Sunday, April 26, 2020

Plague Journal: Week 6

A song I really hated in the late 70s was 'Video Killed the Radio Star' by The Buggles. A harbinger of trashy 80s synth pop. At the time (1979) the angry class war of The Jam's 'Eton Rifles' was more my thing. But we're all wannabe video stars now in the ongoing disaster movie that is the coronavirus pandemic. One of those disaster movies where the protagonists are lost in a wood where dangers lurk behind every tree. 

Preachers make for poor 'video stars'. We have a go. Our sermons are livestreamed via Facebook Go Live, or pre recorded on YouTube and posted at the usual church service times. It's ministry, but not as we know it. Video negates the element of human interaction between preacher and congregation that is of the essence of true preaching. Messages are delivered to an unblinking camera that captures every awkward pause for thought and odd facial expression.

The thumbnail extracted from YouTube videos when the things are posted online always seems to pick a shot of the speaker with a weird face on. I only just found out you can select the thumbnail from a few options. I take comfort from John Benton's 'Face for Radio? blog. John helpfully points out that when it comes to our video efforts, pastors are not show ponies. We are ministers of the Word. Biblical substance matters more than a slick presenting style.  

The journalist John Rentoul had a long running series of articles in The Independent newspaper, Questions to Which the Answer is "No!" Robert Strivens adds to the list in his blog, 'Are we meeting online?' Flesh and blood interactions cannot be replicated on the internet or by phone call. All we can do, says Robert, is encourage each other as best we can in these strange times, even as we long to gather together in person once more. 

That said, I'm gradually getting used to ministry via YouTube. When I'm really gripped by the message self-consciousness recedes and I feel a bit more free. Last Sunday I spoke on Psalm 46 & John 20:24-31. Wednesday's 'Prayer Meeting' talk was on Colossians 1:12-14. My wife asked whether I might smile a little more in these videos. I guess that's another Question to Which the Answer is "No!"

Like others, our church fellowship and prayer meetings are taking place via video conference call. It's been Skype for us on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings, but I've been told Zoom is the way to go. I took part in my first Zoom meeting on Wednesday morning, under the auspices of South West Gospel Partnership. Seemed to go OK. A better format than Skype for group chats. It was good to know that some of the larger churches are pretty much doing the same things as us, but on a bigger scale. It was also useful to reflect on what church life and activities might look like post-lockdown, but with shielding (for some) and social distancing (for all) still in place. See here for a SWGP blog reflecting on 'Ministry in the Coronavirus age'. 

We had a church officers' meeting via Skype on Thursday evening. We reviewed how things are going, considered whether all of our people were getting regular contact and checked that Bible ministry was getting through to everyone. CDs are being delivered to people with no internet access. I'm going to host a Zoom 'dummy run' meeting for church officers on Monday evening as a step towards moving to that format in place of Skype. With a bit of help from my techy friends I've worked out how to allow those with only a landline to participate in Zoom meetings, which will enable us to include more of our people in times of fellowship and prayer.

Each month I write articles for local parish magazines circulated around the villages of Dilton Marsh and West Lavington. The Dilton Marsh mag is only published in hard copy and won't be coming out in May due to lockdown. To my surprise they've found a way of posting the West Lavington one online, and so the editor was in touch to see if I could do something. I submitted a piece on, 'A very present help in trouble', reflecting on the current crisis from a Christian perspective. I'll post it on the blog in due course.  

Friends have for some time been waxing lyrical about Netflix drama, The Crown. Not having a subscription, it passed us by. Three ten episode series have now come out. We only usually watch a bit of telly in the evenings. Before the pandemic struck I often had meetings of various kinds at that time of the day, so catching up would have been difficult. Plus, you have to pay a monthly fee for Netflix, which would have been on top of our Virgin Media bill. However, last Saturday we took the plunge, paid our £5.99 and now we're six episodes in to Season 1. We thought we'd splash out now that we can no longer go out for lunch on a Saturday (my day off), or watch a film in the cinema, etc.

Overall, The Crown is really well done. Brilliantly acted. Some elements are in poor taste, though. The coronation episode was especially poignant, with the juxtaposition of the Duke of Windsor watching the Queen getting crowned on TV. The first couple of shows were dominated by the demise of King George VI. It's an iron rule in film and telly land that if a character coughs, they are bound to die soon. Poor old George coughed a lot, which was a bit covidy, but it was lung cancer, not a virus that did for him.

