Tag Archives: lockdown

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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Learning from Lockdown #1: Diversity + Difference

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.

Learning From Lockdown #1 – Diversity & Difference

These giraffes sit on my office windowsill, you might have seen them in previous videos. We bought them on a holiday in France in 2012 and they remind me of our holiday.

They sat on our mantel-piece in Cornwall, then went into storage while we were in Birmingham. When moved here Louise my wife thought we should get rid of them, I didn’t, so we found a compromise and they ended up in my office.

Now they not only remind me of our holiday, they also remind me that as human beings, include married couples, have differences of opinion.

Lockdown as a time to learn

I want to encourage us to reflect this month on what we may learn from lockdown, because I do not believe this is a time of life on pause that doesn’t matter. I don’t believe this is a time that God wants us to waste.

Just as the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness was formational for them, I believe our living in lockdown is a time that can be formational to us. Where God has and continues to speak to us, challenge us and change us. 

For some of us, we may feel like lockdown is over, for others, we may still very much feel like we’re in lockdown, for others again, maybe we’re in the middle.

Wherever we stand on that spectrum, it doesn’t really matter, it just goes to prove one of the things that I’ve been increasingly conscious of over the last few months – just how diverse and different we all are.

Diversity & Difference

And that’s where this month of learning from lockdown reflections is going to begin.

In the book of 1 Corinthians we read:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12, NRSV

The body of Christ, the community of faith, is made of lots of different parts, we all look different, we think differently, respond to circumstances in life with the full colour pallet of human diversity.

I’ve seen the diversity and difference in so many ways through lockdown. Some people have seemed to thrive during lockdown, Energised by the new opportunties and environments and challenges others have really struggled, and others somewhere in between – with good days and some not so good days.

Christian faith is not about conformity – not about creating robots that think and speak the same. It’s about being a community of faith that can call itself a communtiy while celebrating the fact we’re different.

It’s about being people tuned into God’s Spirit, collectively discerning what Gods Spirit is saying to us as individuals and as a community of faith

As we’ve worshiped from our homes, I’ve found my role as minister being less of a leader of worship, and more of an enabler of worship – offering lots of different resources by post and online, seeking to resource the diverse people that make up the churches I serve. It’s been a joy to see diversity thriving, but a challenge at times to keep up!

So as I encourage us to reflect this month on what we may be learning from lockdown, I want to start from a recognition of the diversity and difference among us.

And I want to encourage you all, to think and pray and reflect for yourself… what would you say you’re learning, or have learnt during lockdown.

And try to be go a bit deeper and further than saying I’ve learnt to use zoom.As much of an achievement that may be! `

Where has God spoken to you, challenged you or encouraged you?

What is God’s Spirit saying?

Join the Conversation

Comment below with your own reflections on leanring from lockdown.

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Sunday Reflections: Listen and Understand

Listen and Understand.
A message for a lockdown Pentecost

At Bognor Regis, Felpham and Westergate, some of us have been reading the book of Acts throughout May and today we reach the last chapter.

Today is also Pentecost, the day we remember that the disciples were filled with God’s Spirit and were able to speak in many languages so that everyone could understand their message.

In this week’s Sunday Reflections, I think about Acts 28, Pentecost, how much God wants us all to know him, and the invitation we have to respond.

Many of us have been travelling through the book of Acts this May, and today we reach the final chapter Acts 28. In the last few chapters Paul has been arrested and put on trial for telling people how much he loves Jesus, and encouraging others to know him to, and now he’s been put on a ship to sail to Rome. Except the ship gets caught in a storm and they go adrift, landing on an unknown island, they later learn is called Malta.

After being on trial for some time, and travelling on the ship through dangerous storms, Paul must have been pretty glad to be safely on dry land. But he was in a new land, a land that wasn’t familiar.

Today is a special day when as Christians we celebrate the festival Pentecost. This festival takes us back to the start of Acts, when Jesus disciples were experiencing their own unfamiliar time.

Jesus death, resurrection and returning to his father was definitely not what they expected. They felt alone, living in a way that was unfamiliar to them.

