With church closures across the British Union Conference (BUC) due to the coronavirus, we find ourselves in uncharted territory. The comfortableness and luxury of worshipping in a church building with fellow believers with no restrictions has become something we may have taken for granted. This week ushers in a new way of worship for most people and it could be for several weeks. It calls for us to understand more deeply the whole concept of what church really means. We know it's more than a building. The word church in the New Testament stems from an understanding of people in spiritual interaction, so this concept extends way beyond the confines of a building alone. It also calls for us to think differently about how we stay connected with one another.
Many churches across the BUC will strive to maintain Sabbath worship and connectedness through various means such as live streaming of services and remote contact via various forms of social media, but it's a challenge for all of us to seek different ways to remain connected to each other and primarily to God.
Whilst our thoughts and prayers are with those presently suffering from the virus, this week saw the first death of a member suspected from coronavirus from the Adventist church family within the BUC.
In response to this tragic news on Wednesday at 7:30 pm, a time many churches would normally have prayer meeting, the BUC President spoke live on social media offering words of comfort and support. Over 900 people around the BUC and globally tuned in simultaneously for the special live prayer meeting presentation (watch here). With post views of the service rising to 10,000, this revealed the real need for the Church to remain connected during these challenging times and also it sends a clear message that as Church leaders we are to be available and willing to provide spiritual and practical support where needed.
For this reason and for the foreseeable future the BUC will be broadcasting weekly services from the BUC Headquarters each Sabbath morning, starting this Sabbath at 10:00 am. See here
In addition, the South England Conference via SEC Media will also be providing live services from their studio and similarly the North England Conference, alongside their radio station Hope FM. There are also a host of pastors who will be working with their churches to stream their church services that may be pre-recorded or live from a remote location. See list here. Local ministers are aware of their need to ensure their members are catered for during this time.
Outside of Sabbath services let us 'check in' on each other via phone or text to ensure any practical or spiritual needs of friends and church members are made known.
In the coming weeks the Community Services department of our Church will be providing ways in which we can also be of service where possible to our local community and as a result continue to be as a working church the 'salt' and 'light' to people who due to the crisis are fearful and anxious of an uncertain future. This is an opportune time to share the hope of our faith to bring reassurance and calm to those who are nervous about how they will get through each week.
The various Conference treasury departments will also spell out clear ways for you to return tithes and offerings each week. (See here for a guide.)
BUC President Pastor Ian Sweeney remarked in his prayer meeting message, "Let us remember churches may have closed, but church has not stopped; church services may have been suspended, but church is still alive, still going forward."