Update 8 April 2020

It was strange when we had to make the decision to stop meeting together as churches. Even stranger will be Easter in isolation. Gathering for communion on Thursday evening or Good Friday and then celebrating Resurrection Morning together are anchor points in our life as congregations. It will be a joy for most of us to gather with brothers and sisters for virtual worship services, but we will be longing for something more – for a time when Covid-19 has abated, when the suffering, fear, stress and disruption it brings are over. This is a time for letting God birth new hope in us. As the Apostle Paul writes: ‘we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope’ (Romans 5:3-4).

I am inviting all our churches to use the attached Prayer of Hope as part of our Easter Sunday worship. I have prepared it especially for this occasion, based on 1 Peter 1.3. It will be a rich expression of unity for us to share in this same prayer across the land. Do please take a look at it: I think you will find it a valuable contribution to your Easter worship.

We will be continuing the Prayer Livestream at 7.00pm on Sunday, celebrating the theme of Resurrection Hope with live prayer and news from churches around the country. This will be another significant time of national prayer for us. Please join in and, if you don’t already do so, would you let your fellowship know about this and put it on your social media. The link to access the event is https://www.facebook.com/scottishbaptist/live/ I hope to be praying with you there.

Thanks to everyone who has already completed the survey sent out by Jenny. The National Team have been speaking to as many church leaders as we can around the country and listening for ways we can support one another. With the survey we want to ensure everyone has opportunity to share what you would find most helpful from our Union at this time. A picture is already emerging form the survey. If you have not already responded, we’d be very glad to hear from you by Friday 10th April.

On 6.4.20 the Scottish Government issued new guidance on preparation for burial or cremation for religious organisations, faith and cultural groups. You can find the full document here but I have quoted the two key points for ministers and churches below:

Registration of a death

National Records of Scotland, working with Scottish Government and Local Authorities, has now moved to a remote registration model for all registrations of death.

The latest information can be accessed on their website . A dedicated FAQ page has also been prepared for how the registration service now functions.

Funeral Services

Those attending a service should remain 2 metres (6 feet) apart during any service (except where they are from the same household, or a carer and the person is assisted by the carer).

Only close family should attend the funeral (or if there are no family, a friend) numbers kept to the minimum possible and others, or those at high risk of infection such as people over the age of 70, should not attend in person or should attend electronically e.g. by video link or by phone. 

In the event that you are seeking to process disclosure forms at the present time, Volunteer Scotland have issued the following statement:

 Volunteer Scotland Disclosure Services (VSDS) is currently adhering to the instructions announced by the Prime Minister and First Minister and not attending the office in Stirling.  Therefore, at the current time, no paper applications will be processed for enrolled organisations.

However, at this time, VSDS will prioritise checks for the workers and volunteers that Scotland needs to deal with the coronavirus through an online application process.

On 4.4.20 the UK Government published an extension to the job retention scheme and staff furlough arrangements to extend these to office holders; previously the scheme was only open to employees. Thus in theory a minister could now be put on furlough. However, as I suggested in a previous update, it is unlikely that a church will deem that a minister’s work is not required at this time, given the continuing responsibilities of leadership, pastoral care and community involvement. It would be essential that a minister does not continue any of his or her responsibilities (including in a voluntary role) if they are furloughed. Full details of the scheme are here.

So may the Lord give you and your fellowship a fresh revelation of his great love and sacrifice for each of us as you live and pray through this Holy Week.

 Sincerely in Christ

 Martin