Last week felt like a significant week as we heard how we may start to exit this period of coronavirus lockdown. As I’m sure you are aware, our Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a number of changes that will ease the restrictions we have all been living with.
Obviously, there is a long journey ahead of us and there are still many restrictions in place. It’s so important that we all continue to play our part. However, there are some positives for us as a local church that I want to let you know about.
Much of this is still very dependent on further government guidance and, of course, if the ‘R’ number begins to rise then we may well have to enter lockdown measures again.
We are also still a long way from being able to gather again on Sundays in the way that we are used to but, based on the information that we know right now, we are beginning to make plans for the various steps we hope to take over the coming weeks and months.
Step 1: Opening HOME Coffee House
From Monday 06 July, HOME Coffee House will be opening. The government’s announcement clearly gave the green light for cafes/restaurants to open. Of course, we will need to maintain social distancing and the team are working through all the implications of risk assessments, cleaning and people flow but HOME will be open from 8.30am on Monday 06 July.
We are also beginning to have conversations with hirers about who may be able to hire space safely at The King’s Centre – we anticipate it will be many months before the centre is as busy as it was pre-lockdown but at least we can start that process.
Step 2: Gathering with another household
From 04 July, two households will be allowed to join together. We have all missed the sense of community that we enjoy at King’s and now we have an opportunity to begin to see people again – this could be for friendship, it could be for prayer or why not meet on a Sunday with one other household and enjoy our online service together? Though we recognise this may be a challenge if you have kids!
So, we encourage you to use the easing of lockdown restrictions, not just for barbecues and game nights, but for community, prayer and attending online church together – if you are comfortable to do this.
Step 3: Gathering to pray
We are currently processing the additional guidance that the government have released but it is clear that from the 04 July places of worship can open for ‘services’ and ‘group prayer’. We are reviewing this and are asking if it possible and safe for us to begin gathering in groups to pray. However, there are a number of factors we have to consider before we can go ahead – social distancing will have to be in place, no singing will be allowed, cleaning requirements will increase and over 70s are still discouraged from attending. Watch this space! If we can, we will.
Of course, prayer is not restricted to a gathering and we have enjoyed two excellent weeks of 24/7 prayer – we will endeavour, therefore, to find every way to encourage us as a church to continue to pray on our own, in life groups, online and, potentially, together.
Step 4: Life Group Gatherings
As restrictions ease further, we are looking forward to the day when entire Life Groups can gather together to meet mid-week or to enjoy the online service together – worshipping and praying for one another.
We are still a little way from this being possible but, if it can be done safely, we are excited by the thought that we may be able to gather in homes at some point in the future. It reminds us that the church in the book of Acts gathered as often in their homes as they did in the temple courts – we feel this new emphasis on community, relationships and small groups may be hugely helpful for us as a church.
Step 5: Gathering together for live Sunday services at The King’s Centre
Of course, we want to relaunch our Sunday gatherings as soon as we can. But we recognise that large crowds and gatherings will be the last thing that is reintroduced as we exit lockdown measures.
We are not going to rush back to try and make a Sunday meeting happen. We will follow government guidance and we will do our best to love people by keeping them safe. It is likely that when we are allowed to gather, it may look and feel different to what we have become accustomed to. So, at this moment we can’t say when or how we will meet.
Instead, this season will give us an opportunity to rediscover the importance of smaller gatherings – something that seemed essential in the New Testament church.
This will mean that we have to continue to be patient as we wait for Sunday services to start again. But it’s also a wonderful opportunity to think about what it means to be the church outside of a weekly meeting. God was always looking for a people – not a service. A people devoted to one another, devoted to prayer, devoted to fellowship, devoted to loving their neighbour – we can do all of these things and will continue to do so.
This is why we are starting a new teaching series on the 12 July called ‘Church Without Walls’ – looking afresh at the big picture vision of the local church and how we can fully engage with it even whilst we are unable to meet for our Sunday gatherings.
When we reach the point that lockdown is well and truly over, we will gather again, and worship, celebrate and give thanks to God for his faithfulness. But, as my friend Phil Moore says, when we gather we’ll remember that:
‘Our scattering is as important as our gathering. Our Life Groups are as important as our Sunday services. Our online church services and prayer meetings are a vital aspect of our family life together, and a vital aspect of our outreach to a world which is too often excluded from in-person church gatherings’.
There are still a lot of unknows. And we will do our best to follow the guidance given. It has been a difficult past few months for everyone, but praise God – he is faithful and we can slowly begin the process towards in-person gatherings once again.
With love to you all,