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.