Being people of hope in Jesus, hearing good news in this current season encourages our faith in God, who is not shaken by this pandemic but moving in our nation.
We are also encouraged with the Media featuring positive articles, and even joking comments which may be true, relating to the Christian faith and Church, as we are adapting to not being able to meet physically, alongside evidence of an unprecedented surge in internet searches for prayer and people attending online church services.
Google searches on prayer skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when the COVID-19 went global. The 24-7 Prayer network has seen a massive increase in prayer rooms it supports from 260 in March 2019 to 600 (covering 40 nations) in March this year. Research sponsored by Tearfund found that prayer has become an essential part of life for many, with 44% of adults reporting that they regularly pray according to their poll. The nationwide poll identifies “among those who pray, a third say that they have prayed since the COVId-19 lockdown because they believe it makes a difference”.
As we speak and make regular contact with our occupying churches, we are further encouraged by hearing of these churches continuing to be creative, focused and missional during this season, thereby confirming the recent quotation:
‘Our church buildings may be closed, but the Church is very much alive’
One of our occupying churches Hollywood Christian Life Centre have taken advantage of technology over past weeks. The Sunday family services are using Zoom with a separate channel for Sunday school. Most of the church have been able to join, with a number of additional people joining too.
Prayer meetings, home groups and young people’s leaders are also continuing in the same manner. A regular calling rota makes sure all the people in the church are contacted each week.
Good contacts with their local churches and council have allowed them to volunteer their church building to be used for Foodbank. During people’s daily exercise, church members are being encouraged to knock on doors of people they know, stand back, and have a chat, which is being greatly appreciated.
Arena Church, one of our newer occupying churches, based in Nottingham, have been able to keep in touch with the vast majority of their church members through the use of the internet, with the weekly services moved online, streamed through the Church Online platform, and then later available as audio podcasts or as full videos via YouTube (including a playlist of worship music). Other meetings have taken place during the week over Zoom, with Bible studies, training evenings, small groups and prayer meetings taking place every week on different nights, encouraging the members to stay in touch, which has resulted in strengthening the bonds and allows them to reach further than they ever have before.
Social media has also played a continued role in connecting with others, and people have attended the online services who have never previously been to the physical location – including some from other countries.