Meeting Together

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Now, here’s a thing – over these past few months I have tried generally tried not to talk about Covid-19 and related matters in these bulletin articles. This mostly because we all get enough of it elsewhere and also because there are very different views about how best to deal with it and how well or badly the Government is doing in its response.

However, I came across a couple news items today that I thought were worthy of comment and discussion.  One was about ‘Evangelical’ churches that are meeting in secret in defiance of the lockdown regulations essentially because they believe that ‘We have a higher calling and that is to meet together to worship God’.  The other was about the news from America where the spread of the disease seems out of control in many areas, at least in part because people believe that to accept any restrictions is a compromise of their basic freedoms.

Right at the start of the pandemic I was discussing with someone the fact that we were going to be told that we could not meet together and I compared this to the circumstances of the early church who were persecuted and often forbidden to meet together and also the continuing plight of the church in places like China were the authorities seek to exercise control over the church or other parts of the world where, literally, mobs attack believers in their place of worship.

I was taken to task for giving the impression that we were being persecuted by the Government by being told not to meet, and that this was actually a necessary state of affairs to protect the health of the nation. In fact,  I agree with that – my intention had been to compare the circumstances in that we were not being able to meet not to compare them as in that we were being persecuted also.

So, my view (and it is my view only) is that those churches who are meeting in defiance of the regulations are wrong to do so.  Yes, we do miss meeting together to worship God, but that is part of the sacrifice we have to make in order to address the pandemic. It is important to say, we can still worship God in our own homes and, thankfully with each other electronically.  (A while ago I looked at the subject of worship in a sermon and came to the conclusion that it is the act of focusing our attention upon God and doing so with a sense of awe and an awareness of our unworthiness before him). Pending a vaccine we need to continue to try and arrest the spread of the disease (again, setting aside the arguments about the efficacy of different approaches to doing so).  What is clear from the American experience, is that people not making an effort to keep their distance does exacerbate the spread of the disease and the consequences of that are pretty drastic.

So, we’ll meet together when we can, and we’ll take sensible precautions when we do so (we were just getting the hang of that when we had to stop). In the meantime, to use a biblical term, we need to ‘gird our loins’ and to make sure that we continue to worship as best we can and that we support each other spiritually and practically.  I was challenged this week by someone asking the question as to who is keeping in touch with people in the church’?  I confess that over the weeks my contact with people has slipped a bit and I have resolved to make sure that I ring more people more often.  (Stand by your telephone!)  

However, as we make or way through lockdown 2.0 we do also need to think about new and different ways in which we can maintain the life of the church as a fellowship and our witness to those around us.  Any suggestions welcome!