Responding to Coronavirus
RESPONDING TO THE CORONAVIRUS As most of you will know I have been out of the country for a week visiting Portugal on behalf of the World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship. When I left on the 11th March I thought it was possible that services at the church would be disrupted and anticipated we would be meeting once on a Sunday and being very careful to avoid contact that might pass on the Coronavirus. By the time I returned on the 18th the Government’s advice, and that of the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches to which we belong is that we suspend services and other meetings in the interests of health and safety.
We are obviously reluctant to do so as the normal priority for Christians is (Hebrews 10: 25), ‘not neglecting to meet together’ but we believe that Christians are required to obey those in authority (Romans 13: 1), ‘Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God’ and that the command to love our neighbour as ourselves, and thus to co-operate in the controlling of a pandemic that may otherwise claim many lives, supersedes what we would normally do.
SO WITH SADNESS WE ARE INFORMING YOU THAT THE CHURCH IS SUSPENDING ALL SERVICES AND OTHER ACTIVITIES WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT. You will realise that is our desire to start meeting again as soon as possible and the situation will be kept under constant review.
WHAT ARE WE DOING IN THE MEANTIME? We want to enable those who attend the church to be spiritually fed and as far as possible to continue in prayer and fellowship:
1. Each Sunday there will be a fresh sermon on the website which you can access and play – if you don’t have the necessary equipment we can download messages onto a CD for you. If you would like to listen to the messages and don’t know how please get in touch with me.
2. We cannot meet to pray on Tuesday nights but I will be sending out a printed meditation on scripture and a list of appropriate prayer topics. If we can’t be in one place we can be of one heart in this matter. This will be emailed to those who are on email and posted to those who aren’t.
3. We will be sending out a weekly pastor’s letter in which we will seek to share what is going on and to encourage one another. We will all find this a learning experience so do send me information on anything you find spiritually useful as it may benefit others. This will be distributed in the same way as the information for Tuesday evenings but sent to everyone.
We do encourage you to phone one another for mutual encouragement and to use email and other ways of communicating to share and keep in touch. We are conscious that the present situation does bring with it temptations and dangers and the fact that we cannot meet face to face means we need to find other ways to obey the commands of Hebrews 10: 24 + 25: ‘let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works .... encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.’ We do want to express the concern all the church officers share that our hearts don’t grow cold and that we don’t drift spiritually at a time like this when many of the normal means by which we draw near to God and experience his grace are not available to us.
PRACTICAL NEEDS We are aware that not everyone has family around and if you are self-isolating it is hard to arrange for shopping, collection of prescriptions or sometimes it would just be good to have someone to talk to – by phone if necessary. We have a number of people in the church who are willing to help those in need and Margaret (Plant) has agreed to co-ordinate this activity. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FUTURE COMMUNICATIONS We are sending this communication out as widely as possible so the list we use may well need adjusting:
1. so it may well be that you don’t wish to continue to be on the circulation for future communications – simply reply and let me know and I will remove you from the circulation list.
2. If you have received this letter posted or hand delivered and you have an email address let me have that and I will include you on the list as that will make the task of distribution much easier.
As a matter of practicality I will not send the Tuesday prayer meeting information to those who did not make a practice of attending if they are not on email – unless of course they request that I do so.
If it is possible for us to video the delivery of the sermons we will be making arrangements to do so. However with the weekend looming there is definitely not time to arrange this for this week and it may take a while to get it in place if it is possible to us.
FINANCE Being realistic we need to take on board that while some minor savings may be made on heating, lighting etc the church’s expenses will remain very much at the same level while we are unable to meet together. As believers we have a responsibility to support God’s work practically, prayerfully and financially. Some will already support the church via a standing order and these or internet bank transfers are the easiest way to proceed. If this is not available to you then please feel free to send the church’s treasurer, a cheque or, if you would like to give cash and need it collected contact me and we will arrange for this to be picked up. Andy is listed on the key contact details sheet accompanying this letter – as I am.
POSSIBLE VISITING As someone who has just returned to the country from being abroad I think it is fairest to everyone that I severely limit contact, particularly with anyone vulnerable, until a fortnight has passed. After that I am willing to visit people who would like me to do so but recognise that some will prefer I don’t given the present circumstances. Similarly Margaret is limited as I am until the fortnight has passed. If we are to visit we will always phone in advance or you can of course contact us to make arrangements or simply to chat on the phone.
Yours in the Lord,
Mike Plant (Pastor)
20th March 2020