(Guest blog written by Dave Peacock)
Yesterday we had some great news. Church is going to be open again! It’s been such a long time since I’ve been in the church building. It will have been 5 months since I last set foot in HT, the longest period I’ve been away from the place in over 12 years. The truth is I’ve missed it....a lot. Although it’s been awesome attending the church service in my pyjamas and putting the TV on mute when Mark Whitfield is preaching (or turning it off when he preaches in his hot pants), the truth is I’ve missed meeting at HT.
We all know that church isn’t the building, but meeting together was a fundamental part of the establishment of the early church and its subsequent growth. Acts 2 :42 says how early believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Being able to meet together, to share, to worship, to learn and enjoy fellowship is important as we journey in faith. We’re fortunate in that we live in an age where we can do this to some extent during quarantine, but I think most of us would agree that we’ve missed meeting together in person.
I’ve missed worshipping together, sharing communion together, seeing friends and meeting new people. I’ve missed seeing and feeling the Holy Spirit move throughout the congregation and hearing people’s stories of faith during baptism services. I’ve missed hugging Judy Badger and poking Andy Vincent in the ribs during the sermon (which I know I shouldn’t do). I’ve missed hearing the kids enjoying themselves during Sunday School and seeing the young people getting excited about their faith.
This experience has taught me that being able to meet together as a church isn’t something we should take for granted, but is something we should cherish. There’s always a risk of not appreciating something that you know you have free access to and in the West, we’ve enjoyed relative freedom to gather together as a fellowship whenever we’ve wanted to. Having that briefly taken away should remind us that not everyone in the world enjoys the same freedom. Many Christians across the world risk everything to gather together. As we prepare to meet for the first time in a while, let’s be mindful not to forget this and consider what we can do to help.
Of course, there will be changes when meet again. We will need to be socially distanced and some things that we’ve grown accustomed to will no longer be present. I won’t be able to hug Judy Badger and Andy Vincent’s ribs are safe...for now. But what is the most important thing about church? I think we can agree that the most important thing is meeting with God, enjoying His presence and being transformed by Him. As Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Now that’s something to get excited about and look forward to regardless of the safety measures in place.
The adjustments we will have to make to ensure we meet safely are small sacrifices and pale in comparison to the joy I feel about being physically together as a church again. May we cherish every moment we have together in His presence and fully embrace this new season, rejoicing in the Lord no matter what the future holds.