recognise the need to provide something for young people, to support their wellbeing in these difficult times. With this in mind, one evening a week will be set aside for this age group.
We are very excited about the future of this venture and through the Re:Imagine process, we have a clearer picture of who we are/who we want to be as a church and where God is leading us to be effective in our local town of Weston-Super-Mare.
In the New Testament the basic command of old covenant life, ‘Be holy as I am holy’, now means, ‘Become like Jesus.’ God involves himself in this work as the triune Lord: the Father commands it; the Son has died to provide the resources for it; the Spirit indwells us in order to effect it in our lives. As Augustine famously prayed, God commands what he wills and gives what he commands.