A few people have said that they haven't been receiving my emails. Below is a copy of the email that was sent on Friday 13th March 2020...
The country is having to respond to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Therefore, the Village Church has to respond, and our response should be at least threefold:
First, we should respond practically. This includes following NHS advice to stay at home if we have coronavirus symptoms (a high temperature and a new, continuous cough). This also includes regularly washing our hands with soap and water (or with hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are unavailable). Our practical response will also include what we do together on Sunday mornings. For example, this coming Sunday morning we will still share the Lord’s Supper but rather than breaking the bread person-by-person the bread will be prepared in advance. This coming Sunday morning, after the service, we will serve drinks but not biscuits (it’s not uncommon to see a child pick up a biscuit and then put it back down again!) The refreshments team have recently been encouraging people to bring their own cups and now would be a good time for all of us to start doing that. If schools are closed in the coming weeks it could be that we’re not able to meet together at Mangotsfield Primary School. If this is the case it will require a careful and creative practical response from all of us.
Second, we should respond pastorally. The coronavirus outbreak is a clear reminder of how fragile and frail we all are. At the creation God placed the world under the rule of humanity. However, according to the New Testament letter of Hebrews, this is no longer what we see. As a result of humanity’s sin and God’s curse, ‘…we do not see everything subject to [humanity]’ (Hebrews 2:8). Each and every coronavirus headline is a reminder of that. ‘But we do see Jesus’ (Hebrews 2:9). Humanity doesn’t exercise authority over creation, but there is one human, Jesus Christ, who when he was on earth exercised absolute authority. He healed the sick and he raised the dead. Then he died and rose again, and the New Testament letter of Hebrews calls him ‘…the pioneer of [our] salvation…’ (Hebrews 2:10). Jesus is our leader and we’re his followers, and where Jesus is we will one day be. One day humanity will be restored - there will be no sickness and no death - and we will rule over a New Creation.
When this world feels out of control we don’t need to panic. Jesus is in complete control. He is our hope. And seeing Jesus (Hebrews 2:8) sustains our hope. Our goal at the Village Church - as always - is to know Jesus and make him known. Or to see Jesus and make him seen. In the second and third centuries there was a lot of early church growth because of the way Christians responded to major outbreaks of the plague. Whereas pagan priests left the cities for the safety of the countryside, Christians stayed to care for one another. As a result people saw their hope and people saw Jesus. COVID-19 could be an opportunity for people to see our hope and for people to see Jesus. Caring for one another in the coming weeks could involve caring for the sick or the self-isolating. If this is the case, especially if we have to avoid physical contact, it will require a careful and creative pastoral response from all of us.
Third, we should respond prayerfully. I’m sure many of us are praying on our own about the coronavirus. However, this Sunday afternoon - 4:30pm until 5:30pm at Mangotsfield Primary School - we’ll be praying together about it. If you’ve never been to a Prayer Meeting before, or if you rarely come, this Sunday afternoon would be a great time for you to be there. I hope so.
Warmly in Christ,
Jonny and John