Street Party

An amazing event happened last Sunday afternoon. At 4:00PM a large group of neighbours on our road all came out to drink tea together as a way of keeping in touch and encouraging each other as the Corona crisis crept across the country.

We all were very careful to maintain a good 2-meter social distance, the lack of traffic meant we could spread quite widely across the road without fear of being run over. 

Even after living here for 2 years it was a wonderful occasion to meet neighbours we’d never spoken to before and find out about their lives and stories. From that meeting on the road, a community group has set up with folks checking in to ensure that our more vulnerable and any isolating neighbours are ok and well looked after. Offers of shopping and gardening and practical help are all now posted daily on our group.

Last night we were all reminded to be at our doors at 8:00 PM to applaud our amazing frontline medical heroes for their selfless service in this time of need.

I’m pleased to say that one of the organisers of this new community group is an RBC member – creating community is one of our values.

On Monday evening following the lock down announcement the group was buzzing with concerned messages – is everyone ok but also disappointment, we won’t be able to meet in the street again for some time. Encouragingly there were messages of hope. ‘let’s have a street party when this is all over’- and I think we will!

You may be aware of a quote attributed to CS Lewis that is doing the rounds on social media this week. The quote goes something like this.

Satan “I will cause anxiety, fear and panic. I will shut down schools, places of worship and sports events. I will cause economic turmoil.”

Jesus “I will bring together neighbours, restore the family unit, I will bring dinner back to the kitchen table. I will help people slow down their lives and appreciate what really matters. I will teach my children to rely on me and not the world. I will teach my children to trust me and not their money and material resources.”  C. S. Lewis 1942

I’m always suspicious of these memes, especially as there are some questions and debate verifying whether CS Lewis did actually write this, nevertheless, it provides a beautiful depiction of Christian community being lived out practically and lovingly.

A year ago, at RBC we started talking about creating community as we realised how much people valued time being accepted, welcomed and spending time together. We were about to launch ‘connect’ community lunches in April- simple no fuss monthly Sunday lunches on site at the church building for anyone and everyone to join in, whether you’d been to the service or not.   

What’s amazing is the absence and isolation of not meeting together, community is bizarrely being strengthened and I am so encouraged by the stories I’m hearing of groups meeting online, letters, phone calls, errands and help being given. I’ve seen the inside of more people’s homes now we are online calling that I ever did in the last two- and a-bit years.

Whoever wrote that quote, something positive is growing despite the anxiety, upset, confusion worry, loss and pain of coronavirus.

My mantra for this season is this:

‘Whether gathered, scattered or isolated, we are still church’

And I see little pockets of church are happening all over.

Amazing!

See you online on Sunday – and don’t forget the clocks go forward an hour

Graham

Mum

I’m about to drive across to Oxfordshire to visit my Mother, it may be the last time I see her for a long time, it may be the last time I see her – but I don’t want to think about that. My Mum is incredible – I know many of us think this about their mothers, but I feel I can back this up well.  In my Mum’s near 90 years of life she has coped with wars, illness, recession, loss, bereavement, declining health, monumental lifestyle changes and amazing trips around the world. My Mum has never been wealthy or blessed with a high salary yet is (still) inspiringly generous with a solid and oft backed up belief that ‘the Lord will provide’ …. He always has.

Mum was a nurse and as all children of medics know that meant she gave no sympathy whenever I felt ill as a child. Mum believed firmly that the school would send you home if you were that ill…. but I was still always sent to school.

Mum’s faith in God’s guidance and providence puts me to shame as my parents took retrospectively barmy decisions to move the family to different and sometimes difficult places following God’s direction.  

In her late 80’s not only did she downsize from the big family house to a small chic two bed apartment, but she moved to a new town, church, and community. At the time of the move she commented that whilst she didn’t feel it or consider it, she realised that people saw her as ‘another’ old lady! In her new church this ‘old lady’ is the first to volunteer when a plea is given or the need arises, when people half her age haven’t stepped up.

Mum is resolutely anti hearing aids – the neighbours have got used to her deafening headache-inducing TV volume!  She’s also embraced technology transitioning from a steam powered 386 windows 3,1 computer to a sleek new iPad. However, she’s never quite mastered the art of turning her mobile phone on.

Mum would be classed as vulnerable in the current health climate we are living in, although woe-be-tide the brave person that tells her that. Sadly, it’s true, and she will need to self-isolate which will be hard for her. My sisters and I are debating whether a visit is wise, have I mixed with corona infected people this week? I’ve tried not to, but I just don’t know. So, we made the joint decision I could go, but I’m not to hug her or be near her and of course I must wash my hands.

I pray this won’t be last time I see Mum, I somehow suspect she will give Abraham a run for his money in terms of longevity, So, I’m going and Mum will probably tell me not to be so daft – ‘I’m fine’.

We don’t give up caring and loving, even when we are distant.

