Update 31 March 2020

Dear Churches

This latest update comes with continuing prayers from myself and all the national BUS staff for all our churches and communities throughout the country at this time. God is making us a force for good at this time, as we step up to servanthood, incline to innovation and press into prayer.

Much is being said about resilience at the present time and we are continually reminded that our strength in this strange time comes from our God, who is ‘a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm’ (Isaiah 25.4).

Praying together is our first response in a crisis and several hundred of us have joined on the last two Sunday evenings to be led in prayer by people from our churches around the country. These livestreams will continue each week, lasting 20-30 minutes, and I warmly invite you to take part and to make this known to everyone in your church.

Anyone can access the livestream at https://www.facebook.com/scottishbaptist/live/ – it’s not necessary to have a Facebook account to join in. The quality is best if you watch on your computer, tablet or phone; some people who have connected to their TV with an HDMI cable say they have experienced a significant decrease in quality.

Many youth gatherings are taking place via Zoom, Facebook Live, etc. It is vital that the highest standards of safeguarding are maintained and I strongly encourage ministers and leaders to acquaint themselves with the very helpful guidelines on Using Social Media to Engage and Communicate with Young People in the Church on the BUGB website and ensure these are in place in your church.

Whilst our church buildings are closed, it is important to ensure they are managed appropriately. Baptist Insurance have produced some useful guidelines for risk management at this time.

A number of churches have enquired about this. The scheme is designed to underpin wage costs on a temporary basis for employers who have no work for some or all their staff to do because of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. It can only be used where the employer asks employees to stop work completely for a period – it cannot be used to reduce hours, or to cover pay where employees are still working. This may help some churches in respect of some specific employees, such as facilities managers, though it is unlikely that ministers or administrators will meet the criterion of having no work to do as a result of the crisis. More details are available in section 5 of the BUGB Guide For Churches As Employers and on the Government website.

Given that most people are not able to take leave now nor can plan holidays for the summer, the UK Government has issued new rules on Carrying Over Annual Leave. These say that workers should be allowed to spread up to 4 weeks of annual leave over the next two years. It will be helpful for ministers and church employees to be made aware that this is the case.

In these lockdown days, Andrew Clarke, our CMD Lead, is hosting weekly conversations to connect and support CMD. This is low intensity, low commitment, and low key – a chance to listen to somebody introduce a topic, and then reflect on it in conversation together. There is no need to book; just login at the appointed time and then discover what is to be that week’s topic of conversation and who else has tuned in to engage with you for that session. It begins this Thursday at https://zoom.us/j/592825414.

Most of our other CMD workshops for ministers are continuing using Zoom, though a couple have had to be cancelled.

It is still our hope to continue with the Assembly in Dunfermline on 23-24 October. Please make a note of these dates. However, due to the current uncertainties we are not sending out publicity at this stage and bookings will not open until we have a clearer picture of how the situation is developing.

Small Things

Finally, at this time when it feels like so many aspects of life are restricted, can I encourage you to be attentive to the small things and give thanks for them. Our Baptist Union staff team meets every morning by Zoom. I asked everyone to come to Monday’s meeting prepared to share a photo of something they had done at the weekend during the present lockdown. The simplicity of the contributions was striking. Someone had noticed a horse in a nearby field; others had stopped to enjoy some daffodils, aerated the lawn, planted some seeds, or power-washed their flagstones. At our usual pace of life these would hardly have got a mention in our conversation, but we chose to pause and give thanks for each of them. The Bible says, ‘Give thanks in all circumstances’ (1 Thessalonians 5.18). We cannot give thanks for all circumstances; no one would want to give thanks for the present crisis, with the sickness, anxiety and disruption it is causing. But in the midst of it we can pay attention to the good work of God our Father and choose to give thanks to him for his never-ending generosity.

Sincerely in Christ

Martin Hodson

General Director