June 2020

‘For to me to live is Christ, to die is gain!’ Philippians 1:21

Death was a very real possibility for Paul who understood the losses of lockdown/imprisonment. Death was the favourable option – to be with Christ forever is better by far! Yet, he understood God’s purpose in keeping him alive – to keep preaching Christ and honouring his name (remotely or otherwise). Easier said than done!

Thursday 19 March

Ray: The day before his birthday, Ray was coughing. ‘It’s not persistent,’ he said. ‘I feel fine,’ he said. ‘I don’t have a fever,’ he said. ‘It’s not corona,’ he said. ‘Too much to do,’ he thought.

Rebekah: ‘No time to be ill,’ I thought. We had four days’ notice until churches would no longer be allowed to meet. ‘How do we do church when we can’t meet?’ I questioned. I emailed the elders: ‘We need a plan!’ My thoughts shouted, ‘We are not set up to do this!' ‘We need IT support and equipment,’ screamed my flesh. ‘This is impossible!’ I despaired. ‘Why were we not more prepared?’ spoke my common sense. ‘Help us Lord!’ called my soul. I arranged an emergency livestreaming tutorial with our Facebook expert!

Naomi: Still in Germany, having left Italy just before COVID took hold, Naomi questioned: ‘Should I stay or should I go? I can lockdown here, I can carry on working for now…’ And then the decision came. Universities were calling back all their students before the borders imminently closed. ‘Can I book a flight? Will I be able to leave? Will I be able to return? Is this my year abroad over?’ The flight was booked for Friday 20 March in the evening. She would see her dad on his birthday after all!

Sunday 22 March - Mothering Sunday - church in lockdown!

Ray: Still coughing and feeling worse-for-wear, Ray was up for an early elders meeting but back in bed soon after. ‘Sleep should help!’ he thought. ‘I’ll be OK, I just need to get through the livestream’. That’s what we’d decided - Facebook livestream! Welcome, prayers, sermon and notices. But what notices? Everything planned was up in the air? No! It could still happen. Everything converted overnight to Zoom! Teams! Skype! Meets? Is that even a thing? Remarkably by God’s grace, Ray preached without coughing. All signs of corona invisible on Facebook (except for Rebekah’s suspicious coughing in the background!).

Rebekah: Not the preacher or the singer but now the newly-appointed IT queen. From casual Facebook scroller to live-streamer in just 24 hours! Another level of stress! There were many glitches: with me, with the laptop, with the internet. What’s remarkable is that, in the two-minute delay to going ‘live’, you can receive so many WhatsApp messages asking, ‘What’s going on?’ Do you stop to politely answer the queries or do you work frantically to resolve the glitches? ‘I am not cut out for this!’ I screamed out loud. The devil was having a field-day that Sunday!

Monday 23 March - Schools are closed. All six of us are home in self-isolation.

Noah: ‘Hooray, no school!’

Natalia: ‘What about my A Level exams? What about my school prom? What about my plans for the summer? Could the timing be any worse?’

Nathanael: (Civil engineer apprentice working on Tideway Project) ‘Imposed isolation because Dad has corona! Instead of working on an exciting construction site, I’m now given mind-numbing remote desk work from home ☹. But I’m still being paid! 😊'

Ray: Flattened with flu! Fever, fatigue, aches, sweats, incessant coughing. ‘Is this the corona? Who knows? Anyway, there are sermons to prepare - a completely new sermon series that will address a congregation struggling with the anxiety of lockdown and a life-threatening pandemic.' Two hours of sermon prep then back to bed.

Rebekah: Ray is really sick. It’s obviously corona. Are we all going to catch it? We can’t leave the house! I need to order a shopping delivery but there are no slots available! What if Ray is not well enough to preach? Who will step in? How long will we have to livestream? How can we care for those who are vulnerable? What about our neighbours? We need to self-isolate! We are so useless! Help us Lord!

The next few weeks were a blur. Ray got sicker, spending most of the day and night in bed. He never got tested but what else could it be? Spared hospitalisation and worse, he managed to preach a short sermon each week. Flip and Flop were scripted to provide a linked children’s slot with Nathanael and Natalia as the puppeteers. The five of us escaped with minimal or short-lasting symptoms. By the time we all recovered and were allowed to leave the house, the world outside had changed. Crossing the street to avoid your neighbour still feels wrong, even if it is necessary. Every event, camp, meeting or gathering that was in the diary for the summer had been cancelled or gone remote. This was the new ‘normal’.

Friday 22 May

Like everyone, we have settled into working and schooling remotely. Our services are now pre-recorded and Premiered! There is added stress and complexity that comes with all this. Certainly more, rather than less, to do and inevitable screen fatigue. Some daily reminders that:

  • We are not in control but the Lord is.
  • We are weak but the Lord is strong.
  • We propose our plans but the Lord disposes of them.
Natalia's 18th birthday

A good time to reflect on the greatness of our Sovereign Lord who orchestrates every event in history, his imminent inescapable judgement that calls for our repentance, his gracious salvation through his Son in whom we trust and his wonderful truth that must go out to all nations. Praise God for Jesus – our hope and our joy!

Praise God for:

  • The gospel of hope.
  • Health and provision, too easily taken for granted.
  • Church family and being able to meet although we are apart.

Pray for:

  • Wisdom in planning.
  • His strength to keep and sustain us.
  • Perseverance in preaching Christ.
  • Effective gospel witness to our locked-down neighbours.

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