The Ministry Assistant Writes

It has now been 18 months since all our lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic!  In reflecting upon the last year and a half, it seems to me that perhaps these last few months have been the hardest.

After stoically enduring the first wave of Covid, amidst the sadness and the fear, many people discovered hidden strengths and gifts, reaching out to help and support those in need.  As a congregation we found new ways to pray, worship and share with one another.  But after a brief glimpse of hope, last summer, that things might soon return to normal, we were once more plunged into ‘Lockdown’ and restrictions, followed by the ever increasing confusion as to what you can, and can’t do as restrictions are eased.  People have grown weary of the situation, and the danger is that we also grow weary of praying for, and encouraging one another.

In seeking some Word of Scripture to share with you all, I found myself facing a dilemma.  On the one hand, many people are enjoying a life that is slowly returning to normal and it would be appropriate to reflect upon words of joy, celebration and optimism!  But on the other hand, many are still suffering from illness, pain, loneliness and isolation, either because of their experiences of the last few months, or because they have yet to enjoy the benefit of lifted restrictions.  In Romans chapter 8, Paul seeks to encourage a people that have been enduring much suffering and persecution.  He concludes with these words:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8: 37-39)

We can all draw strength from these words, because they tell us that no matter how difficult things might be, or how far from God we might feel, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.  His presence is with us always.  But we are also called upon to do our part towards strengthening ourselves and others, in the faith.  Again, Paul writes in his concluding instructions to the Thessalonians:

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)

I had hoped that, by this time, it would be possible to announce that many of our church activities would soon be returning to normal.  Sadly that is not the case.  We thank God that those who are able to, can worship together once more in the church building, and even sing hymns; but we continue to hope and pray that by the end of the year we will also be able to meet for prayer, Bible Study and fellowship once more. In the meantime, let us remember these words from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

The Ministry Assistant Writes

It is now a year, since we were plunged into the strange new world of life during a pandemic. It has changed all our lives and there has been much sadness and suffering during this time. But it has perhaps also been a chance for us to reflect on what we talk about as being, ‘normal’ life and what we might want life to be like when we reach the end of these trying times.

We have learnt to appreciate some of the things we have lost during the last year such as regular contact with family and friends, the chance of social interaction, and the joy of being able to go where we want, when we want, and even simple things like being able to go shopping in the expectation of buying what we want rather than the bare necessities. The question is; will we still appreciate these things when the pandemic is over? Will we have learnt the value of the small pleasures in life or will we immediately return to the more selfish attitudes and ambitions that were in danger of taking over society prior to the Pandemic?

The New Testament often speaks about the people of God enduring times of trial and temptation. The early Christians were familiar with a world that restricted their ability to worship God as they wanted to; but they did not allow themselves to be defeated by this. Instead they learnt to depend upon God who strengthened them and encouraged them in all situations. During this past year, all the Church activities, meetings and services which we accepted as a constant part of life have been stripped away. Simply doing things the way they have always been done has not been an option. Without activities and fellowship to support and sustain us, we have been forced to turn directly to God to support and sustain our faith and our lives. It has been an opportunity to place Christ firmly at the centre of our lives, not pushed to the side of congregational activities. How wonderful it would be, if, when life returns to what we think of as normal, Christ remained in the centre of our lives and is returned to his rightful place as the head of the Church!

Our hope is that we will soon be nearer the end of this pandemic than the beginning, and as we begin to plan to meet together once again in worship, praise and fellowship, let us make the most of what we have learnt in the past year. Let us reflect upon the things we would like to change, and begin planning for a new start and a new era as a congregation of God’s people.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

Dr Sara Rettie