My current 'big read' is Systematic Theology by Robert Letham. Last week I'd got as far as page 311. Now I'm on Part 4: The Image of God, this week reading chapters 11 & 12 on 'Humanity in Creation' and 'Humanity in Covenant', which brought me up to p. 365. Very helpful treatments, especially of the 'covenant of works', or 'covenant of life' in chapter 12. Not a strict legal covenant, because God has always dealt with humanity on the basis of grace, regulated by works. Even more so after the fall. 'Humanity in Sin' is the next chapter. Letham's is rapidly becoming one of my favourite STs, although I guess I will have some disagreements with his Presbyterian stance on the covenant of grace and infant baptism. When will Reformed Baptists rise to the challenge of producing a landmark Systematic Theology? 

I was saddened to hear of the death of Irving Steggles earlier in the week. See this tribute by Bill James, current principal of London Seminary, where Irving served as chair of the board for many years. He was also moderator of Providence & Ebenezer churches when I was called to the joint-pastorate in 2003. A gracious and godly brother with a real heart for pastors and churches. "And I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Write this: blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on'. 'Blessed indeed,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labours and their works follow them'" (Revelation 14:13-14)

There are signs that the government is moving towards easing lockdown measures. The nod has been given for some sectors to get back to work. Writing in The Times on Saturday Matthew Parris was right to argue, Ministers can’t keep hiding behind the science. While ministers should take note of scientific advice, lifting lockdown is a political decision. A balance need to be struck. Yes, the vulnerable must be shielded and the NHS can't be overwhelmed by Covid-19 sufferers. Yet the economic and social costs of the government's 'stay at home' policy could prove disastrous if allowed to go on for too long. The indications are that PM will return to work sometime this week. He'll need the wisdom of Solomon as he grapples with the toughest call of his political life. At least we can pray on his behalf, James 1:5. 

For our Saturday walk we had a wander around Clanger and Picket Woods, where the bluebells are a magnificent sight at this time of year (see below). As we walked I couldn't help thinking of the Paul Weller track, 'Wild Wood', with its promise, 'you're gonna find your way out of the wild, wild wood'. 

Plague Journal: Week 1Week 2, Week 3Week 4, Week 5

Friday, April 17, 2020

Plague Journal: Week 5

Plague Journal: Week 1Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

On Thursday the government announced that lockdown will continue for another three weeks, as it is too early to relax the measures designed to combat coronavirus. Meanwhile, political leaders are under pressure to make their exit plans public. There is a growing realisation that the economic and social costs of a long-continued lockdown could prove disastrous. 

After last week's busyness on the ministry videos front, this week was a bit quieter. I prepared and recorded Easter Sunday talks on 'The sign of the prophet Jonah' and 'The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit'. I also made a 'Prayer Meeting' video on 'Strengthened with all power'. Pre-recording videos that are then uploaded to YouTube has meant I'm no longer battling with the frustrations of Facebook Go Live. 

But it makes doing the talks feel even more remote. Rattling on at my mobile phone screen isn't the same as preaching to a gathered congregation. I miss the personal interaction you get when preaching and, of course other aspects of gathered worship that can't be replicated online. A pastor friend of mine felt the same when we spoke on the phone the other day. 

We haven't worked out a way of singing together. It seems odd to record myself praying for people to view later, so I don't do that. The Lord's Supper is for the gathered church, 'when you come together', and we're not in a position to gather at the moment. On Easter Sunday evening I mused, 

There was no livestreaming of the body that stirred and stone that
moved on the first day of the week.

Nothing so remote as that. Only astonished eyes to see and fearful
tongues to tell, "The Lord is risen indeed".

Yes, there are some pros. Viewing stats suggest more people are watching the ministry videos than would ordinarily gather for our meetings. We've had some good chats and prayer times via Skype, but 'virtual church' is no substitute for the real thing. A number of our people aren't internet savvy, but recordings of my messages are being placed on CD for self-isolating members and friends of the fellowship to listen to. 

