A Message From Stuart – Transcript

*EDIT: 20th March 2020: due to government advice released today, it is no longer possible for the Church building to be opened for prayer.

It was Mark Twain who said, “Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated”. We can say the same of the Church: rumours that the Church is “shut down” are just not true. Are Church buildings currently closed? Yes – but then, for too long we have assumed that the Church is the building. We cannot meet in our buildings, but that doesn’t mean the work of the Church stops.

At Clincarthill Church, we are keen to continue doing the work of God during this difficult time. We want to continue to help people hear the message of the Good News of our Lord, Jesus Christ; to worship God in a meaningful way, and to receive whatever help and support they need. I’m going to explain how Clincarthill Church is going to try and do this over the coming weeks.

We will open our building very briefly this Sunday (22nd March) at 11 am to allow our congregation to receive the most up-to-date information. Thereafter, each Sunday, our building will be open from 10:30 until 11:30 am for people to come for a period of private prayer and reflection. This is in keeping with current guidelines, and we will still encourage people to observe good hand hygiene and maintain social distancing.

It is important for us to keep our building open for as long as we can because we recognise that not everyone can engage with Church online, so the ability to spend time in a Church building is important.

That doesn’t mean we neglect the opportunity to do more online, and I hope to be able to offer something meaningful in the coming days: so watch this space!

We are keen to support not only our congregation but our parish. We will endeavour to keep in touch with people over the phone, and we are going to try and co-ordinate efforts to support those who are in need. If you find yourself in self-isolation and need shopping done, or even just a voice on the other end of the phone, we’re encouraging people to leave a message with our church office. The number is 0141 632 4206, and our coordinating team will do their best to find the right support for you.

Some may wonder: surely God is bigger than a virus? Of all groups, shouldn’t the Church be the one looking at the current crisis and adopting a “keep calm and carry on” attitude? Why has the Church taken this action to restrict meeting for worship?

First of all, we have a responsibility to our members and community. If we ignore or disregard this latest advice, we not only risk our own health but the health of others. Needless to say, it is not the task of the Church to put people at risk.

Secondly, yes: God is bigger than a virus… but to suggest that the only way for us to continue as God’s Church is to carry on what we’ve always done… well, to me that’s a pretty small view of God and a pretty small view of Church.

With every generation, God has been challenging His Church to find new and innovative ways for us to share the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection with our culture. Perhaps God’s Church has been too comfortable, set in its ways for too long. Perhaps God is using this current crisis to encourage His Church to wake up, to find new and better ways to engage our culture with the Gospel. And with God’s help and guidance, we will find these new ways! We just need to be careful – it would be a shame if, when all this is over, we simply slipped back into our old ways, and fail to learn the lessons this situation brings.

Finally: I want to encourage you. In Clincarthill Church, we have a “verse of the year”. This verse guides our thinking. And it is amazing how God works: months before COVID-19 was a thing, God lead me to Joshua 1:9 as our verse for 2020. I cannot help but feel that this verse is just so appropriate for us in this situation!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

So, I encourage you: be safe, stay well, follow the guidelines… but more importantly: be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, don’t be discouraged for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

I’ll speak to you again soon: God bless.