Letter from John

 

The Coronavirus and Forest Fold   

18th March 2020

Dear members of the church and congregation

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God,

my rock, in whom I take refuge’ 2 Sam 22 v2-3

It is a great privilege to know God, his fatherly love, his sovereign control, and his saving grace. What a difference it makes in times like these. May God comfort you all with joy, hope, and peace as you trust in Christ.

We met as elders and deacons on Tuesday night to pray and make some decisions in the light of the Coronavirus crisis. Events are moving quickly and the conclusions of that meeting have been adjusted further during today and are reflected in this letter.

We considered the situation and the current government advice. Whilst strongly wanting to preserve worship and fellowship in whatever way we can (Heb 10 v24-25), we also saw the importance of respecting the authorities (Rom 13 v1-7) especially as they look to protect the weak and vulnerable in society at this critical time.

 

In general

It is therefore with sadness but with a sense of responsibility that from today we are suspending all public services, groups, meetings and events during the current crisis.

(This now also includes tomorrow’s meeting (Thurs 19th) and this week’s morning Sunday school.)

 

Live streaming of services

We can thank God for the many uses of technology to help preserve worship, encouragement and contact at a time like this. As a result, we are intending to ‘live stream’ through the FF website a live video link of the main services.

So do please keep up the opportunity for worship and spiritual food by tuning in on Sundays at 11.15 and 6.30.

Thursdays. On Thursdays we also plan to live stream a short address at 7.30pm. This will be followed by a few prayer points. We then suggest that you pray in response in your homes or over the phone/Skype/Facetime etc with someone else. It is certainly a time when we need to call out to the Lord as individuals, as a church and as a nation. We are hoping to do this for the first time tomorrow so please do join us on the website at 7.30pm to hear a short address on Rom 12 v11-13. It will also give a good opportunity, ahead of Sunday, to test out the technology that Dave has been kindly working on. The church meeting scheduled for tomorrow will not occur – members will instead receive an email explaining the matter that was to be mentioned.

 

Other groups

The suspension of all the other activities, groups, and events will be missed by many. As a general approach we want to encourage those who lead or who are part of these groups to look for ways to help, support, and bless each other at this time: for home groups to look out for each other, for youth leaders to do what they can for their groups, for the First Steps leaders to maintain what support and contact they feel they can with those that usually come etc. There are obviously limits to this but it is also a great opportunity. Those with a good knowledge of social media and technology have a big advantage – but old-fashioned phones do still exist too!

 

The older, weaker and stressed

Of special concern at this time are the weaker and older. We remember God’s heart of compassion to the vulnerable and want to follow suit. We encourage you in this Christ-like concern. Three things come to our minds…

1 – We have those in our own families and in our own neighbourhoods. Never perhaps has there been a chance to ‘Love your neighbour’ as there is now, so look out for those closer to home first.

2 – Be on the look out to ask and help where you feel you can. If people come to mind, then feel free to act on your own and don’t wait to be organised by us!

3 – The First Tuesday leaders (Sue P and Anne B esp) have already been in contact with all their regulars and plan to phone them each week. They want these older friends to let them know if there is any help that can be given e.g. contact, shopping etc. We are so pleased about this, but it is likely to need more help. If you too feel able to help Sue and Anne please let them know. (Sue 654659 sue.philpott@hotmail.com, Anne 610783 anne@ashdene.org)

On top of this we realise it can be a time when some might feel particularly low and troubled. Do help one another through this. Please feel free to contact Steve and Betty who are willing to talk, and who may arrange for others to be in contact if needed at this time.

 

Opportunities

Whilst a difficult, troubling and sad time it is also a time of opportunity. A time to learn new lessons from God. A time perhaps to take a particular Bible book and think and pray through it more closely. A time to point others to Christ when they are floundering and uncertain as life seems to have fallen apart. May God use this sad and strange period for the good of many.

 

Finally

Last Sunday we ended our morning service with two verses. They seem very fitting to end with now…

5But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain. 1 Cor 15 v57-58

 

John Cowley

on behalf of the elders at Forest Fold