A pastoral note to our church family

19th March 2020

Let’s look to the Lord

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

The hills around Jerusalem were home to many spiritual distractions when this psalm was written. All sorts of idol shrines lured pilgrims away from worshipping the one true God. But the writer of Psalm 121 knew that true help could only come from the One who made heaven and earth.

The current coronavirus pandemic reminds us that the idols of this world cannot save. All the things we rely on – economy, career, health, leisure, relationships (the list could go on) – offer so much but an invisible virus shows how weak they all are.

Many of us will be frightened, either for ourselves or our loved ones, but these words encourage us to put our hope in God. The psalm goes on to say, ‘the LORD will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life.’ This is not a promise that coronavirus, or any other suffering, will not touch us or those whom we love. But it does remind us that even death cannot overcome God’s people.

As he stood at the graveside of his friend Lazarus, Jesus said these famous words, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ Perhaps this is a time when we can say to ourselves, and to the Lord, “Yes, I do believe that; in the depths of my heart, I do really believe that I will live for ever because of Jesus.”

Let’s look to our government for wise decisions; let’s look to scientists to develop a vaccine; let’s look to the NHS to care for the sick; let’s look to our communities, employers and each other to support and care for those in need; but ultimately, let’s look to our God for help. May we be able to say with deep conviction, [Our] help comes from the LORD,  the Maker of heaven and earth.

To that end, you may like to pray this ancient prayer. It was written by people who were much more used to sickness and death than we are. It is a sombre prayer but offers hope for the future thanks to the the mercy of God.

O Almighty God, who in thy wrath didst send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness, for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also, in the time of king David, didst slay with a plague of pestilence threescore and ten thousand, and yet remembering thy mercy didst save the rest: Have pity upon us miserable sinners, who are now visited with great sickness and mortality; that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angel to cease from punishing, so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

‘In the time of any common Plague or Sickness’
The Book of Common Prayer

Let’s keep meeting together

And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

The government announced on 16th March that all ‘non-essential social gatherings’ should be avoided. The Church of England responded by advising that public worship be suspended. Other denominations are following similar steps, as are churches across Co-Mission. We will therefore not meet physically for Sunday services, home groups or prayer meetings for the foreseeable future.

However, we thank God for technology that enables us to meet virtually, and so will continue to meet on Sundays and during the week online. It is a wonderful blessing to live in an age when we can do this and we encourage every church member to make the most of it.

At a time like this, we need the support of brothers and sisters in Christ more than ever. Please don’t ‘take a break from church,’ or be put off by technology you may not have used before. It is very easy to use and we are on hand to help! You can access the online meetings via your computer, tablet, phone etc.

Sunday services will be accessible directly from the church website from 10am on Sundays. We will aim to start at 10.30 so please tune in beforehand to chat with the crowd and figure out the technology. We really want our children to be part of these online gatherings so will provide activity sheets which will be sent to you by email on Fridays. 

You will receive an email during the week with a link to access Tuesday and Friday home groups. On Sundays we will also split into smaller groups at the end of the online service to catch up, share news and ‘have coffee’ with each other.

Undoubtedly, meeting online will feel surreal and strange but let’s all give it a go and ask God to bless us through it. We will probably have plenty of time to get used to it and can even enjoy post-church refreshments!

Let’s care for each other

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2

We want to be as good as we possibly can be at supporting each other during this challenging and unnerving time. We are therefore asking and encouraging you to do the following:

  • Follow government advice. Let’s be model citizens and neighbours as we seek to honour the authorities God has put over us and love our neighbour as ourself.
  • Share concerns with your home group leader. If you are concerned for yourself or your family, for someone else at church, or need any practical support, please contact one of your home group leaders as a first step.
  • Contact the church staff. If your home group leader is unavailable or unable to help, or if you are not currently in a home group, please contact Andy, Linda or the church office (admin@ccearlsfield.org).
  • See each other if you can. From next Monday we will set up virtual coffee (11am) and virtual tea (4pm). The links for these meetings will be on the church website. Please ‘drop in’ via the link to say hello and catch up. 

Let’s share our hope

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15

We have a sure and certain hope beyond the grave. Let’s be praying for opportunities to care for our neighbours (e.g. see the CCE self-isolating postcard online), but above all, let’s pray for opportunities to point people to the One who died and rose again. There is so much fear around but perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Let’s tell people about the God who loved the world so much, that he sent his Son to give us eternal life.

With love from Andy, Ally, John and Rob
Christchurch Earlsfield Elders