For the past three weeks we have been able to spend time in each other’s gardens, as long as we adhere to the government’s guidelines (social distancing, no more than six people etc), so at the first opportunity we took to the M25 in order to visit our daughter, son-in-law and little granddaughter. It was terribly hard to keep them all at 2 metres distance, but it was wonderful to breathe the same air and to talk to them face to face. The same applied to our visit to our son and daughter-in-law, as although we had all met up regularly online, there was no substitute for being together physically, even at arm’s length! We are sure that you have done likewise if at all possible, and you might even be able to form ‘bubbles’ with some of your family or friends, so that you can actually hold your precious loved ones in your arms again.
Baptist church life should be the same. Early Baptists believed that faith must be experienced by individual choice, as a result of the free gift of the grace of God, so congregations of like-minded believers came together to worship God through prayer and preaching, believers baptism and sharing communion. They were inspired by the New Testament pattern of church, and because they were often on the margins of society they built links with other like-minded congregations. Associations were therefore part of their life from an early date, so gathering together is a very Baptistic way of being church. If we are missing that way of church life now, it’s because we are made in God’s image, and He is in the business of bringing people together in community.
But as we have seen in previous bulletins, that doesn’t mean that He will do so in exactly the same way as before, once this crisis is over. In our very first Keeping Connected bulletin, we said ‘God… is in the business of making all things new. He takes the things which we treasure, but which are naturally flawed and sometimes broken, and makes them into something new and durable, so perhaps He is doing so today…’. Those words are still true, as we continue to grapple with what the practical logistics of gathering together will entail. Of course, it’s great that we can do so much online, and it’s likely that there will be no going back – new technologies will be part of church life from now on, and we will benefit greatly from them. So please get involved in our Zoom groups, join with us in praying together on Wednesday lunchtimes and Saturday mornings, and above all please watch and take part in our Sunday morning service so that we can still enjoy worshipping God together. These things keep us connected – and it’s vital that they do.
But when we can gather together again, no matter how far off that may be, it’s vitally important that we still feel the need to do so, sharing physical space as the body of Christ. We will never again take for granted being in the same room as those we love most, hugging them and not having to keep distance between us! So please don’t get too comfortable with ‘sofa church’ in your pyjamas – the time will come when we can once again walk through our doors on Smiths Lane, in whatever new ways God chooses to use.
With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline