“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which we would usually mark around this time of year, sadly seems to be another casualty of the pandemic. Most of us are not able even to worship in our own building, let alone anyone else’s! We can, however, to continue to pray as one for the work of all churches everywhere, who are seeking to continue their life and witness at this difficult time.
It is also a good time to reflect on the impact of the pandemic on God’s Church across our country. The full effects of the repeated lockdowns and limitations will not be fully known for years but it is already clear that 2020 will be a watershed moment for Christian communities across our nation. For many, COVID will have accelerated patterns of change that were already present, forcing struggling churches to close their doors for the last time. For others, the loss of rental income (so important to many churches, including our own) will have had a devastating impact on local finances, almost inevitably leading to redundancies, the postponement of important projects or even closure.
In other cases, though, the pandemic has challenged Christians to step outside their comfort zones. To embrace technology, find new ways of ‘being church’ and engage with their communities in more exciting ways. Indeed, we have actually seen far more people engaging with the message of Jesus Christ in the UK during this time than for many years. The pandemic has forced us all to re-examine many of our assumptions and perhaps our prejudices.
As we step forward in faith in the coming months, there will sadly be much mourning and grieving. But let us also look for the signs of new life — not just in our gardens but in our churches as well.
With every blessing,
Rev’d Geoffrey Farrar