“Church After Lock-down?” by Tom Watts

We were reminded at our Zoom Local Preachers’ meeting that our loving God longs for His followers to respond to these strange and difficult times of suffering for so many people locally, throughout this country and around the world.  A new preacher in training said that as churches we need to pray for God’s guidance.  And we all said amen to that; for how else can we know what God wants His church to say, to do and to be in this time; for we as followers of Jesus know how often His church has been at the forefront of the just and caring changes in society that often come through these times of trial.  I think of the end to the acceptance of slavery and apartheid; both of which had brought much suffering into the world and the church helped to bring the necessary changes to the society of the day.

Following the onset of Corona Virus, the world and indeed church is unlikely to be the same again and our thoughts at LP meeting led me to think of three changes for good that with God’s guidance we can help to bring goodness to all.

Firstly, we must never again take our caring professions for granted.  Most of you, I guess, will have joined in the show of appreciation each Thursday; the grace shown by all who work in hospitals, care homes etc should mean that government spending on this essential service must never again be reduced as it was during austerity.  The church and each of us, when the opportunity arises, must constantly remind our Members of Parliament of the value we all place on ALL the people that work to serve the public in keeping us healthy, looking after us in old age and saving our lives.  They have shown such grace; the least we can do is to speak up for these wonderfully gracious people, keeping them in our prayers.

Secondly, we must learn to admit when we are wrong and when mistakes are made.  That should of course apply even to those who have the enormously difficult task of leading our country at this time and in the future.  I read about the leaders of Sweden and Norway admitting to their people that they had made mistakes in their plans to deal with the virus and I could not help contrasting that with our own leaders.  Accepting we are wrong and saying sorry is part of the grace that we as church should know all about; for forgiveness is central to Jesus’ teaching.  We should also accept that the church makes its own mistakes as we attempt to show the love of Jesus to our local communities, with practical help and support, a listening ear and an offer to pray for and with them.  We are called to share such grace in humility and with hope so that our communities will know they are valued and loved.

Finally, the pandemic has coincidently shone a light on one of humanity’s major issues that unfortunately we have never found a way of resolving.  The issue is of course racism; for in its own way this is a pandemic that eats away at the goodness we want for God’s world.  The events in America have brought to the attention of the whole world a problem that seems to have existed since creation.  OT Jews were called to be a light to all Nations but failed.  In the NT they missed the point of Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan and dismissed His conversation with the Samaritan woman.  I have referred to the Slave trade and Apartheid; both supported, in a way, by the church of the day.  As Christians today we must do our best to enable our communities to know that God’s love is for all regardless of race, position in society or sexuality.  Racism takes many forms from the dreadful killing of a man by a policeman, to the ‘go home’ shouts on the streets and the short-sighted comments of thoughtless MP’s.

As Christians, let us be seen and known as the people of grace, hope and love, let us give thanks, let us apologise for our mistakes and let us never let a racist remark or slur pass without a reminder that God’s love is for everyone.

Tom Watts

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