This week’s Thought comes from Heather Corbell who is the Chair of Churches Together in Bury St Edmunds and District;
” First a personal question – How many shirts do you have? One thing I know from the decluttering is that I have more shirts than I really need. I also know that I have one less than yesterday, as I’ve chopped one up and made it into a mask. Back to the shirts later…
My experience of the ‘lock-down’ for Covid-19 might, I expect, be broadly similar to that of many people. For me it’s in fairly distinct stages. First there was disappointment, and a busy time cancelling things I’d prepared, such as a Mother’s Day service, Lent course, the Good Friday Walk of Witness event, a few other meetings some of which had been long in the planning. Then there was relief really, so much I needn’t do after all.
The next stage for me by the third week was slight anxiety, sleeplessness, or rather strange dreams, and bereavement. After that, having got used to the situation I suppose, it really felt like a holiday. The brilliant weather helped, and so many advantages, or blessings, of home, garden, phone conversations, continued good local services and deliveries, time to make bread, and wine, read and walk.
For my reflection on the wider aspects I think respect and thanks for the carers, for local and national information and good neighbourhood schemes. Another cause for gratitude is the perspective of history. The ‘Sweat’ of Tudor times, as well as various plagues and black death must have been terrible to live through, without all the services, comfort and connectivity we have now. However, a cause for concern is geography – how much worse is this pandemic for people in war zones, refugee camps, and in overcrowded housing, and those who are actually homeless. Within our own country there are a vast hidden crowd of people who feel trapped by loneliness, frailty, disability, financial worry, and abuse.
Perhaps the most interesting thing has been the churches and the growth in the Christian faith. Apparently, the average church attendance in UK before Coronavirus was 1% of the population, (that is people attending fairly often, not just at Christmas and Easter). Since lockdown it has grown to 25%! This is due to people watching/participating in streamed services, Zoom Bible study and prayer groups. There are probably even more including those just accessing Sunday worship on Radio and TV.
I have certainly enjoyed some of this output: on-line church services, and with excellent Bible teaching so available. Locally, very encouraging has been increased prayer involvement, since many people seem to be keen to pray over the phone who don’t normally take part in informal prayer. Some who have not read the Bible much for themselves, and who are now missing Sunday readings, have started to use Bible study daily notes at home.
We have always said that the Church is not the building. It is the whole worldwide invisible Body of Christ and now we’re finding the truth of that! The challenge is always, and especially at the moment, the need to discover (or re-discover) that as individuals before God; and to strengthen our relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.
There are very big questions ahead for us all as a nation, and as a world: the economy,
educational and employment set-backs, more family break-ups, depression, delayed medical treatment, more than usually grievous bereavements, Parliament, world relations. We may need to consider our ‘shirts’ again, and follow Jesus’ words; “he who has two shirts should give to him who has none.” (Luke 3:11).
I have recently particularly enjoyed afresh the story of Elijah, (1 Kings 17), who was told by God to stay by himself by a brook during drought, even after the brook had dried up. His only company was wild birds and his only comfort prayer. He was sustained for many weeks and was used by God to be one of the great heroes in God’s purposes.
How do people, both outsiders and members, identify Church? This brings our church life into sharp relief! What should churches do? Equally important is the question what should we each do as individual Christians? What does the Bible have to say about some of these aspects?
- “Go into your chamber, and shut your door behind you, hide yourselves for a little while”
(Isaiah 26:20): just as the Israelites when in exile in Babylon, far from their homeland, and as many of God’s people have experienced since.
- “Do not neglect the assembling of yourselves together” (Hebrews 10: 25): even now we can still assemble, in a sense, by phone/other ways of communication.
- “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12: 30-31): all the neighbourly help, praying for each other, caring by phone, and of course, following safety precautions, giving to food banks, Christian Aid and more.
- “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28: 28): yes, thankfully that is happening through
neighbour contacts, as well as on-line, and outreach such as Alpha courses, and the Church is growing.
- “Pray for your earthly leaders” (1 Timothy 2:1-2): at least as much as we might criticise! “