Category Archives: Blog

Hope to come: Colossians week 4

I took a tumble this week. Walking home from school with my daughters I caught my foot in a ditch in the grass and twisted my ankle – resulting a sprain and chipped shard of bone.

Given so much of ministry is based at home at the moment it’s perhaps not been such a major issue, I can continue to work from office with my foot elevated, ice pack and painkillers. 12 months ago I’d have had a whole host of diary engagements to have to rearrange.

Things in life don’t always go to plan.
Things are not always perfect or ideal.
Life isn’t always without its pain and suffering and struggle.

As we’ve journeyed through the book of Colossians and dipped our toes into some of its riches, we’ve seen these last few weeks the fullness and joy and abundance that a life in Christ offers now, today, in the present.

Jesus, the gift we receive without catch or terms and conditions.
Jesus is hope for today.

But yet, the letter recognises that even while Jesus is with us, giving joy and fulness and abundance in our lives today, life is still life, and things don’t always go to plan.

As we receive the gift of Jesus today, we not only have fullness and hope for today, there is a greater hope, a greater inheritance to come.

Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters,since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.                                                         

Col 3:23-24

On receiving Jesus, not only are we offered fullness and hope and abundance of love and grace for today, there is an inheritance, a hope to come, where things do go to plan, where the abundance of God’s love and grace is made more fully known.

A transformation to come that we cannot fully comprehend, that will be even better, brighter, lighter.  Receive Jesus today, hope for today, and a hope to come.

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All Together Now. Colossians week 3

Before going to theological college, I spent 6 years managing a Christian bookshop. It had been something of a dream of mine for all my teenage life. I had a passion for business, for resourcing God’s people in mission and ministry, and reaching out beyond the margins of church.

The place often felt like a signpost, as well as selling goods we saw a growing ministry of pastoral care – welcoming all sorts of people from many different backgrounds with many different stories to tell. We would point people to support, spiritual, physical, economic, we would offer conversation about life and faith, sometimes we would pray with people, and one of the joys of this ministry was that through it God was at work and we saw a number people begin following Jesus.

It was through this pastoral ministry that God began to reveal to me a calling to a vocation as a Methodist minister. But one of the things that surprised me most when running the bookshop was not these opportunities for mission, ministry and pastoral care with those on the margins, but the conversations I had with ‘already Christians’.

Running the bookshop meant I was serving a wide and diverse range of Christian people, fellowships and churches. And I saw that as a great thing, an opportunity to learn from others, discover more about God’s church and celebrate our common faith.

What surprised me, as just how un-loving God’s church can be from within. I was amazed the first time I was criticised for stocking anything but the King James Bible – on one occasion I was told I was the antichrist for stocking a particular book (I can’t remember what the book was now! – just the accusation!).

I don’t think it’s wrong to have conviction in faith, but I do think we need to as God’s Spirit to watch over us that we don’t get to a point where we are so convicted of our faith that we show no openness to the diversity of faith present in God’s people.

In Colossians 3 we read the following verses, which come from a larger section where Paul is seeking to enable understanding of what living together as Christian community looks like.

8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Colossians 3:8-11

As the letter to the Colossians unfolds, the message of the gospel – the Good News -Jesus Christ – is being unpacked and given clarity. Christ is all and in all. Human labels that divide are superfluous to the power and grace of God. 

One of the things that often saddens me is that Church, and society, spend so much time and energy highlighting our differences, and allowing that to lead to division and jealousy.

If we are kingdom people, worshipping Christ who’s kingdom we are welcomed into through God’s love and grace – surely it is our common faith in Christ who is all and in all that we should hold our main focus on.

John Wesley, who’s ministry contributed to the birthing of Methodism, was himself well aware of the way opinions led to division, and in one of his sermons argued that differing opinions need to be held in perspective with common faith, and that differing opinions should not lead to the cessation of fellowship.[i]

Friends there is much that has potential to divides us. Views on political and public health measures during the pandemic; contradictory convictions around communion, sexuality, gender & marriage; Brexit; immigration. The list could be endless, and these things are not things we should entirely ignore. But I think should be approached with the a recognition from all that by the love and grace of God human made division is wiped away – Christ is all and in all.

