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The St Mary's blog is a mixture of news pieces and topical articles. Each month a number of these are collated into a printed magazine, Touchline. Blog items over three months old are moved to the archive pages, which are available when logged in. Views expressed here are those held by the individuals posting, and not necessarily representative of St Mary's Church.

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The Gospel and Race (Staff Team and PCC)

Introduction

The apostle Paul in Acts 17 declares that from one man God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth. Here is a glorious reminder from the apostle Paul about our common humanity and dignity: whatever our racial background, we all share the same ancestor.   Every human being has the dignity of being created in the image of God. What is more, God’s purpose is to save for himself “a great multitude that no-one could number from every nation, tribe, people and language” [Revelation 7:9].

Eternity will be spent rubbing shoulders with Christian brothers and sisters from every racial and cultural background. God loves diversity and variety. He has created a diverse and varied world. Sin separates and divides us, but it is God’s purpose to bring all things together in heaven and earth under the Lordship of Jesus [Ephesians 1:9,10]. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” [Galatians 3:28]. Through the blood of Christ all Christian believers are “no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” [Ephesians 2:19].

It is striking how through the preaching and application of the good news about Jesus Christ the greatest racial divide in the ancient world, that between Jew and Gentile, was overcome in the early church.  However, the NT makes plain that that was not achieved easily [c.f. Acts chs 6, 10, 11, 15]. As believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, we must never show favouritism [James 2:1].

In 2003 when Will Stileman became vicar at St Mary’s, there were only a couple of people who attended St Mary’s who were not white. It is pleasing that within the St Mary’s church family there are now significantly more with a BAME heritage, but they are still very much a minority. There is, also, no-one with a BAME heritage on the staff team and, until recently, all the Growth Group Leaders and Congregational Oversight Teams were white. It was this realisation that prompted Will to raise the matter with the staff team in September 2019. The events following the death of George Floyd in February 2020 have simply added to the urgency to address this issue.

From the first chapter to the last, the Bible has much to say about these issues; and it is a conviction of the staff team and the Parochial Church Council that we as a church need to give serious thought to these matters if we are to be faithful disciples of Christ and effective as ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world’.

This paper outlines the steps we both want and will need to take, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, to become the diverse, multicultural church God longs for us to be.

Our Aim

It is our desire that all at St Mary’s should long to be a church which more fully reflects God’s love and purpose for his people. We long to be a diverse, inclusive church, that reaches out and connects with all parts of our community.  We long to be a church where every individual, whatever their background or race, feels equally valued, loved and able to flourish in their walk with Christ.  We believe that to create such an environment would, indeed, cause us to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. We recognise this is unlikely to be achieved in a short time or without dedicated effort and much prayer. However, as we seek God’s grace and humble ourselves before him, we trust that we will become more the church God would have us be: enabling more people across cultural barriers to meet with Christ.

Approach

We want to avoid initiatives that may be seen as mere tokenism and will not bring about any lasting change.  Unless the church family are fully committed, one and all, to actively pursuing our ambitious goal, we cannot reasonably expect to achieve it or to make any meaningful progress towards it. 

It is not sufficient just to raise general awareness, nor can the onus be on minority members to thrust themselves forward; rather, the impetus for change must come from the white majority. This can lead to white brothers and sisters being made to feel uncomfortable and consequently become over defensive,  but our wish is to encourage and empower people to cross boundaries.

We are not aligning with any worldly political agenda, instead we are pursuing a Christ-centred vision. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” [John 13:35].

“Let us not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” [Romans 12:2]. The gospel imperative outlined in the introduction should motivate us as a church to take both individual and collective responsibility.

Steps

What steps can we begin to take, as the body of Christ in a Christ-centred way? We propose the following:

Listening

  • Encouraging the white majority lovingly to listen to the experiences of BAME brothers and sisters – “everyone should be quick to listen” [James 1:19]; “he who answers before listening, that is his folly and his shame” [Proverbs 18:13].
  • Arranging special meetings or events on Saturday mornings (three times a year?) as safe, open places to listen to people’s experiences and to discuss racial and cultural issues.

Praying

  • Holding regular prayer meetings (spending not less than 50% of time in prayer) on race four times a year to enable people to listen, understand, reflect upon and pray about racism as experienced by our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ – “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ” [Galatians 6:2].

