Something unprecedented within most of our lifetimes is happening right now: a Coronavirus to which we have no herd immunity is spreading across the world and people have died. This kind of event is nothing new in history of course, it’s just new to us, and there is a lot of fear about it.
Boris Johnson said this week that it was, “the worst public health crisis for a generation” and he warned that many families would “lose loved ones before their time”.
We’ve seen the impact of the virus on supermarkets, workplaces, international travel, stock markets, the budget, public events and more. I just received notice of the cancellation of a conference I was due to attend, and of our guest speaker for next Sunday too.
Sadly I’ve even picked up that there is fear among Christians. So how are we going to respond? The first thing we need to know is this:
The church is made for a time like this
CHRISTIANS: DO NOT PANIC!
Our faith is more than adequate for this crisis. Remember: “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1v7)
Christians are not supposed to hide away in times like this, any more than the army is supposed to run away and hide in a time of war. We’re called to stand firm and live out our faith. We are called to reject selfishness and care for those in need. We are called to share our message of hope with our town.
That’s not to say we’re immune from disease, but let’s keep perspective: most people who get this recover quickly and if the worst comes to the worst, that’s what our faith is for; we have a hope that goes beyond the grave!
We have a powerful message of good news at this time: This life is not the end.
We need to trust in what Jesus said, live out our faith and share it with other people through our words and our acts of kindness and love. If we’re going to do that we need to be prepared, so we will be talking all about this on Sunday, including details of how, as Welcome Church, we will be responding to this current crisis.
We are constantly monitoring the situation and listening to the advice of the British Government, Public Health England and the Commission Group of Churches. As it stands, we’re still 100% fine to gather on Sunday, and our diary is going ahead as planned.
(Even in Scotland where they have decided to stop meetings of more than 500 people, this is not being done on scientific evidence to affect the spread of disease; it is about ensuring that NHS resources are not drained by events. Churches were also specifically mentioned as NOT included in this)
If anything changes we will let you know. If we need to, we will find other ways to keep ‘meeting’ together, including online solutions, but at this point this is simply not necessary, so let’s get together on Sunday to worship God, to pray and to look at a Biblical response to this is as a church.
I know that some stayed away last week through fear.
I would encourage you not to do that.
After all, if we start down that path, when do we come back? This virus will be around for months or even years …
(Obviously there are some who may need to limit their social interactions, on the advice of health professionals, due to underlying health conditions – that makes sense. But what I’m referring to is acting simply out of fear)
Instead of giving in to fear, please follow government guidance: if you have a new persistent cough or high temperature, please self isolate at home, and let us know so we can pray for you. And let’s please keep washing our hands. We believe in prayer and we also believe in soap!
On Sunday evening at our Encounter evening we’ll be talking about being empowered by the Holy Spirit. If you’re thinking, “The virus is making me scared to go”, you especially need to be there! Let’s press in to receive the empowering of God’s Spirit of power, love and self-discipline, and to get free from fear!
And remember what the Bible says in Psalm 139v16:
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”
Woking needs us firing on all cylinders, so let’s stop panicking, let’s put an end to fear, and let’s walk in step with the Holy Spirit. God has us in the palm of his hands, and live or die, we actually have nothing to fear.
I have much more to say on Sunday, so don’t miss it.