For me, these verses challenge me to hold our common faith in the un-boundaried love and grace of God at the centre of my relationships. Not focused on difference and division, but on the kingdom of God where Christ is all and in all.


[i] Sermon 19: Salt and Light, John Wesley’s 44 Sermons. Epworth Press, 1944

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Need a hero? Colossians week 2

“I need a hero! I’m holding out for a hero to the end of the night!”[i]

Are you looking for a hero?

Yes? No? Not sure?
I think, truthfully a lot of us are, though we may not always realise it, or coin it in that way.

Society loves a hero.
Someone who will save us, a figurehead to give hope.
Film and TV is full of hero’s we love – from Marvel to Harry Potter to Poldark to Doctor Who,
We love a hero, and especially love a hero that appears an underdog, that rises up to save the day against the odds.

Even in the real world, away from sci-fi and fiction, we like to look for a hero.
We’ve spent a significant part of 2020 putting a ‘protective shield around the NHS’, trying to maximise it’s potential to save life.
But of course we have to also cope with the painful reality that life one earth cannot always be saved.

I wonder if sometimes we expect our politicians to be hero’s too.
Decisions have to be made, based on the best knowledge they have to had,
but there will always be alternative choices that could have been – and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it can also be a curse.

I’m not wanting to defend all political choices here,
but to remind us that we need be aware of our human propensity to create hero’s.
Aware of who and where we place our hope.
Remembering that we live in this world – not the world of sci-fi and fiction.

The letter to the Colossians is written to a group of Christians who are facing pressure.
Pressure to put their trust, hope and faith in new ideas, alternative hero’s and unrealistic portrayals of salvation.

But here in Colossians we are reminded that there is someone who really did come to this world to save.

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.

Colossians 2:6-9, New Living Translation

If you know you’re looking for a hero – enjoy your sci-fi and fiction – I do – but look to Jesus.
If you’re not sure if you’re looking for a hero – still look to Jesus.
If you said you weren’t – still look to Jesus.

Jesus Christ was an underdog, and hung out with human beings like you and me.
People with doubts and questions and uncertainties.
People who were anxious and broken and unsure.
People living with guilt and shame.
People looking for truth, and disillusioned by the way of the world.

Jesus comes not to irradicate that. But to live in it.
To experience it. To live with us.
Jesus came to earth, living and walking in our shoes.
Jesus understands what it is to be human.

These words from Colossians tell us Jesus wasn’t simply human, Jesus was the fullness of God in human form. Jesus is human, and Jesus is God.

I believe Jesus is our Saviour – who came to save the world, you and me, because of God’s love for the world, for you and me.
And to point us to a way of living that is filled with hope and truth.

But – Jesus isn’t a hero who comes to save us because we’re helpless.
He’s not that sort of hero.
He’s the hero who knows who we are, knows our potential, and so wants us to grow and be built up. Need a hero? Let your roots grow in Jesus.


[i] Written by Jim Steinman with Dean Pitchford.

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Under Pressure?

GROW – Colossians

Week 1 – Colossians 1:1-23

This month the Methodist communities I serve in Bognor Regis, Felpham and Westergate are going to be studying the letter to the Colossians, and my Sunday reflection videos are going to take a sneaky peak too.

This week we’re looking at Colossians 1:1-23, which forms something of the trailer for what’s to come in the rest of the letter. It sets the scene for us.

The Colossian Christian community have been coming under pressure. Colossae had been a busy riverside city, a centre of trade – but other cities had overtaken them and Colossae had become a bit of a has been place.

As a result, there was a lack of hope, there was uncertainty in the community. And pressure was building from many corners of their society. All vying for attention, cults presenting themselves as truth and hope and salvation.

Paul, who writes this letter from prison, and has never met the Colossian Christians face to face. He’s heard of their faith, and he writes to them. Much like me speaking to a camera right now, hoping that you who are watching will be encouraged in your faith, Paul wanted to encourage them.

