Dear all who are part of the Emmanuel Family,
At around 1.30 today, the Church of England gave the instruction that Churches cease to offer Acts of Worship for the foreseeable future. The update was given on the CofE’s Coronavirus page, below:
Linked to this is a press release gives more information if you would like to read it. This is below:
In practice what this means for us is as follows:
All face-to-face gatherings, large and small, services, house groups, committee meetings, Lent Group meetings, youth and children’s groups are now postponed until further notice. Some groups and meetings will take place online. Those in charge of those groups and gatherings will let you know what is happening. We are in the process of deciding what we do regarding Cafe Emm and Weston Favell Centre Foodbank as well as the Office. We will work in conjunction with Weston Favell Shopping Centre about all of these in the time to come.
The core guidance we have been given is:
‘In light of the Government guidance around non-essential contact, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued advice that public worship is suspended until further notice.
Churches should be open where possible but with no public worship services taking place. Prayers can be said by clergy and ministers on behalf of everyone and churches should consider ways of sharing this with the wider community.’
You’ll see from the advice that there is a suggestion that Churches remain open where possible. We will be taking advice about the best way for us to maintain a physical presence within the community.
Now for what will be happening instead
As this news has been anticipated for a few days now, I have been thinking and praying about what will help us to maintain and perhaps even grow the life of our community in this time. So far, this is what I have come up with. I hope that at least some of it is inspired by the Holy Spirit and/or that you think these are good ideas. Preferably both.
1. I am getting together a group of people to share in the task of keeping in touch with people in our community. Some people will be more isolated than others by what is happening, but all of us will need support and prayer in the time to come. If you would like to be involved in this work, which I think would involve contacting somewhere in the region of three-five people every day or two to maintain contact. Especially if you are a house group leader, please join in with this, as I’m sure you do naturally.
2. We as clergy and leaders will be praying daily. In the Church of England this will look like Morning and Daily Prayer + seeking a way to celebrate Communion. Other denominations have their similar daily practices likewise. I will be consulting with leaders about the right way to do this. Please be assured that we as leaders are continuing to worship and to pray.
3. It follows that I want to ask you to devote much time and focus to praying at the moment to praying. Fiona Potter has made the wise suggestion that we extend the usage of the Weekly Prayer Sheet to help us to be focused in our prayers in the weeks to come. We will work together on ways of doing this, but in the first instance, please make good use of this sheet as an outlet for your prayers.
4. We will be producing material for prayer, Bible study and reflection as often as we can, hopefully daily. I will be arranging a rota for this with my colleagues who lead services and preach as well as with young people’s workers and others. This will be posted on our website, on our social media pages on Facebook (The Emmanuel Group of Churches Northampton) and Twitter (@emmbythebusstop). Please share these with those you know if you find them useful. We will also try and find ways to print copies of notes for you to use if you prefer paper.
5. I myself will be offering daily reflections on the set (Lectionary) readings of the day. I have in the past found this a very useful discipline for myself to pay particular focused attention to what Scripture is saying and this seems as good a time as any to start up this practice again. I hope you will find it helpful.
6. On Sundays, I will post a video and the text of a sermon online in all the places I have mentioned in item 2. The notes will be printable for you to pass on to others too. I will also explore ways of celebrating Communion. I will let you know how this goes! Other leaders and preachers will be invited to offer sermons, reflections and focuses for prayer too.
Even though this comes below my list, I think this might be the most important. We are going to aim to stay in touch with each other and with those people we live near and those around us who are not yet part of our Church family. A lot of folks are going to notice a big difference in their lives because things associated with Emmanuel are not meeting together. For a long time, Churches have measured their success by things like how many people come on a Sunday or how much they manage to gain in offerings and gifts every month. Both of these things are important, but what sets apart the life, ministry and example of Jesus from any other in history is that He had different priorities. As far as I can see, His priorities were:
1. To announce that the kingdom of heaven was close enough to touch. That this life was not all there is, that the worries and fears we all naturally face will not have power for ever, that eventually a kingdom of justice, joy and peace was coming.
2. To stay close to His Father in prayer
3. To show each individual He met how much they were loved by God and how precious they were to Him.
4. To show that the good news of God – that hope is here because Jesus lived, died, rose again, ascended to heaven and is alive today for the good of the whole world – is the power of God for the saving of all who believe.
5. To demonstrate that power in ruthless trust of God and in showing signs of the coming of the kingdom every day.
6. To challenge unfair and unjust things that happened in the world around Him.
Those of you who were around at the time, remember when we did Jesus-Shaped People?! Jesus is still the same
So here’s a challenge for all of us who call ourselves Christians in the time to come. Will we be like Jesus? I hope so. I hope our Church continues to be known as one which tries to live the way Jesus asked people who are His friends and followers to live, and I hope that people join our number, even dreaming that more people will join us every day. Why not join in that prayer with me?
I am full of hope, even as I sit here, as a lot of you do, looking forward to around three months of not leaving my house very much at all. It’s a great privilege to lead this Group of Churches and i am excited to see what it looks like to try and follow God’s lead in the months to come.
With love and blessings to all who read this.