I saw a sign on the shut door of a church building recently that said ‘the church is not a building, it is the people.’ I was tempted to change it so it reads: ‘the church is
not a building AND it is the people.’
Over the last few weeks of lockdown the church has still been alive and well, worshipping, praying and serving. There is some encouraging news – generally, people seem to be accessing services and prayer online more than ever before. But while we do not meet in special places and special buildings we are missing something huge of what it is to be a church. Our buildings are places where generations of Christians have chosen to gather and worship. This is even more important than the architecture or beauty and it is what we miss today.
Dave, Brian, Gayle and I are really keen that we do everything possible to gather together in our buildings as soon and as safely as we can. The first step has already happened in that Dave and I are able to spend time (separately!) praying and worshipping in the buildings. The next step (which may happen in the next month or two) is expected to be that some essential services like weddings, funerals and baptisms will occur with only a few people attending, all observing social distancing. The third step is for more regular services to happen with social distancing and many other safeguards. It is likely to be a number of months until these happen and they would look very different to what we think are normal services. What happens and when will depend on government rules, guidance from the Diocese and our Bishops and what we are able to do safely given our buildings and congregations (which include vulnerable people and loads of lively small children!).
While we work on plans for being able to use our buildings we are also adapting what we provide online to connect with more people. Another idea is to connect church members with others locally so that even while we can’t all meet together we can meet with those near us.