I think there’s some similarities here to living I lockdown. The way we live, work, shop, learn, travel, interact with family, friends & neighbours has all changed. Even 10 weeks on, I still feel like I’m in a very unfamiliar land, and the uncertainty about the future doesn’t help either.

For Paul, for the disciples, and for all of us, the Spirit of God comes to us. The presence and power of God that supports us, encourages us, affirms us and say’s no matter how you feel, I am with you.

For Paul the presence of God with him was so strong that the natives of Malta thought he was a God. For the disciples the Spirit of God enabled them to speak in every language. For Peter he stood up and delivered a stonker of a sermon and convinced about 3000 people to join the Way – which is the early name for the people now known as Christians.

In Acts 28 Paul says:

“You will indeed listen, but never understand,
 and you will indeed look, but never perceive.”

Acts 28:26

Paul challenges the people that are listening to him. Will you seek to understand, will you seek to see, or will you just look and listen and then carry on as if what you’ve heard makes no difference?

I encourage you today to listen. To listen to what God’s Spirit is saying to you. Yes you. Just as God’s Spirit enabled the disciples to speak in every language, God’s Spirit speaks the language of your heart and mind.

God understand your worries.
God knows your strains and anxieties.
God knows this unfamiliar way of life, with all its uncertainties is tough at times.

Whether you’ve never had a care in the world about God until today,
or you’ve been a Christian all your life,
or you used to go, but you’ve not been much recently,
It really doesn’t matter.
What matters is if you’ll seek to see and understand today.

God is waiting for you, and I believe God’s Spirit is already with you, and in you, just waiting for you to see, whether for the first, 10th or 100th time.

If you want to know more about God and the difference God makes to the lives of many, including you, do get in touch with us or find a church near you can connect with.

Join the Conversation

How is God’s Spirit speaking to you this Pentecost?
If you’ve been reading through Acts this May, how has God spoken to you through it? What has been the standout verse or story for you? Please share in the comments below.

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Sunday Reflections: Pause

This week I reflect on Acts 21, and ask how Paul’s delay in visiting Jerusalem and the resulting encounter with Agabus might help us as we continue in coronavirus lockdown and the uncertainties of the future.

Many of us are travelling through the book of Acts this May, and today we reach Acts 21.

Acts 21 starts with Paul – who is on way to Jerusalem, and wanting to go to Jerusalem – we know that from Acts 20 where he seems to be desperately wanting to go. But we read that God’s Spirit tells Paul not to go. After being so desperate, that must have been painful for Paul.

So instead of going to Jerusalem, Paul goes to a number of other places, and while in Judea, meets a prophet called Agabus. Now Agabus comes and takes Paul’s belt, then ties his own hands a feet together and says – this is what the Spirit says will happen to the owner of this belt in Jerusalem.

I wonder how paul felt in that moment… anxious, worried, sacred?

A short while later, we read Paul and his team got ready and started headed towards Jerusalem. And, time for a trailer – God does great things through Paul in Jerusalem.

Reflecting on those snippets of this part of Paul’s story… I wonder if there’s something for us as we live in lockdown.

I wonder if, through pausing, and then encountering Agabus, Paul was more prepared for his destination, more ready for what would happen in Jerusalem, and therefore more able to deal with it. I wonder whether, after his encounter with Agabus, Paul saw his destination differently?

There’s been a lot of things happen we were not prepared for at the start of 2020. Lots of things are on pause, but it doesn’t mean things won’t happen. But as the world keeps saying, things will be different – to what extent we don’t know, but we’re being told to expect a new normal.

But just like for Paul who readied himself and carried on, I wonder if we too need to be open to readying ourselves for the new normal that is to come. Opening ourselves for the Spirit’s prompting.

To see lockdown as a space to listen to God’s Spirit as we pause, and allow God’s Spirit to make us ready for what is to come? To be ready for the great things of God that are to come.

Dear God,
As the uncertainties of lockdown continue,
help me to make space to pause and listen for your Spirit,
ready me for the future,
and fill me with excitement for the great things to come.


Join the conversation

Have you paused to listen to God recently?
Have you know God’s Spirit strengthen and preparing

Could you share the story of your encounter with us you?
Comment below – I’d love to hear from you.

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