The staff team and the vestry met on Monday to agree a plan for the coming weeks or months.
We began with Acts 2:42-3 which says:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
There is no need for us to redefine what church is, our job is simply to work out how to be a church at a time where so many of the things we take for granted will be impossible. We view this as a unique moment for the proclamation of the gospel, spiritual growth, pastoral care, and the deepening of relationships between our members; the aim of our plan is not just to do church, but to be an even better church! As Ben said last week, the church is not in survival mode, but rather revival mode. In fact, we are already seeing some signs of this, for example, downloads of our podcast are up 400% and at the time of writing nearly 600 people have watched at least part of last weekend’s service.
Until further notice we will not be meeting for worship but a small group from the staff team will lead a live stream service of Morning Prayer each week at 10am for as long as we are able. If the preacher is unable to be there, they will try to record their sermon from home. Service materials will also be available on the church website for anyone who wishes to pray along with those of us in the room as usual.
It looks unlikely that we will be able to meet for Easter and so our current plan is for one live Good Friday service and one live Easter Sunday Service. We are playing with the idea of some kind of drive-in service in the parking lot, with everyone remaining in their own vehicles but this is subject to any rules that will be in place at that time. We’ll send much more precise details out nearer to the time.
Each week, after service, we’ll also be publishing a new podcast of the staff bible study: a 15-minute discussion of the passage of the day, to help people at home still feel a part of the conversations we usually have after church or at the Adult Forum.
If you don’t have a regular practice of reading or praying at home, either alone or with others this is a great time to try something new. I’m a big fan of the bible software Olive Tree. It’s free to install on a computer or mobile device and you can buy simple commentaries for it as well with background information and notes on the text. You can start off small or build a great theological library, even access the original languages if you want to. I use it every day for my devotional and for work and many of you who have studied with me have downloaded it.
Ben Wulpi is also working on providing some guidance on how to use the Book of Common Prayer at home, where there are prayers and services you can easily use. If you live with someone who is afraid, I’ve always found one specific prayer in the ancient service of Compline to be really comforting. It’s also wonderful to know that even when you are alone, many of our Anglican brothers and sisters all around the world are praying the same prayer that day.
Children & Youth
Children’s and Youth materials will be sent for use by families each week as well. These will include small studies and media clips to help families teach at home. Research shows that roughly 90% of a child’s faith is shaped at home. Involving parents more was a part of Ben H.’s plan anyway.
These materials will be available to all members so that adults can see what the children are learning. Some of the youth materials will be especially helpful to the wider church as they will specifically tackle subjects to do with the current crisis such as whether social distancing is Christian, whether we should be afraid, how to serve others, and why God would allow this.
Obviously there are significant restrictions on our ability to meet and visit right now but for those who might need comfort at the end of their life, we will do our very best to be with you to share the good news of the hope of Jesus Christ.
The staff team has also agreed to ensure that every member of the church receives a phone call during the first weeks of this time. The Vestry has also agreed to join in this effort to make sure that every single member has a connection with someone else.
We have a wonderful website, Facebook page and now a new church app. If you have a smart phone or tablet, I strongly recommend getting the app as it’s the easiest way to keep in touch and to contact us for prayer. By simply by clicking on the “prayer” graphic and sending a brief note, a small group will pray for you that very day.
It’s wonderful that Bridget was able to rush the launch of the new app. She’s also trying to obtain an advance draft copy of the new church directory to share electronically with those who are in it, so that we can all keep in touch with each other more easily.
We’re going to be commutating a lot more frequently than usual , with many updates to my page on the website, emails to the congregation, announcements on the app, letters from the curate, media clips, virtual studies, prayer meetings, and book studies throughout the week.
Internally we’re also bringing forward the launch of our new church phone system which will allow staff members to unplug their work phone, and use it from home exactly as though they were in the office. With the new network we installed last year, all of our documents are also accessible from home.
I’d like to finish by telling you about my friend Dino, who trained with me at seminary. Dino had an powerful Honda Fireblade superbike. It worked flawlessly with one exception: the throttle would stick open. It’s been a metaphor for parts of my life and ministry ever since. If you rode the bike you could control all sorts of things: the gears, brakes, and steering all worked perfectly, thankfully so did the horn, but there was not much you could do about the throttle. We can make all these plans, and ride as carefully as we can, but there are some things outside of our human ability control. Thankfully, that is not true of God.
Proverbs 16:9 says The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Paul said in Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Here’s a pastoral secret, I found those verses by typing “sovereignty of God” into Google. Even the pagans of Silicone Valley seem to know this stuff! Take courage church!
With much love, yours in Christ,