Much happens in the life of Emmanuel. It’s an alive, vital and, I would add, passionate Church and community where, the vast majority of the time, we balance our calling as God’s people to worship and develop in faith with another call so crucial to the life of individual Christians and Churches: to love and serve the community in which we find ourselves. This can only be a good thing.
One of the things I’ve noticed as we have grown over the last years, and particularly during the period of the pandemic when I, along with lots of us I know, have been working at home, is that it is hard to keep up with everything that is going on. Even for me, who is supposed to have a pretty good idea of what different elements of the Church are up to at any given moment, I sometimes find it a challenge to keep up. I wouldn’t be surprised if you do too. Part of that relies on me and others of us communicating well and, where we’ve sometimes not done that, I’m sorry.
I wanted to write and give you a couple of what I would consider to be the most important updates on life in and around Emmanuel at the moment. Firstly, we are part way through a process which may enable us to appoint a half-time Free Church Minister. Meetings and discussions have already taken place with more to come over the next few days and weeks, but things are looking positive at present. Please pray for this important moment in the life of our Church community. We are offering a half-time post at present because that is what we think we can afford, with help from a grant from the Baptist Home Mission Fund (for which we’re very grateful). In turn, I am grateful to a team of people delegated from our Constitutional Council who have done a huge amount of work to get us to this point. Thank you. I’m all the more grateful to God for his grace and help in all of this. I know that He knows who He has called to be with us.
Second, we are beginning to offer in-person services again from Easter Sunday. To some this may come as a surprise or feel too soon. I find myself in a delicate position where I’ve been trying to prayerfully find ways to meet the needs of those who are, I know, increasingly yearning for worship in person. Many of our people are not online and have not been able to join with us as we’ve worshipped online over the last twelve months. For each person or household I think it’s an individual choice about how we choose to respond to the current loosening of restrictions that are taking place in our nation. I hope each of us responds with prayer, not just for ourselves or those we love, but for everyone around us. As I thought and prayed and discussed with the Reopening Team we took the view that for given the number who wish to attend in-person services and feel comfortable doing so it was ok for us to offer that at this stage.
For those who won’t be joining us, our online services will continue. I’m looking to grow the team involved in leading those and these online gatherings will continue to be a priority for us alongside the services we are able to have in buildings.
My personal caution about ‘re-entering’ society I know is felt by others. Please do what you feel led and comfortable to do. Please continue to prioritise meeting in whatever way you can for worship, prayer, teaching and learning or finding ways to show the wider community the love of God. Some are excited to be ‘back’ in buildings again and to you I say I hope you enjoy worshipping God in a Church building once again. All the worship we give together, whether online or off-line is equally legitimate, valuable and I think and hope, pleasing to God. No one kind of worship is better than another. Please remember too that numbers of people who can physically gather remain limited to around 20 per gathering.
I know that in trying to include some people who have previously been excluded the opposite is potentially going to happen. Some who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will feel more ready to do things than others who have not yet. This has the effect of meaning that it might seem like we are not all together in worship. This is so hard and it grieves me. Whatever we do, some people are not able to be with us. It’s an impossible circle to square. All I can ask is that you forgive me if you feel that this is not or has not been handled correctly.
Lastly, some really good news. A lady named Andrea who is brand new to faith is being baptised on Easter Sunday at Emmanuel. Please join me in being excited that Andrea is joining our family of faith. There really always is room for one more here.