And so he writes:

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.

Colossians 1:1-23

Paul writes to encourage and affirm the Colossian Christians in the faith they have…

‘you’re doing good’

Keep at it…

Despite the pressures around you, keep at it.

Keep focused on Jesus.

There’s much more Paul wants to say about Jesus – and why keeping focused on Jesus gives hope – and we’ll come back to that more next week.

But this week – I want to encourage you.

Life is full of pressure and uncertainty right now.

And here in the UK we’re in a patchwork of restrictions across the country, there’s very live debate about whether the restrictions are going to far, or not far enough, what the scientific evidence is…

There’s so much vying for out attention.

Some much competition for truth.

Just as Paul encourages the Colossian Christian community to keep on keeping on, despite the pressure around them, my encouragement to you is to keep on keeping on.

If you a Christian – keep at your relationship with Jesus.

Paul goes on to celebrate the truth that the Colossian community’s faith is bearing fruit and growing among them (1:6).

Church – keep growing, keep praising, keep praying, keep encouraging one another in faith.

Keep asking questions and looking to God for answers.

If you’re not a Christian, then I want say to you – that despite all the noise around us, and around you, presenting itself as truth and hope – there is one true source of hope that will be faithful to you, and never leave you – Jesus.

Jesus is hope, and truth, and light.

Jesus has, and continues to make such a difference to my life.

Jesus is the one certainty, the one truth, we can hold onto.

We’ll look at more on how Paul presents the hope Jesus gives next week.

For now, keep on keeping on.

Despite pressure and uncertainty,

Looking to Jesus,

Grow and bear fruit.

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Terms and Conditions

Use of this service is subject to the terms and conditions printed in size 3 font on the back left wall of the store – next to the white display unit.

Alternatively you can access our Terms and Conditions through our website by finding the link somewhere on our homepage – usually in pretty small grey font, but it depends if you’re viewing our website on computer, tablet of mobile device.

Ok, so it’s not always that hard to find them, but they’re not always easy to make sense of are them. Terms and Conditions are often long, full of legal jargon, and it’s not unusual that I’m still not sure what they really mean after I’ve read them. In fact, I confess I sometimes just tick the box to say I’ve read them and move on.

Terms and Conditions are part of 21st Century life, every social media account, every purchase we make, every contract we sign comes with some sort of conditions. Rules, guidelines, commitments, legal requirements – from the provider, but also from me the receiver.

I’ve heard lots of times people saying things like ‘God doesn’t love me, I’m not good enough’. Every time it fills me with sadness because somehow the world thinks God has a long list of complicated, undecipherable terms and conditions that mean no one can ever live up to them.

But it’s just not true, this misconception.

In the Bible there’s a letter that Paul writes where he talks about this sense of being cut off from God. I’m putting into my own words here – you can look it up for yourself if you want, it’s Colossians 1:21-22.

once you were cut off from God because of your evil deeds, but now you are reconciled because of Jesus, made holy and blameless and no longer cut off.

In the gospel of John we read Jesus saying:

“anyone who comes to me I will never drive away”

John 6:37b

A relationship with God doesn’t need to start with terms and conditions of us being perfect or thinking we’re good enough. There are no legal requirements.

Relationship with God starts with accepting the wonderful, amazing fact that God loves us for who we are and will drive no one away.

If you haven’t already, start a relationship with God today – he’s ready and waiting to hear from you, and accept you with open, loving arms.

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The Coffee Cup

A few years ago we were on a motorway journey and pulled in at a service station. We’d been driving for some time so I was sure in need of a coffee – so got into the Starbucks queue.

I placed my order and, as they often do in coffee shops, the guy behind the counter asked my name and proceeded to scribe it onto the cup in bold black sharpie. I got my coffee and went to sit with the family.

About half an hour or so later, Louise wanted a hot chocolate so off I went back to the Starbucks queue. I placed my order, but this time he didn’t ask my name, he said – ‘it’s Dan isn’t it?’

