“‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’ ... Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 9:21b, 23-25 (NIV)
You may have, as I did, watch the Prime Minister's announcement this evening with a certain amount of shock. Over the last week, we have moved very rapidly to a position where we are all instructed to remain at home, unless absolutely necessary. I know many of us are doing so already, but can I urge you to follow those instructions.
Immediately, this means that, with immediate effect, our buildings will no longer be open during the day for people to come into and pray: the church will not be open for private prayer; no baptisms or marriages will take place.
For many people, this will be a difficult step to take. Our buildings are important to us, they can represent a focal point for us as a church family, and also for the community around us. It might feel as though part of our life has died. The church, however, has not died. The church is just as strong and vibrant as she has ever been. One thing history records for us, is that at every time of difficulty and trial, she has emerged stronger and more faithful. What seems to be an ending can, in God's goodness and graciousness, be the start of something new and different.
We are in the midst of Lent. Day by day, we move closer to the celebration of Good Friday. 'Good' because the single seed, Jesus, fell to the ground and died. Without that, we would not have the glories of Easter Day, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, which shows us that our lives, too, can be kept for eternity.
We are going to have to do 'church' differently. How is that beginning to happen:
- Thank you to all those who joined the livestreams on Saturday and Sunday; there will be another this Sunday at 10:30am, on the church's Facebook page . No account or login is required; you can just click 'not now' when prompted.
- We are going to need to be more deliberate in how we keep in contact with each other. I am, this week, putting as many people as possible into small contact groups. Everyone who wants to can have a call at least once or twice a week. Thank you to those who are already doing this. As part of that contact, please think also about how we can help others in need outside our church family.
- I'd like us all to pray together as a church family. Please could you make midday, a time when you stop and pray; you won't be alone, there will be others doing it as well. We'll be publishing suggestions each day for us to pray about. If you would like to make suggestions for prayer, please email email@example.com (please note that these will be published)
Not all of this can happen at once - some things will take time. We may not find them all comfortable to start with. There may be other things that we can do, please email me with any suggestions.