Actively Engaging

  • Preaching on the issue of race and the gospel from time to time, and being mindful to preach on the application of the teaching of Christ in a range of diverse social and cultural contexts.
  • Ensuring that all recruitment notices positively welcome applications from people of all backgrounds.
  • Encouraging and providing opportunities for all within the church family to serve and develop their gifts – being built together, like precious living stones, into one spiritual house [1 Peter 2:4-5; Ephesians 2:22].
  • Encouraging one another to get to know a person from a different background, whether within or outside the church e.g. work colleague or neighbour – “the alien living with you must be treated as one of your native born, love him as yourself for you were aliens in Egypt” [Leviticus 19:34].
  • Recommending books and other sources to educate the church family about racial matters.

St Mary’s staff team and Parochial Church Council

Annual Vicar's Address (Will Stileman)

There are four significant things that I want to speak to you about this evening and the first concerns abusive behaviour. Sadly, there has always been, and until Christ’s return there will always be, those who misuse their power to dominate and abuse others. Such abuse commonly takes place behind closed doors in people’s homes. But it also exists in the work place, in sports teams, in governments and sadly, yes, in churches and Christian organisations.

In recent years a number of such abusive practices have come to light in evangelical churches and organisations and one in particular, as far as I am concerned, is very close to home.

Jonathan Fletcher has been a significant figure in the Conservative Evangelical Anglican world. He was a curate at St Andrew’s the Great Cambridge, he worked alongside Dick Lucas at St Helen’s Bishopsgate and for 30 years he was the senior minister at Emmanuel Church Wimbledon.

My father was a trustee of Emmanuel Wimbledon and under God Jonathan Fletcher was a significant influence in my life. I preached my first ever sermon at Emmanuel under his guidance. He spoke at Becca’s and my wedding.

Anyway, in 2017 reports of abuse he committed in his capacity as vicar came to light which have hit the national press and TV stations. An independent inquiry into his behaviour was commissioned by Emmanuel Church and was carried out by a safeguarding organisation called 31:8.

They produced their report just before Easter to which I drew people’s attention via the weekly email update. The report is comprehensive and made a number of recommendations not only for Emmanuel Wimbledon but also for the wider evangelical Anglican community to ensure such abusive behaviour doesn’t go unchallenged as it did in the case of Jonathan Fletcher. The report was critical of a culture that allowed such abuse to take place and it recommended that all those associated with Jonathan Fletcher who are in Christian leadership should consider their position.

Consequently, I have asked the PCC and staff team to read both the report into Jonathan Fletcher and another one which was also produced by 31:8 into Steve Timmis and the Crowded House church network which came out last year, and during this year we will seek to apply the lessons learnt from these reports.

I am also taking seriously the recommendation to consider my own conduct and position as vicar of St Mary’s. And let me stress, at this point, that if anybody has concerns about the behaviour of any of the staff and especially my behaviour then please do get in contact with the church wardens whose contact details are available on our website. And if you would prefer to speak to somebody completely outside St Mary’s then do contact either the Bishop of Maidstone or the Bishop of Oxford, or the diocesan safeguarding officer whose details can be found on the home page of our website.

Abusive behaviour and the misuse of power are a great evil. They are more common than we may like to think. The whole church family needs to face up to the dangers of abuse, including spiritual abuse; so, God willing, in June I intend to preach on this subject at the 9:15, 11:00, and 4pm congregations. I will also address the issue at the 6:30 congregation within 12 months.

So, this is a serious matter that we need to be addressing as a church. But it is only one of many significant issues. In fact, at the church council meeting earlier this month, I highlighted nine important and urgent issues that we at St Mary’s, and the PCC in particular, need to address. I won’t go through them all. But can I take this opportunity to mention that all our church council minutes are public documents and that we do publish them. They can be found on our website and when we are allowed, we will return to displaying a hard copy of the PCC minutes at the back of the church.

But, I do want to mention the two most important issues that we need to face.

The first is that as individuals and as a church we maintain the right priorities. I can remember the evangelist J John once telling me that the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing. He is right. And to help us do that as a church, we have produced a mission statement with three essentials and three priorities.

Our mission statement is: To know Jesus and to make Jesus known. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. We cannot please God, we cannot know God. It is the responsibility of every Christian believer and every Christian community to trust in Jesus and to do all that they can to maintain a healthy, vibrant walk with him. And that involves three essentials. Do you remember what they are?