I was amazing, in a busy service station coffee shop, amongst the busyness of his day, I wasn’t just another customer to process through the coffee conveyor – he’d remembered my name – I felt valued for who I was.

When I began leading services, about 14 years ago now! – there was one verse from the Bible that played a massive part in my accepting that this was what God was calling me to.

It comes from Isaiah 43…

“Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Isaiah 43:1b

When I began to feel God was asking me to serve him by preaching, I didn’t think I was good enough. I thought I was too young, naive, full of faults and would just fail God.

But God’s words to me were that I was redeemed – that despite my own fears and feelings I wasn’t good enough, God would compensate for them & overcome them.

That those things about me that I thought meant I wouldn’t be good enough, were not a problem at all because God had called me by name. My name, no one else’s, I was the one God was calling.

I believe God is calling you too.

God created you with a unique set of skills, personality and passions – and that unique combination is what makes you you.  

God is calling by name, because God wants you to know him, to hear him, to be the person you are and God made you to be.

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Life Jacket

This hi-viz belongs to one of my daughters – a bit small for me! They often wear them when they ride along the pavement on their bikes.

They don’t call it a hi-viz though They know it helps keep them safe and so they have always called it a life jacket.

What do you have that keeps you safe?

Of course we’re familiar with face coverings, keeping distance from one another, we have speed limits and breaks on bikes and cars. We are surrounded by things that are there to keep us safe.

As Christians, sometimes we talk about Jesus saving us.
We call Jesus the Saviour of the World.
Saviour – literally means someone who saves someone else from danger.
Jesus is, in many ways, a life jacket for us, for me, for you, for all the world.

In John 12:46-47 we read Jesus say:

‘I have come as light to the world, so that everyone who believes in me will not be in darkness, I came, not to judge the world, but to save the world’

I have come as light to the world: A bit like a fluorescent jacket, Jesus offers light. Jesus light is not for a limited group people Jesus has written down on a list – Jesus says this light is for all the world – whoever believes will not be in darkness There’s no limit to who can be saved by Jesus’ light – simply believe Jesus is who he says he is – the light of the world, the son of God.

Know the Jesus is not here to judge – but save I would look prettyridiculousif I went out trying to wear this wouldn’t I – I may get a few judgmental looks!

Well we’re reminded here that Jesus doesn’t judge us, and Jesus doesn’t judge you – Jesus doesn’t look at us and criticise us – Jesus came because of God’s love for the world, to save the world.

And if you’re watching this from the world – then my friend that includes you!

If you want to know more about Jesus do get in touch via social media, email, old fashioned telephone – we would love to talk with you.

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Learning from Lockdown #4: Gaining Access

Throughout August I will be encouraging us to reflect on things we have learn and are learning through lockdown about self, God and being Christian community.

On the 1st September 2016 we moved to Queens Foundation, Birmingham where I was to begin my training. As we’d only got a small, 2nd floor flat for the 4 of us, college had offered us a garage, and, at first, we parked the car in it.

On the 2nd September 2016 we took a trip to the supermarket. We got back, unloaded and I shut the garage door – it was quite stiff to shut, but I kept pushing, thinking, I must get some WD40 for that… until I realised I never locked the car…or shut the boot. I went to re-open the garage door to discover that the boot and garage door were now hitting each other – I couldn’t open the garage door beyond a few inches.

I spent about an hour trying to work out how to solve the puzzle. In that time, I met various other students and members of college staff, their first introduction to me was seeing a stranger trying to break into a garage…thinking back I’m not surprised those conversations started with some suspicious looks.

Eventually, I managed to reach through the top gap of the garage door get some rope tied to the car boot, then reach through the bottom gap and pull it down to get the garage door open. The car boot had a few scratches, but at least I’d got access.

Default ‘church’

Before lockdown, my experience of church communities is that our default way of people accessing ‘church’ was by attending a church building. Within these buildings we hold services of worship, community drop-in’s and coffee mornings, prayer groups and bible studies, toddler groups and quiz nights.

