June 16th 2020
In the past couple of weeks, I've had quite a few conversations with people who say, "we can come back to church for prayer! Why isn't the church open again?"
Of course we want to be back together! We love one another, and our praise and worship is enhanced when we gather. If we're feeling despondent, or grieving, the love of our sisters and brothers can lift and encourage us. I think that's why the writer of the letter to the Hebrews urged his readers to meet together, in order to inspire each other in love and good deeds (Heb 10: 24-25).
We are made in the image of the God who comes to us – who wanted to be close to us, and so was born of Mary, to share our life. We feel that same desire to be close to the ones we love – and Zoom, or Skype, or FaceTime are very much second-best. Yet we give thanks for the technology that allows us to see one another. We have the telephone, and the computer screen – and whilst they are second-best, they are better than nothing.
So – why isn't the church open again?
Yes, churches can open for prayer, but only under strict conditions, and only a few people can be allowed in at a time. Once the maximum number were inside, the rest would have to wait outside in a queue, as if we were at the supermarket. Would we feel happy if, after adjusting the layout of the church, and working hard to clean it thoroughly, we then had to turn people away? Would you be able to concentrate on your prayers, knowing that your friends and neighbours were waiting outside for you to finish so that they could come in?
I hope that you understand why we don't want to do that. We are an Inclusive Church, who proclaims that All Are Welcome in This Place, and that God's love and grace is sufficient for all. To tell someone that there is no room for them after all would feel like a betrayal of the gospel of unlimited loving-kindness.
We are united through phone calls, weekly worship, and by sharing news through the news sheet. Its not ideal, but still we know that we are one in Christ, and that one day we shall be reunited, and gather again in person.
May it be so – and soon!
Until then, may you know God's richest blessing.