The first one is dependant prayer. When we truly pray, we acknowledge before God our weakness and powerlessness and our dependence on him. We are never healthier than we are when we are praying; we are always less effective when we fail to depend on God in prayer. The second is biblical teaching. As Jesus said, quoting the OT, “Man does on live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” [Matthew 4:4] And that is what we have in the bible - the words of God. It is our spiritual food. Without regularly feeding on it we will fade away. The third essential is loving one another. As again Jesus said, “By this shall all people know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [John 13:35] It is through the quality of our relationships that others will see the evidence that we are indeed Jesus’ people, that we are his brothers and sisters.

But then alongside these three essentials lie three priorities. Again, I wonder if any of us know and remember them? The first is engaging Maidenhead with the good news about Jesus. We can’t be private about our faith. We long for other people to know Jesus for themselves. And as a staff team we are giving much thought how we can encourage one another to be more natural and active in sharing the good news of Jesus with others. The second priority is to make mature disciples of people of all ages and backgrounds. That is what most of our ministry at St Mary’s is all about. And the final priority is to partner with other churches and Christian organisations to make Jesus better known. And again, I trust we are doing that with our mission partners and the links we are forging with churches in Slough.

I, personally, keep going back to these three essentials and three priorities to help me keep the main thing, the main thing. These are our priorities. In all the challenges and difficulties we face, we must keep our focus on these things.

But the other major issue that we must address is the rebuilding that will need to take place as we come out of lockdown. This will not be easy and it will take a lot of time and care. Many people have got out of the habit of coming to church. There are people who were regular members of St Mary’s who we have not seen at any Sunday service, whether on-line or in-person, for over a year. There are those who are anxious about returning to church in person. The number of folk who are willing and able to lead our Sunday children’s groups is markedly down from pre-Covid levels. Many of us are weary.

On top of that there will be a significant change in the make-up of the staff team, as Tim Adams leaves St Mary’s at the end of July to go off to theological college and it is likely that Simon Eves will do the same. Steven and Jo Wheatley are also planning on returning to Malawi this year.

There is a lot do; there still is a huge amount of change and uncertainty; many of us a weary. So, we must be wise in what we do and take on and we must be careful not to overdo it. But as Isaiah says “The Lord gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” [Isaiah 40:29-31a]

I suspect it will take over a year for us to fully recover and there will be some people who will never come back to St Mary’s. It is the nature of trials to test and refine faith and sadly there will be those who fail the test and who fall away. The Lord Jesus spoke of this and so we must not be surprised when we see it happening. But it is hard. Yet Christ is building his church. The gates of Hades and Covid cannot prevail against it. And it has been wonderful to see how the Lord has used this crisis to bring many new people under the sound of the gospel and some right through to faith in Jesus.

The final thing I want to talk about is the gospel and race. And I hope that a good number of us have read the paper which carries that name and which has been adopted by the staff team and the church council.

The paper both sets the reasons and the road map of how we hope as a church to address this sensitive issue. I don’t intend to rehearse the contents of that paper. I will be seeking to make sure that it gets as wide a readership as possible in St Mary’s in the next couple of months.

But what I do want to do is to speak personally and confess my own blindness on this issue and to try and convince each one of us to personally and actively engage with the issue of racial bias.

Growing up I think I have always been conscious of racial differences between people but I have never considered whether I had a racial bias. I imagine that until recently I was like many white people in the UK, I deplored racism and I took a quiet pride that as a nation we have, on the whole, good race relations. Racism has been a dreadful problem in South Africa and was a problem in the United States but it wasn’t a major issue in the UK.

I also took a quiet pride that since I have been vicar of St Mary’s that we have had many more people in the church from different ethnic backgrounds than when I started back in 2003.

But in the last three or four years my ignorant complacency has been challenged. It was our dear sister Karnie Sharp, who is a member of St Mary’s and attends the 11am congregation, who first began to make me aware there was a real problem. Karnie was brought up in apartheid South Africa and spoke to me about how easy it is for racist attitudes and behaviour to go unchallenged, and how it is alive and kicking all over the place in the UK today including the church.

But what made me realise that this was a problem that I had to personally and actively address as vicar of St Mary’s was when we produced some boards displaying the names and photographs of the staff team and the congregational oversight teams. It hit me like a bullet between the eyes how white everybody was.

