When the COVID-19 restrictions began to kick in, like many others we began to ramp up our online content. My personal involvement included restarting Faithroots, uploading short videos to Youtube and opening a Facebook account so that I could broadcast regularly. At the height of the pandemic, I was running twice daily prayer services and Sarah and I hosted something called Afternoon Tea. I also started a weekly Faithroots Live session looking at doctrine and going deeper into Bible study. Over the summer we began to make adjustments and cut back on our internet output.
As we move into the Autumn, we will be reviewing and adjusting things again. I plan to take a break from the weekly “Faithroots Live” after next weeks talk. Sarah and I will be discontinuing After Eight and the daily prayer services. I want to emphasise at this stage that the Chapel will continue to be providing live and recorded content online including a version of the morning service as well as other occasional events. We are also talking about providing an extra service online midweek (watch this space for details). This is because we know that there will be many people shielding due to COVID for some time and it will be a long time before all of our physical events at the building are fully up and running. It is also because we know that there are many others in the community who have found it beneficial to access online content but who may not find it easy or possible to attend at the building.
Why am I cutting back? Well to understand this decision, we need to go back to the original decision to ramp up content. That arose because we saw both a need and an opportunity. The need was that people were hungry for support, feeding, care and connectedness to get through the isolation. They also wanted to make sense of what was happening from God’s perspective. The opportunity was that for many people, lockdown acted like a form of sabbatical. Unable to get out for work or leisure, they had time to stop and think about life and the big questions. This included both Christians and non-Christians. It is encouraging to hear that so many have experienced refreshing and renewal during this time whilst others have come to faith. For me, the facebook stuff was a means to an ened and the means was to enable me to continue to pastor, a way of staying in touch and of discipling people. I believe we will see much fruit from this season over the longer term.
However, we need to remember that seasons come to an end and it is clear that we are transitioning to a new season. Restrictions have eased considerably even though lot remain in place. We are now able to hold gatherings at our building and see people face to face. Children are returning to school and adults to work and so the need for connection online is reducing whilst people also have less available time. I hope that we have used the time well to bury away treasures of wisdom in our hearts and to build sustainable godly habits.
On the other side, increasingly my time priority needs to be focused on the face to face stuff as we now begin to rebuild that.
Finally, there is a risk that we can become dependent on things. This is often co-dependency. People become dependent on the daily output from the church but church leaders also get dependent on the sense of value and accomplishment they get from being online. Indeed we can confuse busyness for fruitfulness. We don’t want people to be dependent on After Eight and Faithroots Live, we want them to depend on Christ alone.
So, you will see a little less of Sarah and me popping up on your screens but this does not mean that the work of looking after one another through COVID ends here. We are as Churchhill would say probably not at the end or even the beginning of the end of this cris but we are at the end of the beginning. So as we move into the next phase, stay in touch and keep clinging to Christ.