As lockdown came in access to all these things was stopped. Our buildings we’re locked as part of the nationwide effort to reduce physical gathering and push down the spread of COVID-19.

So during lockdown, our default way of accessing ‘church’ – by gathering in a church building – was suddenly blocked from us – just like my car was when I foolishly shut the garage door.

This led to two things – firstly – creativity. Utilising post, email, phone, blog posts, YouTube, video and telephone conferencing and more. Creatively developing lots of different ways for people to engage with church without the building. – to be a scattered church

Secondly – it led to greater self-responsibility. What do I mean?

Well I mean that because accessing ‘church’ has not been about gathering in a building, individuals have had much more responsibility themselves as scattered church for nurturing their faith and relationship with God. The format moved from what could perhaps slightly crassly be described a passive attendance to active engagement. People had their own space and freedom to choose how to engage, how to be church.

Not only that, but people who for one reason or other were much more cut off from the worshiping community, for example living in care homes, working on Sundays or caring for relatives, feel they are included and connected to the worshiping and spiritual life of the church community in ways they never did before.

Matthew 19:13-15

In the gospels we read the familiar story of people bringing children to Jesus for him to bless them. The disciples try to stop it – children, it seemed didn’t matter.  But Jesus rebukes them and says let them come to me – the kingdom of God belongs to them too.

It is a passage that’s often used within infant baptism, that vulnerable, innocent children are welcomed by Jesus.

But I wonder, if we take a step back from the story itself, and see it in light of Jesus wider ministry, healing the blind and crippled, spending time with tax collectors and zealots, the excluded and the vulnerable, this passage may take on even more meaning for us.

I wonder if this passage might challenge us as worshipping communities to reflect ourselves on where we might, intentionally, or un-intentionally, be excluding people from being a greater part of the community.

Developing an attitude of access

Lockdown has forced me to look differently at our church communities and makes me wonder if we may have fallen into the trap of letting buildings become too central to our common life together. It makes me wonder how passive we’ve allowed that life to become – and how it unhelpfully and unfairly excludes those who for one reason or other, cannot access it.

But it’s also show me that there are simple ways to begin to redress that balance and build a more accessible and inclusive community.  That there are ways access can be achieved for those who are excluded – in part by having a little less focus on buildings, and a little more on discerning how best to connect with people where they are, not where they are not, with our focus on the kingdom of God.

And it’s also shown me the fruit that is borne when individuals have more active self-responsibility for their worshiping and spiritual life.

What may all this mean for the future?

I sense a strong challenge from God – challenging us to not build up ours walls in a way that they keep people out, but to build up one another in a way that allows us to bring people in.

What walls may we need to allow God to break down so that we can grow into a more inclusive and active community that keeps the kingdom of God at the centre?


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Learning from Lockdown #3: The Value of Relationship

Throughout August I will be encouraging us to reflect on things we have learn and are learning through lockdown about self, God and being Christian community.

Who are you connected to?

At the start of lockdown, I spent a lot of time on the phone.

Many people in my churches have been shielding, or choosing to isolate, and lots are not on the internet, and so from the start I could see regular phone calls were going to be incredibly valuable during lockdown.

We reorganised the church pastoral system to ensure everyone would have at least 1 assigned regular contact and encouraged everyone to regularly call each other to share fellowship, friendship and maintain relationship.

The hands down thing that has I call people now, people say they have valued most is the phone calls they have been receiving from each other.

People have shared that lockdown has offered the opportunity to get know each other better.

People who live on their own have shared how the phone calls have helped break up their day and left them feeling less alone, that they feel valued, loved, thought about.

That it has not only helped maintain relationships, but that they have grown and deepened.  

What has this meant I have learnt?

I think it has shown me just how essential relationships are for human well-being.
We need one another.
God has created us to be in relationship with one another.
Human interaction is in our DNA.

But why has it taken lockdown to get to know each other better?

In Luke’s gospel we find a story of Jesus and his companions, visiting sisters Mary and Martha.

