John Risbridger brings us the first in a series of daily devotions from our ministers during this difficult and challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I guess many of us have been a bit taken aback by the sudden shift in the government’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Certainly I have – and I’m not sure I’ve ever prayed as much for the authorities, business and people in public service as I have in recent days! So how can we respond as a church with wisdom, love and outward-looking generosity?
There is no doubt that we are at the beginning of a very challenging period, where much that is familiar will be taken away, at least for a time. As we face an uncertain future, Psalm 46 has been helping me:
The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders, and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress. (Psalm 46:6-7 NLT)
As a church we have had to make a number of decisions quickly, seeking to respond wisely to national advice – more of that in a moment. But as we have gone through that process I have felt more and more convinced that this challenging time is also a time of enormous opportunity which we must not miss.
First of all it’s a great opportunity to trust God with our uncertainties and use the time we have to invest in our relationship with him. Psalm 46 encourages us to ‘Be still and know that he is God’ – and this may be one of the best opportunities we ever have to do just that.
Second, this a great opportunity to love each other as a church family, by staying in touch regularly and looking out for each other’s practical needs. Home groups are a great place to start, but some groups may also need also the help of other groups nearby, and we are working to find a way to keep in touch with people who are not in groups as well.
Third, this maybe the best opportunity in our lifetimes to serve and reach our city. It’s been so exciting already to see people reaching out to isolated neighbours, making links with local business, preparing to get food to those who will need it, making sure they are have contact with people around them so that they are ready to support and help as the challenges increase. We are meeting with other churches tomorrow to try and coordinate our response as much as we can, but we don’t need to wait for permission to reach out in love and friendship to those around us, because in Jesus we have the hope that everyone so desperately needs right now. As much as we are able, then, let’s take the opportunity while we still have it and before restrictions increase.
I am chairing a small crisis team to help direct our response as a church. The team includes the three ministers, Hannah Chanter, Chris Matheson, Ben Thomas and James Musson. We will meet each Wednesday and remain in touch with each other throughout the week. Our focus is on helping the church through this period to love God, love each other and love our city.
As you probably know by now, we have had to cancel all our Sunday and mid-week gatherings for at least the next six weeks (including the whole of the Easter Weekend) but we are working towards providing a daily thought for the day (by video, email or post) and an act of worship and reflection each Sunday, primarily streamed via the internet but we are looking at ways of making it more widely available. Our ministry leaders are also working out creative new ways of continuing to support people in their groups and reach out to others, in this time when face to face contact will be so limited.
Finally, a reminder that we are already feeling the challenge of getting food supplies to the most vulnerable in our city. This is why we are working hard to keep both Basics Bank and Big Breakfast functioning through this crisis – even though Big Breakfast will have to be run on a ‘take away’ basis. The situation is likely to become significantly more challenging in the weeks ahead, so if you are able, please use every opportunity you can both to keep food coming in and to volunteer in the teams (which will be under pressure because of people who are self-isolating).
And while many are full of fear, let’s be people of great hope, because “The LORD of heaven’s Armies is here among us; and the God of Israel is our fortress” (Psa 46:11).
May God bless and keep us – and let’s travel this road together with each other and together with him.
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Daily Devotion // Thursday 19th March // John Risbridger
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