See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it
As the whole texture of our lives is being transformed by the Coronavirus pandemic, it has become an extraordinary time of change for all our churches. Yesterday for the first time in history, none of our congregations met in the same building, yet the vast majority of churches gathered in online meetings for worship together. We have been driven by events into uncharted territory and it’s vital that we ask what new thing God is doing in all this. I’m certain this disruption is not a mere phase to endure until everything eventually returns to normal. God is inviting us to consider what is really important to him, what he cherishes in his bride, the church, and how he wants us to be communities that both gather and are sent out.
Another first for Scottish Baptist churches was our national prayer livestream last night, when around 700 people joined together (plus hundreds of others who watched it later). I had a great sense that we were fulfilling our vocation together to pray for our land and affirming that we are a community of communities who make prayer a priority.
I’m pleased to announce that we will now be doing this every Sunday at 7.00pm. The link will be on Facebook and website. We will aim to gather for between 20 and 30 minutes, drawing in voices from around the country.
I’d like to remind you of three important words I shared last night which I think the Lord is giving us for these times:
- Step up to servanthood
- Incline to innovation
- Press in to prayer
If you take a tour of church websites you’ll get a flavour of the many ways our churches are staying connected. Sunday worship, youth gatherings, Bible studies, leadership training and much more are happening online. Ministry development workshops organised by BUS will be taking place on Zoom as of this week. Pastoral care is happening through phone calls, FaceTime, WhatsApp and many other platforms. I heard that some folk in Kirkwall are ’visiting’ isolated members by standing outside their windows and speaking to them by phone.
Some churches have livestreamed exciting and interactive all-age teaching (not as difficult as you might think, if you do not have sky high production values). I’ve also heard some positive reports about the Virtual Sunday School videos produced by 4Front Theatre Company.
Many churches are communicating with short videos by the minister or other leaders. Galashiels Baptist Church have set up the 1310 Project, a daily podcast with a short thought for the day, a prayer and a link to a song – to encourage one another and to share with friends. The Dunfermline churches have made their Easter Experience exhibition into an online resource.
It is worth emphasising that in order to fully support the policy of social distancing and play a responsible and caring part in our communities, it is vital that no group meetings take place face to face at the present time, including leadership meetings.
Denny Baptist Church is one of many churches that have set up a dedicated telephone help line for isolated people who may need shopping, prescriptions, practical help or some encouraging conversation. Several churches are working with local Food Banks as they increase their provision at this time. Stenhouse Baptist Church is one of several churches working collaboratively to ensure children who normally benefit from free school meals get a good meal each day whilst schools are closed.
Sarah Wadsworth has produced an excellent visual resource for helping to explain to people with learning disabilities that churches are not meeting at present. You can find a sample of it here: http://www.scottishbaptist.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Church-closure-sample.pdf . Sarah is happy for you to contact her at email@example.com if you would to receive the full version.
Peter Dick, the Finance Director of our Union, has issued some important financial advice for churches at this time.
The Lord give you faith, hope and love in these days.