Encouraging one another

Last week I had the opportunity to speak with one of the ladies’ groups in the church where I work. I was invited to share some reflections on leading a church through a season of pandemic.

It brought back a lot of memories as I thought about those days. I was remembering the suddenness with which schools closed and the challenge of homeschooling the children.

I remembered the early days of recording our services in an audio format and the amazing opportunities to take our reach further with the installation of new audio visual equipment. We continue to be so appreciative of the work of our technology team and a number of people present at the meeting spoke of how much it meant to them to be able to stay connected in that way. They recalled how they would sing hymns at the top of their voices in their homes when no one else was allowed in.

I was thinking about all the restrictions as we returned, with no singing allowed and the need for social distancing and having to book in if we wanted to attend a church service.

I remembered times when the church was locked to the public, when I would spend Sunday mornings celebrating Holy Communion and praying through all the names on our parish lists, remembering all our households in all that was going on. I appreciated how responsive the congregation was as we established a buddy system, getting people to ring others in the congregation to see if they were ok, and many lovely friendships were formed from people who didn’t know each other before that point.

Bishop David McClay

One of the people I used to pray for a lot was Bishop David McClay. Bishop David was consecrated in January 2020, just about 6 or 7 weeks before things were forced to lock down for the first time. Throughout the season of Covid, he worked tirelessly informing parishes about the latest government restrictions and making videos to teach and encourage the clergy and people of the Diocese. He would phone to see if clergy were doing ok, or after significant events in our lives.

Since restrictions have eased,  he and his wife, Hilary, have tried to invite all clergy and church workers and their spouses to share a meal in their home in groups of 8 or 10. It has been a huge undertaking as they have tried to support clergy and church workers in all they have been trying to do.

This week he is gathering all the parish clergy and church workers to a Diocesan conference. This used to happen every 2 years, but this will be the first such gathering in person for over 3 years. There are speakers and Bible teachers invited to share on different topics. Another key dimension of these gatherings is to get people together away from their parish situation to support and pray for one another, to build a sense of team and to share vision.

If I’m being totally honest, as an introvert, I usually find such gatherings a bit overwhelming. I find large gatherings quite challenging, which might sound strange given the nature of what I do. While I approach such gatherings with a bit of apprehension, I usually find there are some helpful takeaways.

Where you see areas of struggle and weakness in your church situation, you realise other people are often struggling with similar things. You perhaps have important conversations with unexpected people over coffee or a meal and that can help to gain fresh perspective. It’s powerful to frame things in the context of worship and prayer and to be led and fed by others, instead of carrying that responsibility yourself.

It reminds you of your primary calling to love and serve God and to do all in your power under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to share His love with the community and the world around you.

During those days away, Gillian Stevenson has kindly agreed to respond to any pastoral situations, and Reverend Julie Bell will be leading our Wednesday Communion service with prayers for the sick. 

Reconnect Concert – Friday at 7.30 pm

Parish prayers will continue over Zoom on Thursday at 7 pm, and we look forward very much to our Reconnect concert on Friday night at 7.30 pm in the lower hall. The praise band will lead a time of worship as we glorify God and honour Him for his faithfulness over this season.  Admission is free, but donations would be welcome for the St. Finnian’s Uganda Project through Fields of Life, and there will be information available about the great work that is ongoing through that link with Fields of Life.

Looking forward to speaking again soon.

Much love to everyone,