When speaking to some of our people by phone it has been encouraging to hear that they are bearing up well with the Lord's help and that others from church keeping in touch with them. 'Blessed be the tie that binds'. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, 'But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavoured the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face'. (1 Thessalonians 2:17). 

Monday was a Bank Holiday, so Sarah and I went for a local walk along the bridle path between Westbury and Bratton. It was a lovely day and the route afforded a magnificent view of the town's White Horse. (See pic below). Slides shared at the daily Downing Street press briefings continue to show that the South West has the lowest number of hospital admissions due to Covid-19, which is something else to be thankful for, along with the beautiful countryside. 

I've been able to make a little more headway with Robert Letham's Systematic Theology. In last week's journal entry I was on p. 252, which was more or less in the middle of a very helpful chapter on The interpretation of Scripture, towards the end of 'Part 2: The Word of God'. Now I've just finished 'Part 3: The Works of God', with chapters 9 & 10 on Creation and Providence (up to p. 311). I'm really enjoying Letham's work, which is well written, biblically insightful, theologically rich and historically literate. Unlike some rather dry systematics, you get the impression that this one was written by a human being. 

He has a word of reassurance for devotees of disaster movies, "The Noahic covenant counters...the fear of universal annihilation through a collision with a large asteroid". (p. 295). Well, that's one less thing to worry about. There are even shafts of humour, "He [God] determined that it should rain this morning in Bridgend, Wales - he frequently decides this." (p. 297).

But there are also poignant passages where the author reflects on divine providence in relation to 'Evils, atrocities and major disasters'. We live in a world where trains crash and aeroplanes fall from the sky. Letham recalls hearing the sound of the Harrow and Wealdstone train crash of October 8, 1952 where 112 people died and 350 were injured. He was not yet five years old when he and his mother heard a noise like the 'clash of a large pile of saucepans' twice over. A classmate was deprived of his father on that day.

Were Letham writing today, he might have added coronavirus to the mix. But God is sovereign in all things and nothing happens apart from the outworking of his will. The 'tapestry' of providence may look like a disordered mess of threads to us, but 'God sees the whole in one instantaneous act of cognition.' The resolution of the mystery of providence with all its riddles and enigmas is not for this age, 'being eschatological, at the last judgement, when God sets all things right.' (p. 310).

Until that day the church in this world of suffering and grief cries out, 'How long, O Lord?'

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter: A Matter of Life and Death?

Bill Shankly the famous Liverpool football manager once quipped, “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that.” Maybe not. As I write elite football matches across the UK have been suspended. Evidently Mr. Shankly didn’t envisage the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic  that is currently ravaging the world and causing havoc to sporting fixtures. By the time you read this (written on 16 March*) the government will no doubt have put additional measures in place to try and halt, or, at least manage the spread of the virus. After all, at least for some, this is a matter of life and death.

People are getting jumpy. The constant stream of news updates on our TVs and phones means there’s no escaping the Coronacrisis. Some are panic buying, although the shops are doing their best to keep shelves stocked with food and essential goods.  In the midst of all this, celebrating Easter may seem a bit frivolous. Some might say, ‘This is no time for bunnies, bonnets and choccy eggs.’ Although, a little innocent diversion may not go amiss in these stressful times.

But the Christian message of Easter is not a bit of fluffy escapism to take our minds off things.  As we ponder the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are reminded that God himself has entered our world of suffering. In his book, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind, the historian Tom Holland writes, “To be a Christian is to believe that God became man, and suffered a death as terrible as any mortal has ever suffered. This is why the cross, that ancient instrument of torture, remains what it always has been: the fitting symbol of the Christian revolution.”

The “Christian revolution” as Holland calls it overturned the values of the ancient world. The poor and needy were no longer regarded as expendable when plagues swept through cities. The Emperor Julian was deeply opposed to the Christian faith. Yet he grudgingly had to admit that followers of Jesus would look after all the sick, not only their believing friends. This attracted even more people to the faith, much to Julian’s annoyance. Today we take it for granted that vulnerable people will receive the care they need when disease strikes.

The cross of Jesus is a symbol of love and self-sacrifice. Jesus said to his followers, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus came into our world of suffering and brokenness to die for our sins that we might be forgiven by faith in him. But suffering and death did not have the last word. On the first Easter Sunday Jesus arose from the dead and met with his disciples. They were left distraught by his death, thinking all was lost. On appearing to his followers Jesus spoke words of reassurance that calmed their troubled souls, “Do not be afraid”, “Peace be with you.” We need to hear those words afresh in these anxious days.