Since then I have done a lot more active reading and listening and I have to say it has been both enlightening and humbling as I have listened to the stories of racism and racial bias experienced by some of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I have already mentioned that one of our key essentials at St Mary’s is loving each other, and friends we are not loving each other if we do not listen to or are indifferent to the painful discrimination that some of our own brothers and sisters face because of the colour of their skin.

Racism has always existed in society and it will always exist, but the one place it must not and need not exist is in the church of Jesus Christ. All forms of racism and partiality are an anathema to God. In the gospel and race paper we have produced we make some specific recommendations for us as individuals and it would be great if all of us act on them.

That is all I want to say but can I take this opportunity to thank you all for your love and support over this last year.

Mission Partner Update: Wayne Dixon

Dear St. Mary’s Church Family,

Thank you very much for your on-going interest, prayers and support over 33 years now. I am very grateful. Philippians 1: 3-5 means a lot to me; ‘thanks’ and ‘partnership in the gospel’ comes through and that is how I see St. Mary’s Maidenhead.

The last 15 months have been tough for us all in different ways. Recently, I had a positive Covid-19 test and that was scary. Thankfully I have been OK with minor symptoms though my taste is still not right. During the lockdowns most of my involvement with schools in Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead has been remote, this has been a learning curve for me, flexibility and adaptability come to mind. I have loved the Q & A sessions at Furze Platt Senior & Newlands Girls. And I had a funny incident at Desborough College when part way through an on-line assembly about the Bible & the F.A. Cup we had a power cut so the assembly couldn’t continue!

The Christian Connections in Schools (CCiS) newsletter comes out next month. In the meantime, here are a few things about my work for your information and to be praying about:

  • Please pray for more schools that are not yet involved with Easter and Christmas presentations to be involved with them in churches like St Mary’s and 8 other local churches. See this 3 minute clip about church-school links and pass it on as appropriate.
  • This link gives a little flavour as to some of what has been shared in schools over recent months.
  • Easter Cracked was recorded back in January and sent to various schools: https://youtu.be/lv07rOYbI4M
  • Pray for our headteachers and for Christian staff and pupils in their on-going witness where God has placed them.
  • There is an opportunity to pray for CCiS and Scripture Union on Tuesday 18 May 10.00-10.45am or 7.30-8.15pm on Zoom. If would like to join, email me and we can follow that up. Prayer remains the most significant contribution we can make to our schools.
  • Please pray for the well-being of children, young people and staff in all of our schools.
  • Please pray for wisdom and sensitivity going forward into the rest of 2021 for me. Schools are contacting me for in-person visits starting at the beginning of term.
  • Maybe as you read this, pause to pray for a school you live near, or attended, or maybe have children, grandchildren or other family at. Recently I was encouraged to hear of a praying grandparent who has forwarded the Easter Cracked on-line recording to other family members.

God bless and thank you very much as we continue to make Jesus known to children, young people and staff in our schools in this time of on-going challenges and changes. He is still risen! Jesus, the reason for the season, hallelujah!

Wayne Dixon

Easter 2021 (Will Stileman)

A good question sometimes reveals so much more than a bare statement. That was the case when Jesus asked Judas, the night before his crucifixion: “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” The short answer to that question was “yes he was.” But Jesus’ purpose in posing that question was to expose Judas’ hypocrisy. A kiss in every culture is a sign of acceptance, greeting, affection. Outwardly Judas was pretending to love Jesus, but in reality he was betraying him. When that disconnect between Judas’ outward persona and his inner life began, we do not know. But for three years Judas played the part of one of Jesus’ closest friends while in his heart he was nurturing resentment and distrust, which reached its climax at this point.

Whether we would call ourselves Christians or not, Jesus’ question to Judas gives us cause to reflect on whether there is a disconnect between our outward persona and what is going on in our heart.

It is easy for all of us to be living a lie. But Christ entered our world not only to expose such hypocrisy but to give us the antidote to it. Jesus died for sinners. He died for hypocrites. We don’t have to pretend to be whole and righteous before God. He knows what we are truly like better than we know ourselves. Yet at Easter we remember how Jesus died on a cross to take our guilt and shame so that we might be clothed instead with the purity of his life and heart. It is through accepting that God knows exactly what we are like and yet still loves us, and because of Jesus can accept us, that the power lies for us to live an integrated, whole life.