Is there someone you need to reach out to this weekend?

Please keep in touch

Community

It’s amazing how quickly the public tone has changed as we talk about the growing crisis with the coronavirus disease covid-19. Last week we responded with humour, laughs and joviality about elbow bumps and heel knocks in the place of shaking hands with lots of laughter and a degree of eye rolling.   Social media was awash with posts about the predicted statistics of people affected with covid-19 being very small in comparison to people affected and dying of other illnesses and diseases.   Conversations amongst my friends tended to be of the view that things had been sensationalised by the media, leading to panic over something that would blow over quickly and soon be forgotten about.

A week later the tone has changed with a growing concern for the safety and wellbeing of the  ‘at risk’ category of people in our communities.  ‘I’m not worried about myself’ said one interviewee on the news perhaps speaking on our behalf, ‘I’m thinking of my elderly mother for whom coronavirus could be deadly.’

Panic mania has also intensified with footage of supermarket shelves decimated by the rush of people bulk buying loo rolls, sanitiser and tinned goods ready to self-isolate and protect themselves in the future weeks.

I’ve noticed this week how my inbox traffic has reflected this with people raising questions and concerns about the steps and precautions we are taken within the RBC community to keep people safe and support our frontline NHS workers at the forefront of the growing pandemic.

Where is the gospel distinctive for followers of Jesus being seen against this backdrop? My hope is that church communities can model a different behaviour and response that speaks into this situation.  One way is to be attentive to those who are vulnerable, at risk and find practical ways to help. This may mean collecting shopping or prescriptions if people are worried about leaving their home. If may mean offering transport for people concerned about public transport.  It may mean sharing our supplies with folks who have been unable to get to the shops.  This an opportunity for followers of Jesus to put care, grace and patience into action as we think about our neighbours and friends who may be quite isolated and feel lost at the moment. We might want to think about phoning or contacting folks who live on their own, just to check in on them and make sure they are ok.  Immediately as I write this, I think about some of our neighbours who I haven’t seen around for the last few days.

At RBC we are taking all the recommended precautions and will diligently monitor the situation as it develops. We are mindful not to put anyone at risk or make little of concerns people have, and of course we are encouraging people to stay away from our gatherings if they are feeling unwell.  Sadly, but inevitably our prayer list is growing – please do get in touch if you are unwell or self-isolating at the moment.  This weekend we are going to be asking for people to be ready to respond in some of the ways mentioned above as we put together a response team. We are encouraging everyone who is well and able to make themselves available to support those who are not.

And of course, we are praying that the crisis will pass quickly, that the anticipated casualties will be lower than anticipated, that the affected will recover and that the church community will be a true community to all at this time.

Our current response to covid-19 is on our website and will be updated as necessary, in the meantime if you have concerns, please contact the church office.

Stay safe, stay well and look out for each other

See you Sunday?

Mind The Gap

You know those times when someone captures and articulates what you are feeling and thinking, in more succinct clear and concise way? This is exactly what Trevor Neil has done in his new book, ‘Bridging The Gaps’, in which he gives us the language and vocabulary to voice and explore the tensions between the established church and the cultural context we exist in. It’s a fascinating read – not always comfortable and potentially very challenging to members or committed regular attenders of a local church.

For a while now I’ve been unable to put helpful voice to the tension I feel that many of our churches are still  run and organised with a heavy reliance on day time volunteers, even though changing work patterns and family commitments has greatly affected the number of volunteers available. Another tension is that our understanding of regular attendance commitment has changed for many people with sports, shopping, work, family or simply relaxing at home taking priority over the Sunday service.  ‘Bridging the Gaps’ acknowledges the discomfort and whilst deliberately not offering silver bullet problem solving solutions, suggests helpful ways of engaging and discussing these tensions.

His analysis on the consumer problem of church shopping is insightful as he explores the growing trend of people being attracted to the church with the liveliest music, lights, smoke machines and trendy preachers as opposed to the strength and support of a local church community.

Trevor’s book is written with the experience and wisdom of ministry, leading churches with a particular emphasis on social action based evangelism and so he writes with considerable integrity about an area he knows well. Each chapter ends with questions that could form the basis of a very interesting growth group discussion or conversation with friends or colleagues.

I first met Trevor about 15 years ago when his church supported our mission work in Albania and Trevor was organising a team visit to serve with us at Light of the World church.  A few years later Trevor’s wife came to asses the homeless shelter we were running in Torquay and so I was really thrilled when Trevor moved to lead the team at Selsdon Baptist Church shortly after we moved to Redhill.

The CLT are all reading the book and will be discussing the chapter questions each month when we meet together. If you’d like to read a copy, I have one or two spares, otherwise I can put you in touch with the author. It is better to buy direct from him than the behemoth online book seller named after a south American jungle.

Have a great weekend and hope to see you Sunday