A weekly message during Lockdown from St Peter’s staff team – this week from Lay Minister Viv Brealey
It’s almost a year now since the Prime Minister appeared on TV for the first time to tell us we must stay at home and – among other things – we had to do the unthinkable and shut the doors of our church.
Since then it’s been a roller coaster ride – learning how to use Zoom and Teams to see each other (“You’re on mute!”) and navigating our way around YouTube, Facebook and websites just to go to worship on a Sunday. We learnt how to make our building “covid-safe” with all its accompanying strangeness – booking to come to church, checking in on the app, only ever seeing one another’s eyes above a face mask, no singing, no hugging, keeping away from each other, picnic church and all that endless hand washing….
It’s not all been bad – taking part in Sunday morning worship while sitting in the garden with a cup of tea on a sunny June day; the fact you can turn up half an hour late and start the service when you’re ready; being able to “watch again” on another day entirely if it suits you. The number of people accessing our evening services on YouTube has often been double and even treble the usual physical attendance on a Sunday evening.
Church has never been more flexible or more lonely. Services have never been more widely accessible – unless you don’t have internet access, in which case you don’t have corporate worship.
The miracle of safe, effective, rapidly distributed vaccines means that now feels like the beginning of the end at last. What do you miss the most about the way our church lives together used to be before the pandemic? What have you been surprised to find you actually enjoyed during the season we have lived through? Perhaps we’ve learnt that we can praise and pray and read and listen to God’s word on our own at home, arguably as well as we can in church. But what we can’t do so well on our own is encourage one another, keep each other going, be part of a body that needs all the parts to function properly.
If you’ve been reading through the letter to the Hebrews during lockdown, as John recommended back in January, you’ll know that, in chapter 10, the author of the letter addresses this:
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”(Hebrews 10: 24,25)
The writer of Hebrews is clear that following Jesus is something that Christians do together, expressed by meeting together regularly in a way that demonstrates the distinctiveness of their lives. What that will mean for us as a post-covid church is something that we will all need to think and pray about and work through together in the coming months.
How do we reclaim that important worship life together, without leaving out those who, pandemic or no pandemic, are not able to physically join in regularly? How do we maintain links with those whose very names are unknown to us but who have felt able to join us to worship online over this time? What is it we need to be doing to encourage and ‘spur one another on’ while living in a different and distinctive way that will attract others to come and follow Jesus with us?
Easter will be a cause for even more rejoicing than usual this year, as we get to celebrate, not only the joy of the resurrection, but being together again for the first time in many long weeks and months.
Many of the restrictions we have become familiar with will still be in place for some time to come yet. There is real hope and optimism now but until very high proportions of the population are vaccinated, we must continue to protect each other by practicing all the behaviours we have become accustomed to. You can find a reminder of how things work on our website at stpetes.org.uk – and if you don’t have internet access, please give Judith a call in the office and we’ll arrange to get you a print-out.
But let’s use this time as things slowly open up and edge back towards ‘normal’ to concentrate on how we can encourage and ‘spur each other on’ and to think about what kind of a church God is calling us to be in this place into the future.
With love and prayers,
Almighty God, we praise you for the many blessings you have given to those who worship you in this house of prayer: and we pray that all who seek you in this place may find you, and, being filled with the Holy Spirit, may become a living temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.