Mary sits as Jesus feet listening to all he has to say.
Martha is busy doing – organising the hospitality necessary for Jesus and his companions, fretting that Mary is not helping her.

She stops, and says to Jesus – don’t you care that my sister is leaving me to do all the work on my own?

Jesus says to her, Martha my child, you are so distracted by many things, but there is only need for one thing.

Jesus doesn’t criticise Martha for wanting to be hospitable.

But he does suggest that Martha may be letting the doing get in the way of what really matters.

(To read the story in full, take a look at Luke chapter 10)

I wonder if the absence of meetings and events has meant that the distraction of doing has been removed, and suddenly we’ve discovered new ways of being with one another. Where we can be interested in one another without the distraction of the next task that needs doing or event that needs planning.

And I’ve heard testimony to the same with people’s relationships with God.

Not being busy doing has meant people have been able to spend more time focused on the one thing that matters – their relationship with God.

Now what might this mean we learn from lockdown?

The value and importance of relationship – with God and with one another.

What does that mean for the future as we begin to emerge from lockdown?

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have face-to-face activities and events.

But I do find God’s Spirit challenging me to reflect on what may need to change, what we may need to do differently, to keep relationship with God and one another as the one thing that matters.

What ways of being together can we discover that do not tie us up in so much doing that we can’t be?


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Learning from Lockdown #2: Worship is bigger

Throughout August I will be encouraging us to reflect on things we have learn and are learning through lockdown about self, God and being Christian community.

In John’s gospel we find a story of a woman who Jesus encounters at a well. It’s the heat of the day, the disciples have gone to get food and Jesus is leaning against the well when a Samaritan woman comes to draw water.

They talk, and the Woman is confused about what Jesus is saying.
Jesus talks about the living water he has to offer.
She doesn’t understand.

Jesus says to her you worship what you do not know – we worship what we do know. The hour is coming when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. (John 4)

Lockdown has taught me that worship is bigger than I understand, or imagine, or ever intended.

Before lockdown, worship tended to be something I went to and often led.

As I prepared and led my hope was always that the offering was a tapestry of music and song and words and prayer and conversation and reflection and gathering and fellowship and participation – with the hope and prayer that God’s Spirit was moving as the thread that weaves it all together into a beautiful tapestry that gives God glory.

A beautiful image, but when lockdown hit, worship was no longer something I could go to. Fellowship and gathering changed. Many of my congregations are not on the internet so it wasn’t feasible or inclusive in the beginning to even think about zoom and streaming.

Worship had to change for us. But worship also had to change for me…. or maybe it was me that needed to change.

Suddenly worship was not something I could ‘go to’.
Worship now was not an event to attend, but a practice to inhabit wherever I am.
A way of life.  

I think those words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman are words that can encourage us today as we seek to learn from lockdown.

We don’t see here Jesus saying – true worshippers will worship in a building for an hour on a Sunday.

We hear Jesus say true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth – true worshippers will not let rules and restrictions (of which there were a fair few back in Jesus day) get in the way of the spirit of worship, not get in the way of the truth of the God we live to glorify and praise.

The effect of lockdown, and the absence of things to ‘go to’ and worship to formally lead has enabled me to begin to embrace the practice of worship in the day to day, every day.

And I know I’m not alone.

There are things people miss – I long for the day we can belt out in song from the depths of our souls – but even as we look to facilitate face-to-face gathered worship in the coming weeks, that won’t happen for now.

But despite the things people miss, through time at home, in our gardens or walking in towns and hillsides people have found opportunities to worship with what they have, where they are, resources we’ve shared, and in doing so been meeting with God – who is with us and receives our worship no matter where we are.

People have been singing to CD’s, radio and TV, gathered online, or via phone conferencing. It may not be a physical face-to-face gathering, but whether alone or in number, these undoubtedly are gatherings of God’s people living a life of worship, where the Spirit weaves our offering into a tapestry that gives God glory.

Lockdown has taught me that worship is bigger, better, stronger, than I had ever truly imagined.

I wonder, as we learn from lockdown, how this might challenge us in how we worship in spirit and truth in the future?

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