What happened at Easter really was a matter of life and death. More serious than that, by his death and resurrection Jesus offers the hope of everlasting life to those who put their faith in him. The believer can be confident that nothing can separate them from the love of God. As the apostle Paul wrote, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [including viruses!], will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

See our YouTube channel or Facebook page for our Good Friday and Easter Sunday messages. 

* For April's edition of Trinity Magazine, Dilton Marsh & News & Views, West Lavington 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Plague Journal: Week 4

Plague Journal: Week 1Week 2 & Week 3.

I seemed to be getting into more of a routine this week and ministry felt a bit less like trying to wade through treacle, while wearing flippers. Which was nice. The change from using Facebook 'Go Live' to pre-recording YouTube videos has helped. The only hitch was on Sunday afternoon, when someone tried to Skype me when I was recording the Sunday evening message. The video was lost and I had to record it again. It takes an age to upload videos from my mobile phone, so the Sunday evening message was late in posting. Rather than recording using the YouTube app, which requires an internet connection, I now record straight to my phone. That means I can put the device in 'Flight mode' for recording, and then reconnect to upload the video to YouTube. You will find our YouTube channel here

Was a busy week, though. On Monday I recorded two more videos for our 'Virtual Holiday Bible Club' on 'Jonah the Runaway Prophet'. These were in place of the 'proper' HBC that was due to take place on 7-9 April. The story videos seemed to attract a bit of interest and we enjoyed seeing the children's drawings and video clips posted on our Facebook page. For our 'Prayer Meeting', I  gave a message on Colossians 1:10, which was posted at 7.00pm on Wednesday, after which we had a Skype chat/prayer time. I also prepared and  recorded messages for Good Friday and Easter Sunday morning. I have the prep done for Sunday evening, but plan to record it (with the phone in 'Flight mode'!) Sunday afternoon. It doesn't feel altogether like a Sunday to me if I'm not doing some ministry on the day. All our video messages (including the Jonah ones for the young at heart) can be seen on our YouTube channel here

With regular news reports of mounting coronavirus deaths (almost 10,000 in the UK to date), it's wonderful to be able to point people to the One who has defeated death by his death and resurrection, our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Easter services have been cancelled and our church buildings will lie empty on Sunday. But the empty tomb of Jesus fill us with hope, “Fear not [said Jesus], I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades." (Revelation 1:17-18). 

In the meantime Sarah and I have been phoning around members and friends of the churches. They seem to be bearing up well in the circumstances. I was due to have a week off next week, but it seemed a bit 'hireling-like' (John 10:12) to take time out when the flock has been scattered. I can always take a week off later in the year. I've made some more progress with Bob Letham's Systematic Theology, and am now up to p. 252 (was on p. 237 2 weeks ago). Not as much headway as I'd like, admittedly. Hopefully, things will quieten down with only 3 ministry videos to prepare/film per week, which would be the norm.

I seem to be having a spike in friend requests on Facebook. Don't know why I've suddenly become so popular. Must have been about 20 'friend requests' for my approval today. The problem is that some newly accepted 'friends' try and contact me via FB Messenger, asking how I am, and that. Complete strangers. Don't they know I'm British?

For some reason FB is preventing me sharing my blog posts. Regular readers will know that apart from the typos there is never anything offensive on here. Yes, some people might disagree with my Christian stance, but free speech and all that. Attempts at appealing the 'block' have hitherto been unsuccessful. You are reading the blog Facebook wants to ban. That's how bad you are.

Thankfully, the PM is now out of intensive care. Political attention is beginning to shift to when the lockdown measures might be lifted. Some commentators worry that the economic cost of combating Covid-19 might prove to be almost as harmful to society as the virus itself. Lockdown may be eased gradually, by geography and age group. Being as some areas/ages are less affected than others. It seems likely that schools will reopen sometime after the Easter break.

