You will have seen that the government have introduced radical new measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. These include:
• stopping all non-essential social contact and going to places with a high concentration of people such as pubs or cinemas,
• avoiding the use of public transport as much as possible,
• working from home if you can,
• isolating yourself for 14 days if you or anyone in your household has a persisent cough or fever.
And the Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed yesterday that these measures must apply to churches and other faith communities too. Today our own family of churches, the Baptist Union of Scotland, has asked its congregations to follow these measures by suspending Sunday worship services and all other church activities.
As a leadership we have decided to follow this advice, and so with heavy hearts we will be suspending gathered worship on the Lord’s Day until further notice. I’ll also no longer be able to make face-to-face pastoral visits for the time being.
We’re going to try to work out new ways to keep in touch as a church, to have a sense of our shared worship community, and to make sure you’re still supported and receiving teaching from God’s Word — but please be patient with us as we develop this. I’ll be in touch over the next day or two to let you know how you can stay connected to the fellowship and friendship of our wee family in Christ. I’ll be making regular phone calls in place of pastoral visits, so I’ll be speaking to each of you soon!
It’s going to be a real wrench not seeing you in the same way, gathered on a Sunday singing in full voice as a body of believers — I’ll miss you all! but for now, this is what it looks like to love our neighbour. Jesus said that if we love him, we will keep his commands; and the Sixth Commandment teaches us to work in all things to protect and preserve life. The key way we can do that in these days is to make sure that we’re doing all we can to prevent the spread of this illness that is most dangerous to our most vulnerable loved ones. Look out for ways that we can be of service while maintaining proper precautions.
Scripture also calls us in Romans 13 to submit to the governing authorities, who bear the power they do for our good. Please be careful to follow the guidance and requirements set out by the government in these times, and consider it as an act of obedience and service to God for the sake of your neighbours.
And finally, my brothers and sisters, remember that God is faithful and trustworthy, your good Father who loves you with an everlasting love. Use these strange times to seek him in prayer and in the Bible, and rest in his steadfast love for you. Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world; “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Trust him in the midst of the quarantines and the illness and even — God forbid — in the face of death, “for I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)