Lockdown 2.0 and What It Means for Your Church Communities
“Well, here we go again” is a phrase you might have heard a lot this week, usually said with an air of woe and a tone of despair. The Prime Minister’s announcement on the 31st of October that a second lockdown would be implemented from Thursday the 5th of November for four weeks is really for our good. The hope is that a limited lockdown could slow the escalating spread of the coronavirus before the flu season really hits. This news has been received with heavy hearts by many, but small business owners will be amongst the most affected by the lockdown over prime Christmas shopping time.
It has been stated under new government guidelines that “all non-essential retail […], indoor and outdoor leisure facilities […], entertainment venues [and] personal care facilities” are to close until December. With around fifteen percent of the population classed as self-employed, we are all are bound to have some very vulnerable people in our areas and in our church congregations right now. So, how can we help them?
The archbishops of Canterbury and York have written an open letter which can be found on the Church of England website. In it, they urge people of faith to “to join in this call to prayer and to keep both praying and serving our communities” in response to this lockdown. They also advise that “the best way we can serve our nation now is by pouring our energy into doing the things that we can do, which is to pray and to serve.” Closing our church services again and only transmitting them online is necessary in order to slow the virus during this lockdown. Although not being able to meet together in the first lockdown was sad, it did increase church attendance, albeit virtual online attendance, and we can expect that to continue in this second lockdown.
Just because we can’t meet in the flesh for a while, it doesn’t mean your church building and community can’t be useful during this lockdown mark two. According to the government website, places of worship will be closed from the 5th of November excepting some activities. Private prayer will be still be allowed as long as safety measures are adhered to. Using the church to broadcast services will be permitted. Attendance-limited funerals are still allowed, and some other authorised activities. The guidelines state that “essential voluntary and public services, such as blood donation or food banks”can continue to be held in houses of worship. Hold on, did the government just refer to a church-based activity as “essential”? That is amazing. It isn’t often that church activities are given such status and recognition!
With the government’s decision to vote against the extension of free school meals for the poorest in our country, it opens the opportunity for us to step in and feed the most in need in our communities. And it may not only be the school children who need feeding. One of JBKS client churches in Gorseignon in Wales, and another in Birmingham have found themselves becoming major food distributors to the needy. The second lockdown will undoubtedly affect many businesses and their employees financially in the forthcoming weeks. This again, perhaps, calls for churches to respond with help. There are debt counselling services like CAP, which are much needed and very good at helping people learn to manage their debt effectively.
It is sad that we cannot meet together for a while. We realised last time how vitally important human contact was for our well-being. This time we know how important it is to monitor and maintain ourselves. Focus on something you like doing and do it. Gardening was amazingly helpful last time, but that was in the spring. This is now autumn. How are churches going to advise and assist? One idea is to revisit those zoom small group meetings, where people can check with others how they are doing and help one another align in their focus on God. They can also be used for ‘play time’, like quiz nights etc.
A lot of development has gone into the online services, and they have been a lifeline to many. It’s an amazing thing when you think about it, to be able to bring the message of Christ into people’s very homes. Christianity has never been more convenient for people to access and that is surely a good thing. The word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword, in real face to face situations, and how amazing to discover that it is equally powerful through the TV screen. We can make the most of what we have so Zoom the Good News!
It is important to remember that we are all in the same storm. However, as Christians we have the power of prayer to turn to. We have a secret weapon in that we can call upon the Lord in times of trouble. We can pray for our country. We can comfort the needy, and respond in kind, with food and help. We can remain standing when others are falling. There is a promise in Psalm 91 which says so! We stand not in our own strength but in the strength of God.
These are testing times, but with no test there is no testimony. Lockdown 2 is a drag and an annoyance, but it is also a challenge to make us strong, and a battle that we can win. It’s a time with time. It may seem like a darkness but that means a time to allow Gods light to shine. So, let’s face Lockdown with FAITH that God will see us through. Let’s pray with the power of the Holy Spirit and find things to do for others. We will get through.
Finally, let’s ask ourselves what it means in Psalm 91 vs 10. “No harm will overtake you, no plague will come near your tent”. Does this mean we can proclaim this scripture over our families and churches and regions? Is this Covid disease subject to the power of prayer? Stories are emerging of amazing miracles. For example, one humble person in South Africa has found himself at the centre of a telephone prayer ministry where people with Covid have called him, he has prayed, and they have been healed – a few hundred so far!
It makes you think.