Never did I imagine that a variation of our Sunday morning church would see my family and I sat huddled in our lounge playing ‘Virtual I-spy’ with seven other families across the airwaves! In their minds eye, and with eyes closed, I had asked everyone (some as young as five) to imagine themselves on a beautiful sun-drenched beach and to have a good look around – what did they see? Something beginning with C? Crab! Something beginning with S? Shell! Something beginning with B? That stumped them… the answer to this one was buoy! Not the most obvious beach-side feature, but an important one none the less!
Our little all-age ‘Quarantini Community’, set up in week one of lockdown, went on to explore the functions of a buoy. Set out at sea, it was an important marker for passing boats, helping them to navigate the perils of unknown waters, and it was able to withstand the thrashings of the storms – being fastened firmly at its base, it would remain tethered to the rock, strong and secure, despite the waves seeking to overwhelm it.
This simple analogy of the buoy has stayed with me during these stormy times of the coronavirus and served as a challenge to me both at personal and broader levels. As both individuals and the Church, we must remain rooted to the rock of Jesus, who will help us to navigate these unchartered waters of the pandemic and not be overwhelmed by all that comes at us both now and in the months ahead. He sees beyond what we see and will provide the means for us to stay secure so that nothing shall overwhelm.
In my work as head of mission for the Evangelical Alliance, despite the devastating backdrop of the virus, the last few weeks have proved to be fascinating and encouraging as I have been hearing from many of our member church leaders, individuals, and unity group leaders, both in the UK and across the globe. God has been enabling His church to come together in a new way, to overcome divisions and historic boundaries, to unify around reaching people with the good news and a message of hope. Church leaders have readjusted to the digital and quickly realized the need to be entirely one in action, serving families and communities, and seeing people engage with the gospel in new and incredible ways.
And yet, whilst we sense that this is a time for us to be digging ever deeper into our own personal walk with God, taking up the opportunities to share faith with those around us, and engaging new people in our online church activity, I also sense that these are exhausting times for so many leaders and those making such quick readjustments. Allow me to encourage us that, despite the storminess, God’s power in us is enough.
Psalm 23:4 reminds us that, ‘though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and Your staff, they comfort me’ (my italics). All around us there is now a new phase of potential anxiety as we enter this next period of loosened lockdown, with questions about the economy and how businesses, churches and schools will fare and survive. Yet we are reminded again in John 16:33 that we are to seek God’s peace at all times – Jesus clearly reminds us that, ‘…in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ Nothing that we are going through is a surprise to God so, as we seek the way forward together as His Church, we can 100% rely on the fact that God will equip us for the course and sustain us as we seek Him for His peace, wisdom and insight to discern the times.
As we enter this period of re-emergence and renewal, the temptation for many of us may be to want to ‘ping back’ to the way things were before, when all was familiar and working seemingly perfectly well! And yet, in this time, surely God is leading us on to pastures new, maybe unfamiliar ones, but ones that are full of promise, hope and abundance of new life in Him. We are to be apostolic and creative in our mission, led by the spirit in all things. Sent onwards and outwards, linking organically to people who have never heard our story but now have ears ready to hear! We are to harness the creativity of this time and discern what is possible and sustainable. To encourage the new relationships formed with our neighbours and those we’ve befriended, and to love beyond measure those within our now-digital communities who are seeking to understand the good news of Jesus!
In this period, let us seek out God’s energy, peace and equipping so that we can be sustained to stick the course. God does not want this period of our ministry and lives to be one that cripples us, drives us to comparison and leaves us feeling inadequate or exhausted. He will hold us, embolden us, renew us and sustain us for all that He has called you and I to do at ‘such a time as this’.
I remind you and myself of the encouragements from both Zechariah 4:6 and Joshua 1:9, that in all things we do them in God’s speed and ability.
‘“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.’
We are to, ‘be strong and very courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’
As we enter this new phase of lockdown life and re-emergence, may we know God’s overwhelming presence, courage, peace and equipping. Holding tight to Him and His word, just as the buoy weathers the storms, we too will remain rooted and grounded in Him, our rock and ever-present help in times of trouble, and our hope for all that the future will bring.
Rachael serves as Head of Mission for the Evangelical Alliance, seeking to work with the EA’s member Churches and partner Organisations to develop a greater confidence in the gospel and make Jesus known around the UK. Married to Darren, Rachael lives in Ely, Cambs and has two sons, Jacob & Isaac.
Twitter: @rachael_heffer Instagram: rachaelmheffer