I have spent my entire life passionately encouraging people to come to church and I never imagined that a time would come when I would be closing a church building for a time. These are unprecedented times and none of us has experienced anything quite like it before.
There is something deeply rooted in us that makes us want to gather together. When we gather we share solidarity and we build each other up in our faith. There is so much about our Christian life that involves getting together and we feel a tremendous sense of loss when that is gone. Some of you have already been experiencing these feelings for some time because you have been housebound and unable to come out to services. You have adapted and found ways to be spiritually fed and to be part of the church family from where you are and you are prayed for by name every week at the Thursday prayer meeting, but it’s not easy.
All of us now have to adapt during this period of uncertainty. We are missing our House Groups, clubs, activities, services, visits and the spiritual sustenance and companionship we find from them. We’re missing one another. We in the Brierley family are feeling very sad about not seeing you all. You are our extended family and we share our lives with you. The children miss their friends and the rhythm of getting together at church in their groups and activities, as well all do.
Being the church feels different at the moment and it’s important to acknowledge that we are feeling loss, sadness, anxiety and a whole host of other emotions, not just in relation to the loss of our usual church life but in many other areas too. Those emotions are natural and shared by us all but we won’t be overcome by them. We are still the church, and each of us now needs to take responsibility for ensuring that we keep in contact with one another and that we put healthy pattens in place to help us to grow spiritually. What can we do?
• Read the Bible. Let us take some of this extra time we have to read the Bible in large chunks, whole books at a time. It’s a totally different experience and gives us a much deeper understanding than just reading a few verses at a time.
• Phone, text, email one another. If someone pops into your mind, call them. Enjoy long, unhurried chats in the same way as you normally would over a cup of coffee.
• Pray, pray, pray. We are praying much more deliberately as a family. We pray for each other, for all of you, about the things we are worried about and we ask God to work in the midst of this unsettling season. Never underestimate the power of prayer. What a gift to be able to tell someone else that you are praying for them.
Pray for those who are hit the hardest by this: those who have lost loved ones, those who are unwell, those who are lonely, those who have lost work and income, those who are on the frontlines of medical care and other key roles which keep food supplies and medical provisions available, those caring for the vulnerable, those facing complex decisions, schools and those who work in them, those who are grieving the loss of special things they had planned during this time such as weddings, and all who are fearful.
• Sing! I hope many of you are singing along with our live-stream services! Why not throw away those inhibitions and raise your voice in praise at other times too? Put on some songs or hymns to sing along to. The power of music is not to be underestimated and the words serve to bring the truths we believe to the fore of our minds. You might like to tune into Premier Radio or Premier Praise (which is more music based) for some spiritual solidarity.
• Help Others Some who are able to go out and about at times during this period will be able to offer acts of service to others by shopping, picking up prescriptions and the like. If you can, please let David Tuson know to add your name to his list. If you need help, please ask us because there have already been plenty of offers.
Whether or not you can go out, your prayers and your phone calls can also make a huge difference to others. How about making or writing cards to send to others or writing letters as well.
We are in the season of Lent where we especially remember the time of testing that Jesus faced alone in the wilderness. During that time he was tested in every way and afterwards he emerged ready to embark on his ministry. When we emerge from this crisis, things may look different and it may take time to adjust, but we can be sure that God will use this time in all sorts of ways. God is still sovereign and at work in each of our lives, and we will share wonderful stories of his faithfulness during this time, of that I have no doubt. As someone pointed out to me recently, every miracle in the Bible began with a problem. We believe in a God of miracles, a God who is constantly caring, calling and intimately involved in our lives.
So my appeal to you is this – live as people of faith and not of fear. Remember that perfect love casts our fear. We are children of God and our task in the midst of this is to show Jesus to the world, albeit in some different ways to usual.
Let your lights shine brightly
With love from Lucy and, of course, from Justin, Noah, Grace, Jeremy and Toby.