There are a lot of words that could be used to describe the current crisis which is unfolding around the world. There is one right away – “crisis”. We will all have our own take on it ranging, perhaps, from “nightmare” to “overreaction”, or “the end of life as we know it” to “a crisis of our own making”. The truth doubtless lies somewhere between the extremes and we find ourselves needing to trust those who carry the huge responsibility of national leadership and take the advice we are given from those in the know.
But one way or another we find ourselves in strange times. The seemingly unchanging patterns of daily life have rather suddenly been disrupted. Even the regular, and up till now, unstoppable patterns of church life have been brought to an abrupt halt. For some who have been regularly attending church for years, “no church on Sunday” is only one or two places down the scale from “the earth has stopped turning”. So, strange times it is.
But it would be a huge blunder if we thought that because there is “no church on Sunday” church itself has ceased to be. Church is not so easily derailed. For starters, church itself is not the building. That is just a convenient place for us to meet. But neither is church the meetings and activities – important though they are. We meet together because we are a church, NOT we are a church because we meet together.
We are a community of believers in Jesus, united to one another through our relationship with him. Jesus is where it begins. Each of us is united to Jesus Christ through being saved and forgiven by his death for us. By trusting him we’ve become connected to him – and through that, connected to one another. That’s what makes us a church. Jesus.
Our church here is a local example of the far bigger community of all believers that we entered when we trusted Christ. This local church is our opportunity to live out in real life the commands of Jesus and Scripture to love one another and to work to build one another up in our faith. And we also realise that church is one of the primary things Jesus has given to us so that WE ourselves might be built up. We need church, and church needs us.
And all that is far too important to be derailed by a Corona virus. This sort of stuff cannot simply be put on hold. It matters too much.
Church in different times and different places has often needed to find ways to continue to be what it is meant to be when life itself makes that a challenge. Wartime. Natural disaster. Humanitarian crisis. Persecution. Oh, and pandemics.
So church has definitely not stopped! It must not. It cannot. Rather the purpose and mission of the church rolls on. And the current crisis is not a reason to put it on hold, but just the new environment in which our purpose must be fulfilled. We need to find, as we are finding in other areas of life at the moment, that great human capacity for adaptability.
And see it too as a briiliant opportunity. My hope and prayer for these current strange times is that not only will we survive it, but that we will flourish. That it will provoke us and open up new opportunities, bring new gifts to light, and make us more fruitful and effective as a community of believers. I hope that when we come out on the other side of this that we will be changed – for the better.
Technology does provide us with one avenue of opportunity – and we hope to be able to use technology to our advantage to overcome the loss of our regular meetings. We’ll keep you posted on that, so look out for it. In the meantime the challenge for each of us individually is to play our part to love one another and build one another up in our faith. This is the question: How can I contribute to the life of this church in such strange times?