On Sunday morning at St Luke’s I spoke about how we respond as Christians to a challenge like that of Coronavirus. That we need to hold on to faith in Christ in the face of fear; hope in Christ in the face of despair; and to live out the love of Christ in the midst of a world in need.
The announcements made by the government yesterday have of course changed the way we will be living these things out as a church over the coming days and weeks. In beginning to make plans for what this will look like, we are also being guided by today’s letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, which you can read here; and there is also a video message from the Bishop of Leicester here.
In practical terms, many of the things that ‘normally’ form the rhythms of our church life will need to stop, for a while at least. In particular:
- There will be no services taking place in church until further notice, either on Sundays, or midweek.
- Our home groups all need to stop meeting together for the time being.
- Other groups that meet regularly week by week will have to be postponed. Leaders of these groups will be in touch with members, but this will include everything from Vitality and Parish Teas, to Connect, Snug and Raindrops.
But none of this means that we will no longer be ‘church’. Despite not being able to meet in the same room, we probably need each other more than ever at a time like this! And we will need to find and develop ways to be able to do this over the coming weeks. As the archbishops put it: “Our life is going to be less characterised by attendance at church on Sunday, and more characterised by the prayer and service we offer each day.”
And there are many practical things we can do. We’ll be looking to develop this list over the next few days, but here are several things just for starters:
- We are working on livestreaming a church service on Sunday morning, so that people will be able to watch it as a videolink. It may be an unusual way to worship, but a great way to encourage one another as God’s people. More details to follow.
- There are many useful online resources for prayer—and we will be sharing some more of our own soon. And if you normally come to pray in church with others on Monday, Thursday or Saturday morning (or even if you don’t!), why not commit to continuing to do this at those times, even if it’s in a different place.
- Home groups may not be able to meet; but there are many other ways to pray and care for each other, from phone calls, to video calls, to sharing prayer requests and committing to use the ‘usual’ home group time to read and pray—and leaders will be in touch about this.
- It is vital that we care well for one another— and we will be looking at making sure that especially the most vulnerable in our congregations are contacted regularly.
- There is a real opportunity for us to be good news in the places where we live. I know some of you have already been using the form that Tom shared a few days ago to offer help to neighbours. I would encourage you to do this—and please let us know if you have been involved in this in a particular street or area so that we have a sense of where the needs might be.
Over the coming days, we will have more to share, and plan to make full use of email, and the church website and facebook page.
I am very conscious that this is a difficult time which will affect many of us in different ways—through illness, through financial struggles, and through concerns about family. Please don’t hesitate to call a member of the clergy or leadership if you would like someone to pray with you, or just for a chat—and let’s look to do this for one another too.
As Tom reminded us on Sunday evening, in the words of Psalm 33: “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”