Pastoral Letter, 18th March 2020.
Dear church family,
I'm writing to inform you that our elders have suspended Sunday morning public gatherings (both Sunday School classes and our worship service) until further notice. You'll hopefully have seen our previous communication suspending all other gatherings of the church.
In doing this we want to obey our governors and seek to avoid spreading this virus, insofar as we're able. Also, Brentwood County High School is now pausing all external bookings.
In times of emergency such as this we understand that it isn't sinful for Christian people to not meet together (Hebrews 10:24-25 warns against a willing refusal to gather). It is, however, a grieving thing for us to be denied the fellowship of the saints and the other "means of grace" which the Lord uses to strengthen us. The church is the "assembly" of God and we will feel the consequences of not being able to gather.
Personal response: what should you do?
First: this is an exceptional time under the hand of God, in which we can reflect (on our life, our church, our community), pray (for the sick, for medical professionals, for the unsaved, for our own fellowship, for our mission partners), and offer what help we can.
Second: look to reach outwards - especially to elderly or vulnerable neighbours; and to fellow church members. Practically, if you don't have access to the secure online church address book please email firstname.lastname@example.org (or ring me on 01277 217367); this is an important way for us to stay in touch with each other
Third: prioritize Lord's Day worship. Later this week I'll be in touch with a practical plan (probably involving a bit of technology) to enable church members in their own homes to engage in personal or family worship. The aim will be that we gather together simultaneously - to hear God's word read and preached, to pray, to sing. Online Christian resources won't and shouldn't feel the same as gathering together with our own church family. But let me urge you strongly to make Sunday morning at home - in whatever form it evolves - part of your weekly discipline for as long we're unable physically to meet.
Getting in touch with the team
Our elders, women's workers and fellowship group leaders will be important in responding to different forms of need - be it practical (e.g. food, health) or spiritual (e.g. discouragement, loneliness). Please get in touch if there are ways in which we can help now or if you would simply like a chat. If you can’t find contact details for a particular team member please email email@example.com (or ring me on 01277 217367).
Lastly, the next few weeks may prove to be a financial burden for those whose jobs are affected. If you're in need of assistance (e.g. from our hardship fund) please contact one of the elders.
With love in Christ,