Around here people are behaving very responsibly when it comes to social distancing, whether when out for a walk, or in the shops. Panic buying has virtually ceased. The Home Secretary has told the police not to overdo it when enforcing social distancing. Threatening to check people's shopping bags for 'non-essential goods' was way over the top. The government has confirmed that shops which may remain open can sell anything on their shelves. We bought some bargain priced Easter eggs. Big uns too. For our government approved daily exercise we've enjoyed some nice local walks, exploring parts of Westbury we don't often frequent, including some secluded pathways to the town's famous White Horse.

Seeing it the other day (photo below) put me in mind of the the ominous 'pale horse' of the Book of Revelation, "And I looked and, behold, a pale horse! And it's rider's name was Death and Hades followed him." (Revelation 6:8-9). Not that I'm suggesting Westbury's landmark equestrian icon has anything to do with the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse. But it seems the dread rider is on the move at the moment.

Less apocalyptically, I've been approved as a 'GoodSam' NHS Responder. Been waiting by the 'Batphone' for a call to assist someone in distress for days (64 on duty hours), but not a squeak. Although, aside from that scheme, an elderly neighbour rang for help earlier in the week. She wanted a couple of multipack bags of ready salted crisps. Walkers if poss. Mission accomplished. Not all heroes wear capes, I think you'll agree.  

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Plague Journal: Week 3

Plague Journal: Week 1 & Week 2

So, this is Week 3 here on Planet Lockdown. Many of the things I used to do in the course of regular pastoral ministry are out of bounds. No visiting, no church services or activities. No church officers' meetings. No meetings with leaders of other churches, and so on. 

At the beginning of all this I thought I might have more time to read and stuff, but since the Week 2 update, I've made no further progress on Bob Letham's Systematic Theology. Not that I've been diverted to read anything else instead. It's just that Covid-19 seems to have messed around with the speed of time, or something. 

A time consuming thing this week was trying to find an alternative to using Facebook's 'Go Live' for livestreaming Bible ministry. Last Sunday was something of a disaster. At the end of the day I posted on Facebook, "With wonky camera angles and signal losses this has been a challenging day in the work of 'Guy Davies Global Ministries'. All I have is a mobile phone, three points and the truth."

In the morning's talk on Psalm 44 I didn't notice that I'd inadvertently disabled my phone's auto-rotate, with the result that to people watching I was at an odd angle. The burden of my message was that 'faithfulness sometimes looks like failure'. I didn't intend there to be such an unhappy convergence of style and substance.

In the evening I spoke on 'The Suffering of Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King'. I've been using our dining room as a makeshift 'studio' for videoing talks, as it has a table to rest stuff on and plain walls as a backdrop. I elevated my phone to eye level by placing it on top of a pile of sofa cushions, and then a book or two. Trouble is the WiFi router is in the study upstairs and the signal failed midway through the livestream. In something of a scene change, I had to scarper upstairs and complete the talk in the study. The trouble with filming in the study is that my books are a distraction to viewers, not to mention my pet monkey David Sky, and other assorted random things.

People have suggested I use Zoom rather than FB Go Live, but I don't get how it works. Skype is OK for small group chats/prayer times, but no good for online 'services'. Yes, there's YouTube, but because I'm limited to using my mobile for vids, YouTube won't allow me to livestream. You need 1000 subscribers to your channel for that. To date, I have 2. I could livestream on YouTube using my PC. No minimum subscriber then, but the inbuilt mic on my creaky old Dell is pretty useless. I've ordered a tie mic from eBay, but stuff takes an age by post these days.

On seeing my confession of failure on Facebook, a friend commented that in their church they pre-record on YouTube and then publish online at the regular service times. I worked out how to do that on my mobile and used the format for Wednesday evening's 'Prayer Meeting' talk on Colossians 1:9, 'Your will be done'. Seemed alright from a tech point of view, anyway.

Next week we were due to have a Holiday Bible Club, but we had to cancel. In its place I thought I'd have a go at creating some YouTube talks on 'Jonah the runaway prophet'. I obtained some PowerPoint slides from the excellent Free Bible Images and sought their permission to use them online, which they were fine with. The thing then was to work out how to set up our living room so we could use a digital projector for the PowerPoints, with me narrating the story. All filmed on my phone. We had to set up the projector on a dining room chair, on top of a small table, elevated ever so slightly using some coasters. We used a selfie-stick for my phone, attaching it to the chair with some big elastic bands. We're not expecting a BAFTA/Oscar for cinematography.

The demo was OK, so we moved to 'full production' yesterday morning, hoping to get all three talks 'in the can'. We only managed to do one, as my phone's memory card ran out of space just as Talk 1 was coming to an end. It took ages to upload the 10 minute film to YouTube, so I could delete the video to free up space. One talk was was all we had time for in the end. Hopefully all three talks will go out at 10.15am, Tuesday-Thursday of next week.

I'd prepared the talks for Sunday morning and evening earlier in the week. Yesterday afternoon I made the You-Tube video for Sunday's 10.30am 'service'. Pre-recording isn't quite the same as livestreaming and I couldn't get my head around videoing myself praying for people to watch later. But the pre-recorded YouTube ministry will still include Bible readings and a talk. As in preaching I use notes as prompts, rather than reading from a script. That leaves a bit of room for improvisation, usually within the overall structure of the message, and makes for better 'eye contact'. God willing I'll pre-record Sunday evening's talk earlier on Sunday afternoon, for sharing on our FB page at 6.00pm.

Such as they are, you can see our Go Live talks here and the YouTube videos here.
Sarah (my wife) and I have been keeping in touch with members and friends of the church via emails, phone calls, text messages and Skype chats. They all seem to be doing well at the moment. While we're doing what we can to maintain fellowship and offer Bible ministry online, there is no substitute for the meetings of the gathered church. I agreed with Garry Williams' piece on the Pastors' Academy blog, The Lord's Spper in Lockdown? No.

The Lord's Supper is for the physically gathered church. I'm glad we celebrated Communion at our last meeting before social distancing measures kicked in. I look forward to meeting around the Lord's Table with our fellowship when we are next together on a Sunday. Go Live, YouTube, Zoom, or Skype are no substitutes for the gatherings of the church. Bread and wine can't be downloaded. As Garry puts it provocatively, 'cyber suppers' are 'pseudo suppers'.

As for us, we are keeping well, practicing social distancing and frequent handwashing. We only leave the house when necessary to go to the shops or pharmacy. The floor of our local Tesco store has been marked out with a grid to ensure social distancing. It's like being in a video game where other customers are zombie flesheaters, poised to devour you if you stray into their square. Aside from that, government guidelines allow us to go outside for daily exercise. We have enjoyed some nice local walks. 

I'm a school governor and on Tuesday evening we had a virtual governors' meeting using the Windows' Teams app, which seemed to work well. It was a nice slice of (almost) normality in these strange days.

People keep telling me I need to get WhatsApp. They are like, 'Do you have WhatsApp?' Me, 'No'. Then they go, 'It's awful. I'm in loads of groups and people message you about rubbish all the time. You should have WhatsApp.' Me, 'No'. I just had a text message from a number I didn't recognise inviting me to get WhatsApp to keep in touch with the people I care for. What's going on here? Emotional blackmail now. The answer is still, 'No'. 

Meanwhile, the government is coming under increasing pressure over its handling of the coronavirus crisis. The NHS is not getting the equipment it needs and staff aren't being tested in sufficient numbers. That said, a great job was done in opening the Nightingale Hospital in super quick time. PM Boris Johnson is continuing to self-isolate, as he still has symptoms of coronavirus. While some people are calling for even stricter social distancing measures, others are questioning whether the current lockdown is a proportionate response, given the likely economic and social consequences. 

A steep economic downturn will lead to high unemployment, which leads to poverty, which in turn shortens life expectancy. Post-crash austerity may be nothing compared with the post-coronavirus cuts to public services. Without wealth generation nothing can be paid for. The government must give the NHS what it needs to cope with COVID19 cases, the most vulnerable should be sheltered, we should maintain social distancing and good hygiene, but leaving the economy in ruins would only serve to make a bad situation worse. The Times reports this morning that a key government advisor is calling for a 'way out of lockdown'. May the Lord grant the authorities the wisdom that they need to make the right calls, 1 Timothy 2:1-4. 

The seriousness of the situation was brought home to me this week by the death of Norman Wells of coronavirus. Norman and I were students together at the London Seminary and he went on to become Director of the Family Education Trust. He was a serious minded and godly brother in Christ. See this report on the Christian Institute website. May our gracious God comfort Norman's wife and family at this time. 

Lord, have mercy.