Mission Partner Update: Luke and Mary Foster

'Hola' from Chile

Luke and Mary Foster are our St Mary’s mission partners over in South America where they are involved in the ministry of the ‘Centre for Pastoral Studies’ (CEP), an Anglican training college in Chile’s capital city Santiago.

We were delighted to have Luke join us on Zoom for our March St Mary’s Evening where he provided us with a brief update as to how things have been going. Luke spoke about family life and ministry (with both CEP and the local church) which has, much like in the UK, required some adaption during the recent Covid period.

Luke began his update by sharing a pre-recorded video starring his children (Barney age 10 and Martha age 7) who were interviewed about what it’s like to live in Chile. There is plenty that is similar to England, like going to school and playing with their friends (pre-Covid), but also some key differences, like the climate and speaking in Spanish. The video also shared some footage of the inner workings of CEP, where Luke teaches students from all over South America who have come to learn more about the Bible, so that they can be sent out to teach and make disciples of Jesus back in their home countries and further afield.

Following the video introduction, Luke explained that this had been shot pre-Covid (making reference to the lack of facemasks and face-to-face teaching). Life has since changed with CEP moving to exclusively online teaching, enabling this ministry to continue. Despite these challenges, there are a good number of new students that have recently started this term from all across South America, including Peru, Argentina and Bolivia, alongside those from Chile. All of these students have a passion for knowing Jesus and making him known and after studying at CEP will be sent out to serve as pastors.

It was clear that family life too had been different recently with Chile being placed in a severe lockdown last year which resulted in the children not managing more than one full week at school all year, including a period of time where they were not allowed to leave the family apartment at all. Restrictions have since been lifted during the summer period (Chile being in the Southern Hemisphere) which allowed the family to enjoy a last-minute holiday in February and for the children to return to school and see their friends two mornings per week at the beginning of March. There is however much uncertainty over what the future may bring and with winter now approaching prayer is requested for ongoing flexibility, patience and perseverance.

There will be some further changes at CEP this year as two long term missionary families will be moving on, meaning that both Luke and Mary will be taking on even greater responsibilities. As Luke increases his teaching and leadership commitments, Mary will continue to co-ordinate ministry amongst the women of the church.

Following this update, we split into breakout rooms and spent some time praying for the following prayer points:

  • Give thanks for the ministry of CEP and that this is able to continue via Zoom
  • Give thanks for the new students recently joining CEP and pray for them as they adapt to belonging to the CEP community remotely
  • Pray for the Foster family and their wider church family as winter approaches with the risks of further Covid restrictions.

If you would like more information about the Fosters and the ministry of CEP please contact Paul Cook. (St Mary’s Mission Link

Living for God in the Workplace (Dave Singeisen)

It’s a balmy spring evening. Soon, the schools return, and I go back to doing my actual job for the first time since mid-December. What a wonderful time to have a talk, from Richard and Gracy Crane, about living for God in the workplace.

‘What does God want from our work?’ was the theme. It was a challenging but very positive evening. We are all human, Richard reminded us at the start; there will be frustrating and worrying times in our working lives. As Christians though - as new people in Christ - are we putting our identity in our work, or in heaven? Looking back over my scribblings, that was the central question I took away.

Richard preached from Titus 3:1-8. Devote yourselves, he reminded us, to doing what is good. Use your workplace as an extension of your personal ministry. While there is nothing wrong with having a comfortable salary, where are you finding your identity? Are we putting our trust in Jesus, or in that which moths and vermin will destroy? Are we striving for wealth for wealth’s sake or are we striving to use what God blesses us with, our talents and finances, to further his kingdom? Comfort may be nice but if we’re aiming to walk along the narrow path, we should expect challenges along the way.

The practical implications of this are quite exciting. Maybe asking, “what do you do?” is not the most helpful question upon meeting a new person? Instead of valuing ourselves just by what we do, we can find fulfilment by how we are using our God-given gifts in the workplace for his glory. It was really encouraging for instance, to hear from Gracy about her experiences and practical examples where she had to make the choice between following Christ or seeking glory in the workplace.

The evening generated a lot of honest discussion, which I am sure will continue, including how best to engage with diversity and inclusion initiatives, what the value of our working lives are in the context of eternity and what to do if you are undervalued or mistreated.

