Update for Churches 7 May 2020

Dear Ministers, Secretaries and Treasurers

As lockdown continues, the Lord has been speaking to me about hope. I’m hoping that things will get better – for our society, for everyone suffering from Covid-19, for all whose home, work, income or state of mind is adversely affected by this. I’m hoping for all the freedom that will come with the eventual end to lockdown.

What God has reminded me is that hope is not just optimism. His gift is ‘endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Knowing Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12.2), is the cause of my hope. I came across these words from Scott Erickson which helped me understand this:

A person of Hope is not one who is optimistic, but one who is rooted in the knowledge that the Author hasn’t finished writing whatever story one finds themselves in.

So, wherever you find yourself during lockdown, may you find hope in the Author who has written you into his story and has many more chapters in which you will be equipped, transformed and always held in his grace.

Contents

This update covers a range of topics, some of which have arisen from questions that a few people have asked, and therefore I imagine others may be interested in.

The Prayer Course
First, after the Prayer Livestream last week a number of people asked about The Prayer Course which Ruth mentioned. That is literally what it is called. You can find details of the eight-session course as well as the ‘prayer toolshed’ here.

Church Meetings by Zoom
Some people have asked if it is possible to hold a church meeting by Zoom. I have written a short article about this which you will find at the end of this update.

Grants for Community Projects
I was pleased to discover that over £10,000 has been received by Scottish Baptist churches for community projects during the Coronavirus outbreak through the grant programme run by the Peter Vardy Foundation, mentioned in a previous update. At the time of writing there is still a small amount of funding available. Shirley Berry remains the contact for enquiring about these, on 07817 102867. Also, Samaritan’s Purse has just launched “This is Love”, which seeks to support churches and charities that serve the vulnerable people groups across the UK during the COVID-19 outbreak. The main means they seek to do this is through provision of grants and protective equipment (PPE) depending on each project’s needs. Further information and the application process can be found at the campaign webpage.

Bible Speaks Today NIV Bible
I’m pleased to let you know that one of our BUS staff team, Andrew Clarke, is the New Testament editor of this newly published study Bible. It combines the text of the NIV with over 2,300 extracts from the highly regarded Bible Speaks Today commentary series. There is a launch event on 14 May with Krish Kandiah which is open to all.

Church Buildings: Legionella
Our Property Group has asked me to remind churches with empty buildings to guard against the risk of Legionella. They point out:
Water lying in pipes will eventually become stagnant over time, so it is advisable to run all taps once a week for a few minutes while the building is unused and to also flush toilets. This will allow the water to move through the system and ensure it never becomes infected. This also includes any pipes supplying water to the baptismal tank, making sure the tank is also washed out regularly.

Ministers’ Lunchtime Conversations
These continue every Thursday at 1.00pm. This coming week there will be a conversation with Adam Oellermann, ‘Mission: what does it mean to be present with others in a time of lockdown?’
There are some notes here on the recent session entitled When Is Communion Not Communion?

National Prayer Livestream Sunday 7.00pm
These gatherings continue to draw together many hundreds of people from Baptist churches across Scotland for a half hour of live prayer. This Sunday we will be praying especially about the economic impact of the lockdown on small and large businesses and hearing from people directly affected. The link to join us and share in your church publicity is https://www.facebook.com/scottishbaptist/live/

All the BUS staff team are seeking to support churches in every way we can during this difficult time and we are continuing to pray regularly for God’s good work in and through all the congregations.

Sincerely in Christ
Martin
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Guidance Regarding Church Meetings During Lockdown

Some churches have enquired whether it is possible to hold formal members’ meetings using Zoom or other digital means during lockdown. Having reflected on this

  1. and taken legal advice, our guidance is as follows:
    In church meetings we seek to discern communally the will of God, through listening to one another against the background of scripture in a context of prayer. The limitations of digital communication will make this significantly more complex and less satisfactory than if we were meeting face to face. Therefore, we recommend that churches do not attempt to make major
    visionary or policy decisions through digital church meetings. In fact, in most cases it will be wise to postpone any formal church meetings until the lockdown is eased.
  2. Most management decisions can be made by the church’s leadership team during lockdown. However, there are some matters that church constitutions usually reserve for the church meeting. These will likely include the appointment or reappointment of leaders, the approval of accounts, admitting new members and calling a new pastor. It would be unwise to attempt to appoint a new minister during lockdown and the admission of new members is unlikely to be urgent. The (re)appointment of leaders and the approval of accounts may be more pressing requirements. Your constitution may permit the leadership team to co-opt leaders, which could be a useful interim measure, or the existing leaders could remain in post until it is possible to call a normal face-to-face church meeting. OSCR has advised that churches will not be subject to adverse action if AGMs or other meetings required by the constitution cannot be held or have to be delayed; they should still be held as soon as reasonably practicable. Similarly, OSCR has promised leniency about late submission of accounts due to lockdown, although again they should be submitted as soon as practicable.
  3. If you do decide it is essential to hold a church meeting, you need to be confident you have a platform which will enable all members to participate and contribute. If there are some members who do not have the skills or equipment to join digitally, then it is important to establish a framework in which they can be aware of the meeting agenda and express a contribution. This may well be by the leadership receiving or making individual phone calls ahead of the meeting to seek views, contributions or questions, which can then be fed into the discernment process in the meeting. If you do hold a digital church meeting, it will be important for the church trustees, usually the leadership team, to minute why a non-standard practice has been adopted. Each church will have a different constitutional framework, making it difficult to give universally applicable advice, but in general what the constitution provides should be followed as closely as possible, subject only to those changes made necessary by lockdown restrictions.

If you have further questions about the church meetings during lockdown, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.