Friday, March 27, 2020

Plague Journal: Week 2

In Plague Journal: Week 1  I described how our churches responded to the government's measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, announced on Monday 16 March. Like most other fellowships we suspended all our regular meetings and activities. Older church members and those with underlying health conditions self-isolated. As a result pastoral visiting was also suspended. Pastoral phoning is now the order of the day. 

On Monday of this week I sent out an updated contacts list for members and friends of the church. Just getting that together was a hassle. The contact info I had for some people was out of date, meaning several corrected editions had to be sent out.  I tried to 'buddy-up' out and about members with those who are shut in. It seems to be working. When I ring members and friends they often mention that 'so-and-so' had been in touch with them. Our people are a lot more cheerful than I expected. Earlier this week Sarah (my wife) and I had a Skype chat with two of our members. They were full of the joy of the Lord and we had a little time of singing the Lord's praises together. 

Boris Johnson announced even stricter social distancing measures on Monday 23 March, which have affected us all in many respects. We are only leaving the house when necessary, combining our government approved daily walk with a visit to the shops/pharmacy. Members with serious health conditions are now in complete lockdown, making keeping in touch via phone, etc all the more important. 

Yes, we are trying to maintain contact via email, text, phone call and Skype, but there is no substitute for meeting one another in the flesh. Skype can sometimes be a bit fiddly. The other evening we could see one couple who had dialed in for a group chat/prayer time, but not hear them. I often find myself thinking of the words of the apostle John in 2 John 12 & 3 John 13-14, where he said he would rather talk with his fiends face to face than write to them with pen and ink. Make that ring/Skype them. 

The initial novelty of getting to grips with livestreaming has given way to frustration at the limitations of the medium. I've been using Facebook's 'Go Live' feature on the Providence Baptist Church FB page. Sunday's talks went without a hitch, although my attempt to play guitar following the evening's effort provoked some hilarity. Wednesday's 'Prayer Meeting' talk on Colossians 1:9 was interrupted due to signal failure, even though I was broadcasting from my study, where the Wi-Fi router is located. 

I tried to get to grips with YouTube as an alternative to FB 'Go Live', but my laptop doesn't get on with it. Several friends have recommended Zoom. I've downloaded the app, but can't work out how to get it to do what I want. Which is, like 'Go Live', to create a publicly accessible livestream, which can then then posted for people to view later. I guess it'll have to be 'Go Live' for now, although if the signal fails once more during a livetream,  I may instead pre-record videos and then post them at our regular meeting times. We'll see. 

Sunday morning's talk was based on Psalms 42-43, which seemed apt. In the evening I spoke on the fact that Jesus 'suffered and died alone that his people may never be alone'. Obviously talking to my mobile screen isn't the same as preaching to a congregation, where there is an element of interaction with the people. But needs must, and it's encouraging to note that more viewers seem to be accessing the ministry than would usually gather with us on a Sunday.  

These are odd days in many ways. I expected to have a bit more time on my hands without the regular round of church meetings and activities, but time somehow seems to have sped up. Other pastors I've spoken to have said the same. Just trying to get YouTube to work took a while, all to no avail. Frustrating. That said, I have been able to get some sustained reading done, enjoying Robert Leatham's (excellent so far) Systematic Theology. I'm up to p. 237 of a 1072pp book. Preparation had to be done for Wednesday evening's talk and notes made for Sunday's livestreams. I posted a review of The Shadow of Calvary, by Hugh Martin on the blog.

The NHS is doing a marvellous job in immensely challenging circumstances, as are other essential services. Schools are doing their bit by looking after the children of key workers. Earlier in the week I responded to the call to serve as a 'GoodSAM' volunteer. Intriguing that the initiative is named after a parable of Jesus (Luke 10:25-37). Still waiting to hear what they want me to do. We tried to drop off some food and essential items at Crosspoint  this afternoon, but it was shut. Another chap arrived with a bag full of goodies at the same time as us. Was supposed to be open. Maybe they are having difficulty in getting people to staff the facility? 

I hope the government's restrictions on everyday life will be lifted as soon as can be done. Our civil liberties should only be curtailed temporarily. The over 70s often help run things like food banks, which are now struggling to operate when needed most. Churches are an active presence in their communities, organising toddler groups and so on. It seems a bit excessive that solitary dog owners are having their collars felt (slight pun intended) by the police for diving their cars to remote spots to take their pets for a walk.

Today it was announced that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock are now in self-isolation, having contracted coronavirus. I pray that they will have a speedy recovery and that God will guide them as they continue to lead the government's response to COVID19. Human frailty is common to all, for

"All  flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains for ever.”

I look forward to the time when the scattered church is able to gather for worship, fellowship and service once more. In the meantime, I plan to have another go at livestreaming some Bible ministry on Sunday at 10.30am & 6.00pm and on Wednesday at 7.30pm on our Providence Baptist Church FB page. With the help of God, we press on. 

1 comment:

Garden Codger said...

Dear Guy - I wonder if you are aware of an alternative approach that, we have found, works very well being enthusiastically received by the congregation here (Grace Community Church, Tipton). Rather than explain, please allow me to point you to a "worked example":

After viewing the service you might scroll down to the bottom and see that credit goes to Jack Barber of Whitby Evangelical Church. I would say it's worth 30 minutes of your time to take a look at what is on offer - and time is more precious than ever at the moment!

Mike Smith