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Dear Friends,

What an extraordinary time this is.

We met as elders last night to discuss our plans in light of the government's new recommendations announced yesterday afternoon.  They have a significant impact on us as a church, our services, our home groups, our socials, meetings and general fellowship.

As Christians, we highly value the importance of ‘meeting together’ as God's people to grow under His teaching, encourage one another, and grow in love of God and one another.  
 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Heb 10:23–25


As Christians we also respect and submit to our government, especially in their desire to love and protect human life and we live in a world in which we must also manage practical realities such as Green Lane school understandably now cancelling our bookings for the foreseeable future.

As such, we have decided to use this opportunity to strengthen our faith and fellowship in far from ideal, but nonetheless potentially exciting ways.

Sunday Services

We will now meet each week in our own homes via an online video stream to be aired at 10am every Sunday.  You will find this on our website and you will receive a separate email with a link and more details later in the week.  We urge you to make this both a priority and a highlight in your week for you and those in your household.

I will be welcoming you there and we’ll still have kids slots, prayers, a Bible reading and our sermon series will continue in John’s gospel.  We also hope to include interviews made during the week so you can see what other people are getting up to in these unusual times, and we’ll share some YouTube song links for you to enjoy at home either before or after the streamed service.

Families will also be provided with age appropriate printable worksheets, resources and craft ideas to study the Bible after the live stream with your children.  Material will be provided for all ages up to and including Roots, and we'll endeavour to make them very easy for parents to lead.  We would love this to become an essential and valuable family time to grow in faith together.  We’d encourage Ignite and Roots to engage with the sermons as well, and I’m sure many of the Transformers will also be able to follow much of what is taught.

For those without children we will invite you to a virtual meeting after the service to chat and share life, much like we would do after the service normally.
 

Home Groups

We would love everyone to join a ‘Virtual Home Group’.  Without physically meeting on Sundays, the importance of trying to meet in virtual groups during the week will become very important.  If you are not in a home group at the moment please email Claire Reynolds (you can click this link) expressing your interest in joining a Virtual Group, stating which days of the week and whether a morning or an evening is best.  Groups meet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Home Group leaders, we will be contacting you separately to help you set up the technology which is relatively straightforward.

Loving One Another

God didn’t design us to isolate ourselves from society, so the next few weeks or even months will be difficult for many of us.  As such, we should not feel embarrassed to ask each other for support.  It will be important for many of us to still be able to physically meet with other people for our own mental and spiritual health. Some of the elders and other families in the church are very happy to still host or visit those who would like that, recognising that for many, social contact will be an ‘essential need’ that outweighs the risk of spreading the virus.  Please feel free to contact your friends in the church directly about this, or your home group leader, elders or staff members who can all help.
 

Loving the Community

An unprecedented opportunity lies before us!  A whole society potentially desperate for someone to talk to, someone to help practically with shopping or emergencies, and someone to help make sense of it all.  Many will be concerned about health, jobs and the future.  As Christians, we have a hope beyond this world and it’s viruses.  As such, let’s use this opportunity to spread the love of Christ through practical and gospel support.  Here are some ideas:

1 - Below and attached to this email (click here) is a card that you can print to drop through the doors on your street offering support.  If you find yourself with requests you cannot manage, please let me know and we'll find you some more help.  If you don't have printer, please also let me know and I'll drop some through your door!

2 - Invite people to our virtual Sunday services!  With so little else going on, we have something edifying and life changing to offer.  Who knows, perhaps hundreds will find comfort in Christ and the fellowship at GCWP over the coming months.

3 - We have contacted the local councils to offer practical support to the community, we will let you know if they need our help.  Perhaps you and your whole family can get involved in serving the most vulnerable in our neighbourhoods.

Unity

I thought it beneficial to include something in this email about unity.

Many among us will be feeling anxious for themselves or for loved ones, either related to health, or fear of loneliness in isolation, or job security.  Others will be feeling frustrated that life is so different, the future is uncertain, there are no baked beans or toilet rolls on the shelves!  Still others will be feeling this is all a big overreaction.

Each of our experiences, contexts and characters will lead to these types of reactions.  Each may be valid, but also each quite different and able to bring disunity to our church family, at a time when we must seek unity for the sake of each others faith, and for our witness to an equally confused community around us.

Peter the apostle reminds his readers of this in 1 Peter 3v8:
 
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
So if you’re frustrated with those who seem blasé about the measures put in place by the government, please instead love one another, be compassionate and humble.  Or if you are frustrated by those who want to avoid all social contact, then please instead love one another, be compassionate and humble.  For our unity and love towards each other at this time may well be our greatest opportunity to witness to the unifying Gospel of Jesus to our local community and extended families.  Jesus puts it like this in John 13v34-35:
 
"As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Finally

All other 'in-person' meetings will be temporarily stopped until the government give the go ahead.  This sadly includes kids and youth clubs etc.

I will be sending out a weekly email update with ideas of how to spend your time, with book recommendations, film suggestions and helpful articles to read.  There will also be an 'Xplode' (boom) section for kids to enjoy!

Please do be praying for each other at this time, please do prioritise your faith in God, by reading his Word and engaging with each other by attending our Sunday streamed services and virtual home groups.

For somewhere to start in prayer here is a an article Richard Coekin (CEO of Co-Mission) wrote amplifying the Lord's Prayer and seeking pastoral wisdom concerning the coronavirus.

In Christ

Sam Williamson
sam@gracechurchworcesterpark.org
07397181501
Senior Pastor
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