I trust you are well and continuing to get through this unusual time of lockdown.
Psalm 103 says, ‘Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.’
Pandemics and times of difficulty in general should cause us to reflect on God and to remember Him. Psalm 103 encourages us to ‘not forget’ all God’s benefits, or blessings. The things which we take for granted, such as our health, should be reasons for gratitude to the Lord. He has given us all life, health and strength – as well as new life for Christians. He has redeemed us by the death of Christ (e.g. Romans 5.8-9).
As a church we want to continue to pray to the Lord for an end to this pandemic. As we do so, let us remember to be grateful to him for all his good gifts and that as we come out of lockdown we would be even more thankful for the freedoms which we have missed.
Church after lockdown
You may well have heard that there has been some progress towards churches reopening both in the Republic and in NI. I will share with you what I know at this time.
The NI Executive has announced that places of worship should plan on the basis of reopening from the week beginning Monday 29 June. The Executive will confirm this date next Thursday, dependent on the virus remaining under control.
The bishop is due to meet with diocesan clergy this coming Wednesday (by Zoom) so I presume I will know more then. After that, we will arrange a meeting of the Select Vestry and begin to make plans for church gatherings. No doubt there will be restrictions put in place for some time and I imagine it will be necessary to continue with online services to accommodate those unable to gather. Safety procedures, the number attending church, social distancing, community singing, the frequency of services in the one building are only some of many issues that have to be taken into consideration. One of my main concerns is Holy Communion as I am conscious that we have not been able to celebrate it for so long. I am expecting guidance from the diocese as we consider services of the Lord’s Supper.
I know that some parishioners are nervous about returning to church while others are sorely missing meeting together. I would encourage you to pray about the situation and for each other as we patiently make preparations. While we are grateful to the Lord for the online technology he has provided for us to produce videos, the essence of the biblical word ekklesia (church) is ‘gathering’ and anything less than this can only ever be second best.
In short, I cannot give a firm date yet for when church services will resume or what format they will have but we should know more this time next week.
Moral and Social Issues
I personally have found the recent decisions on moral issues taken by Parliament at this time of pandemic highly distressing. Westminster voting this week to force liberal abortion laws on Northern Ireland has been described as ‘one of the darkest days’ in our Province’s history. It effectively permits abortions to take place up to 24 weeks for any reason, and up to birth if the baby is deemed to have a ‘severe’ disability. The Christian Institute provides further details on its website, including how the will of our local Assembly has been ignored.
You will also find information and comment on how MPs approved the no-fault divorce Bill for England and Wales this week. If the pandemic has given cause for us to remember God, sadly many of our politicians do not appear to be listening.
Next Friday we will be having our little initiative ‘Faithful Delivery’ to keep our spirits up in this time of lockdown. We would like it to be something of a surprise so I won’t give you the details but every household belonging to Knockbreda will receive a little treat. We still need some volunteers to make this ‘Faithful Delivery’ so if you can help in making a delivery in your car please contact Linda Butterwick (07801389971) or myself as soon as you can. Thank you to Linda and her team for making the necessary arrangements.
We will continue to gather online for church on Sundays – on YouTube from 10.30am and then 6.30pm. For this week’s Morning Service you could read Revelation chapter 5, and for the evening service John 10. Go to the Knockbreda YouTube channel and look in Playlists, Sunday Services.
On Sunday week (the 28th) at 10.30am will have our Children’s Day service. We plan to have boys and girls from the Sunday School taking part – and others – and we are grateful to our Sunday School teachers for arranging prizes and presents of books.
As lockdown continues to ease I am very happy to visit parishioners for prayer – socially distanced in your garden – so please contact me if you would like me to.
Pray for our leaders
I believe our political and church leaders need great wisdom at this particular point in the pandemic. I would encourage you to pray for them – and indeed world leaders at this time. I trust you find the following prayer adapted from Church Society useful:
Our gracious Father, thank you for all those working in health care, and especially those in our congregation who are serving the community within the NHS and public health bodies. Grant them, and all who work in essential services, protection and strength for each day’s challenges, and to work with skill and patience. We also pray for the Prime Minister, the Health Secretary, our local politicians and the chief medical and scientific officers that they and those who work with them will have wisdom and insight sufficient for the decisions they need to make at this difficult time. We ask in Jesus’s name, Amen
Take care. God bless,