I left thinking that there’s no one single-fit model of how to be a Christian at work. It’s about seriously praying over that central question and asking how we can transform our working lives into an extension of our personal mission.

To that end Richard and Gracy pointed us to the workers area on the St Mary's website where you’ll find a few carefully curated biblical reflections on work, and St Mary’s help for workers (both prayer and an employment advice service). You can also click here for find a recording of Richard's talk. I'd heartily recommend it.

Mission Partner Update: SAT-7

At the St Mary’s Evening on Thursday 11th February UK Trustee Mark Haines updated us on the work of our mission partner SAT-7.

SAT-7 is a Christian satellite television network broadcasting in Arabic, Persian, Kabyle and Turkish across the Middle East and North Africa. Their mission is to make God’s love visible across the region through inspirational, informative and educational multidenominational Christian television. They currently have around 25 million viewers across 4 channels.

This year they celebrate 25 years since their first broadcast. Satellite TV is the primary source of information for most in the region but increasingly, especially among the younger demographic, many are also watching online via computers, tablets and mobiles. To embrace this change, on Monday 22nd February, SAT-7 PLUS is being launched. This will be the Middle East’s first on-demand Christian video streaming service (similar to BBC iPlayer). This will allow worldwide access to programmes and an easy means of sharing content with friends.

Mark spoke of the SAT-7 ARABIC launch of the first programmes made in Tunisia by a team of believers from non-Christian backgrounds. One series explained the Christmas celebration and the other is a discussion show. We were also asked to pray for the church in Algeria. Rising persecution over the past few years has led to many churches being forced to close. SAT-7 broadcasts church services that help Algerian Christians to worship and feel less isolated.

We are invited to participate in some upcoming SAT-7 events:

  • For Lent SAT-7 have produced ‘Free to Believe?’. This features 40 messages, one for each day of Lent, from viewers, some watching in secret, some still searching and wanting to share their story.
  • 23-25 March is the International Network Conference. This year will be virtual and will be a series of webinars featuring virtual studio tours and Q & A sessions with international staff.
  • 3 April from 4-5pm, is the Easter Family Celebration.

Information on all these can be found at www.Sat7uk.org.

St Mary's Buddy System 2021 (Jon Drake)

In November last year we launched the St Mary’s Buddy System. Our inspiration was scuba diving where divers pair up and support each other. In the same way a number of individuals or households at St Mary’s have formed pairs to support each other in the Christian life for six months through the winter.

Three months on this is a good time to think again about our buddy pairings. Many have said what an encouragement it has been to keep in touch on the phone. I have also heard what a blessing it has been for pairs to take exercise walks together. Well done for braving the mud and rain!

If you are in a buddy link, perhaps January has been hectic and you haven’t been in touch since Christmas. If so, this would be a great time to reach out to your partner and catch up on their news from 2021 over a phone call or exercise walk.

If you would like to join a buddy pair, it’s not too late. Do contact your congregation leader and we can suggest a pairing for you.

Here are some ideas of ways we can encourage in buddy pairings and in all of our relationships at church. They are all coronavirus lockdown compliant!

  • Take time to listen and to talk. It is so encouraging to be able to share the joys and burdens of life with a brother or sister in Christ. Romans 12:15 tells us ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn’. When people share struggles with us, we may feel that we don’t know what to say. Often it’s enough just to listen and to share their grief or joy.
  • Show Christ-like love. We are all different and there are many ways we can do this. Taking time to talk and listen as mentioned above, sending cards, checking in on how things are going, following up on prayer requests. When we model the love of Jesus to one another it is a huge encouragement.
  • Pray for one another. It is great to ask how we can pray for each other, and to be ready to share things on our hearts that we’d like prayer for. We can take these away and pray on our own or pray together on the phone. I know a number of us have been getting into praying on the phone during lockdown, it works well and is surprisingly natural!
  • Talk about Christian truth. Colossians 3:16 says ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom’. Every believer has a role in speaking God’s word to one another. It is great to find natural ways to share things that we have been learning from the Bible and especially truths about Jesus Christ. There is nothing more encouraging than speaking to each other about ourwonderful Saviour, Lord and Friend. If you are chatting to a Christian friend why not get into the habit of each sharing something that has struck you in God’s word.

Christian encouragement is hugely powerful. It’s great to see it happening in our fellowship. Let’s keep going. ‘Therefore encourage each other, and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11).