Can I declare a few things. Fitzroy is not closed… Jesus ascension has not been rescinded… The Holy Spirit is where he always has been, creating over the void and dark depths.
The news yesterday that church buildings would be closed to gatherings for a fortnight created a reaction. I understand some of it. The vast majority of churches have been working extremely hard on keeping to the safety guidelines on restrictions, social distancing, masks, no loud singing, no coffee after the service etc.
It has worked in most places but sadly not in all places. A few churches have made the news. I am aware of people having to isolate after someone at a service tested positive the day after and I know ministers who have had to isolate and indeed tested positive too. Even with the strictest of regimes this virus can impact.
So I understand the Executives decision. I am aware some colleagues might not and that is ok. We can disagree. I am aware that for other churches it is probably more essential to meet than it is for us in Fitzroy. We are blessed with a good team to do church on-line and a congregation able to access it.
Whatever our initial reactions though I would call my brother and sisters in church leadership to move forward with a positive attitude. We come into a season when the most amazing story will be told Sunday after Sunday. We will hear of a God who sacrificed all his rights because a virus of the soul was killing the whole of humanity. Let us follow that God and see it is a privilege to sacrifice our rights as a witness to the baby born and laid in straw.
Let us also declare that the buildings might be closed but the Churches certainly are not. Fitzroy’s Zoom Prayer Meeting this week was one of the most inspirational prayer meetings that I have have ever been at. It is fake news to suggest that we cannot connect with each other and God in the virtual world. I am aware too of home groups flourishing on Zoom. Baby and Toddler, children and youth ministry and more continue even if we cannot meet.
Fitzroy’s on-line service has us reaching across the world with regular “attenders” in western Canada, mid west America, across the UK and Europe and all the way to Bangladesh and Australia. We have had hundreds more at our services online than regularly attend Fitzroy on a Sunday morning.
That on-line potential so excites me as a minister coming into Advent. Fitzroy are viewing this particular Christmas as a month of Mission. Has there ever been a Christmas where the world needs light and love and hope and peace more than in 2020? We are seeking out imaginative ways to reach into people’s lives as individual members. We are also imagining how we can use virtual resources to share the glorious story of Emmanuel right across the entire world. Emmanuel means God With Us and there is no better news for a world in isolation and socially distancing than to know that God has broken every distance to move in among us.
Oh no! Fitzroy is not closed. Jesus ascension has not been rescinded and the Holy Spirit really is creating above the seeming dark void.