17th March 2020
following the governments update yesterday (Monday 16th March 2020) we are now seeing much larger numbers of people needing to self-isolate both because of potential and actual infections, as well as people being classed as high-risk due to their age or unrelated heath concerns. This is both true for the wider community and for our congregations.
In response to this you will have noticed that all meetings and groups have stopped meeting in person, and this will now include Sunday services which will stop immediately. The risk on infecting one another is too high at this time, and we have a duty of love and care for one another. This is not a decision made locally but rather is advice given by both the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. You can read more about this on the church on England website if you would like. However, this is not to say that fellowship, worship or mission will cease. The church is present where ever His people are present, even if we are disperse. Continue to call one another and to keep in contact. Continue to email about things that would otherwise have been meetings. Continue to devote yourself to worship in prayer and the reading of scriptures. For those that would like to join in a corporate form of worship I will be uploading a video each Sunday at 10:30 to all of the church Facebook pages where you will be able to watch and join in. See here for links: www.combetocombechurches.co.uk
If you would like some other resources I can suggest the following to you. Please do keep an eye out for emails and website updates for further events and resources that will be available:
- Church of England daily Prayer: https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-service-daily-prayer
- The “Bible Project” Videos: com/all-videos
- Buy a reading plan or devotional books that you can use regularly. There are available online or to buy at a Christian book shop.
- If you have no access to the internet or additional books, why nor just set aside some time on a Sunday morning to read a passage from the gospel of Luke (or another of your choice)? Think and pray about it – and anything else you want to – and know that although you cannot hear us, the church across the world is praying with and for you.
- You can find more options here: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches
Most importantly be wise, but don’t worry. God is King over all things and is always with you. This is also not the first time that the world and the church have had to respond like this. I think you may find the following from two of the men of great faith helpful:
Martin Luther on how we should respond to situations such as this:
“Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbour does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body?”… “If my neighbour needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
Charles Spurgeon on sharing comfort in fear
“And now, again, is the minister’s time; and now is the time for all of you who love souls. You may see men more alarmed than they are already; and if they should be, mind that you avail yourselves of the opportunity of doing them good. You have the Balm of Gilead; when their wounds smart, pour it in. You know of Him who died to save; tell them of Him. Lift high the cross before their eyes. Tell them that God became man that man might be lifted to God. Tell them of Calvary, and its groans, and cries, and sweat of blood. Tell them of Jesus hanging on the cross to save sinners. Tell them that.”
In short, our response in faith is to use the wisdom of God to respond and love our neighbour. For many of us loving our neighbour will look like self-isolation, so as not to but yourself at risk or others that you may come across. If this is you, please do so with the knowledge that you are acting in the wisdom of God to love your neighbour.
For others who are in a lower risk category our response will be different. Please be in contact with church members and your neighbours to ask if they would like any assistance that you might be able to offer. Many who are isolated will not have access to shopping (hard to get delivery slots), or may simply like someone to talk to on the phone each day. Simply knowing that someone cares enough and is available in an emergency can be enough. You may like to write them a card or postcard with your offer and contact details in, just in case. Please also continue to support social initiatives in any manner you can, especially the food bank which is likely to be overwhelmed at this time. And to paraphrase Spurgeon, at a time of fear of fear offer those you come across the comfort that only comes from the Good News of Jesus Christ. Whatever you do, do so with both the love and wisdom of God.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have also called for a day of prayer and action this coming Sunday – Mothering Sunday (22nd March). Mothering Sunday has always been both a day of celebration for many and a sensitive and emotional day for some. Wherever you are this Sunday please do join in this day of prayer and action and remember especially those who are sick or anxious, and all involved in our Health Service. As one action, they are calling on everyone to place a lighted candle in their window at 7.00 p.m. as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished.
Here is a helpful prayer by the Rev. Barbara Glasson (President of the Methodist Conference)
We are not people of fear – We are people of courage
We are not people who protect our own safety – We are people who protect our neighbour’s safety
We are not people of greed – we are people of generosity
We are your people God
Giving and loving
Wherever we are
Whatever it costs
For as long as it takes
Wherever you call us.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
Yours in Christ,