Where Christ Makes The Difference
As promised, here is an update on plans going forward for the life of LABC. Following our elders meeting this afternoon we have decided that all meetings of the church will stop with immediate effect. The exceptions will be the playgroup which will follow the guidelines issued to schools. There may be some planning meetings needed and currently we intend to meet as Elders and Deacons next Tuesday at which we will further discuss the implications of this virus on our church life. The elders will review this decision every four weeks.
While this is a highly unusual step, it is not completely without precedent. Governments have asked religious groups before to halt gatherings in times of epidemics to seek to prevent the spread of disease. As believers we seek to obey God’s instruction to us to be subject to governing authorities. The UK government is asking that we heed its advice to reduce and slow down the spread of COVID-19 by social distancing and in obedience and out of love for one another, and our neighbour, we want to heed that advice.
The life of the church continues
However, while the programmes of the church are shut down for the foreseeable future, the life of the church is not. The church is not the programmes of the church, the church is the people. While we will not be attending meetings at the church building, I hope very much this will be a time where, particularly by the use of technology, we continue to be in contact with, take care of and encourage one another. Do be picking up the phone to others and checking in and seeking to encourage and pray for one another, particularly for those who you will be aware are more isolated. There may be ways in which you can help others with shopping and other practicalities.
More than this, this is a season in which we can demonstrate love for neighbours in the communities where we live. There may be opportunities to support local neighbours, particular those most vulnerable. You could put a card through the door just to offer some help and details how you can be contacted. Obviously, this is not just something that Christians are doing, but it is right that as believers we have such a Christlike spirit.
In terms of pastoral visits, Tom and I, our own health permitting, are very happy to continue to visit you. We will still be following up with folk over the phone but in terms of initiating an actual visit, we will wait to be invited, rather than impose. Do contact us if you would like us to pop round.
Ministry of the Word and prayer
Centrally, we will be looking to support the church both practically and spiritually. Tom and I are hoping to produce material for you to watch or listen to. For Sunday, we hope there will be a sermon available to listen to and a more interactive podcast aimed primarily for families based around the same passage of Scripture. It would be lovely if lots of us gather in our own homes at 10.30am on a Sunday and pray for one another and listen or watch the podcast.
We are also hoping to produce a podcast for Wednesdays, which, as well as a devotional, will include some church family news and some matters for prayer. We hope the first one of these will be out for Wednesday 25th March. Do send prayer requests to Tom and we will seek to include them as appropriate. More information will follow on how to access this material in the coming days or alternatively look out for details on the church website.
A medical and spiritual challenge
In this season of isolation, do take the opportunity to invest in the spiritual quality of your home life. Be praying and reading the Bible with your loved ones. Follow the readings in Mark’s gospel together. This is for each of us an unprecedented situation and we need to keep in mind that it presents not only a medical challenge but a spiritual one. One American church circulated this extract from a sermon preached in Washington D.C in 1918 by Pastor Frances Grimké at the start of the last influenza pandemic. It bears careful attention over 100 years later;
Finally, look to the Saviour. Where does our help come from? The psalmist answers, our help, ‘comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.’ He is great and he is good who watches over us even in the midst of trouble.
Go well in Christ, The Elders
Limes Avenue Baptist Church
At the time of writing, there has been no advice issued by the Church Legislation Advisory Service as to how churches should be responding to the coronavirus. However, it is good for us as a church to be thinking and praying about this matter. We can show the love of Jesus in the way we help one another and our communities and by following simple practical measures reflecting the government’s advice. There are a number of ways in which we can care for one another as we gather together on a Sunday:
At this time, there is a heightened wisdom in staying away from church gatherings if you have cold or flu symptoms - particularly a cough and a temperature. If such symptoms are present the advice of the government is to self-isolate.
We need to be wise in how we care for one another but not be ruled by anxiety. It’s easy to forget, at such times, that we have a God who is fully in control and perfectly loving, who hears our prayers and responds to them. We should then comfort ourselves with this knowledge and pray that God would keep us safe, that he would help those at the front line of treating the virus, and for it to be gone!
Thank you for your cooperation and understanding with these things.