One of our neighbouring ministers, Rev Scott Burton, has made this encouraging video and allowed us to share it on our site. You can link to his church’s website here. Scott will be using YouTube for his Sunday worship. Here he explains how to let another without internet access join in.
These are not easy times. With the latest guidelines from the Government regarding church services and other related activities we are now facing an unprecedented challenge. No one I have spoken to recently can ever recall a time when they were not able to attend a church service on a Sunday morning or visit a needy neighbour in their Elders District. Some folks I have spoken to have made comparison to wartime experiences and the kind of fear that invoked in people. For the Christian community this is a serious challenge to our faith but one that we should be well equipped to rise above.
I was preaching last weekend and heard about a local initiative being set up in Furnace on the shores of Loch Fyne that would ensure that no one would go without and I am sure there are many other examples throughout Argyll. The local church needs to be at the forefront of this serious challenge and we all need to play our part, however small this might seem. There are guidelines being issued on a regular basis as the situation unfolds and it is important we all adhere to the latest version of these. However, there is something more the church needs to consider and which I put to you now. We need to generate a groundswell of prayer and I am proposing that at 12 noon every Wednesday starting from the 25th March that everyone stop and have a moment of prayer. Prayer points will be emailed to all on the Presbytery mailing list immediately prior to each prayer time and I hope you will join me at that time. Of course, if the timing doesn’t suit please feel free to use the prayer points at another time.
The Moderator of the General Assembly has called for this Sunday to be a National Day of Prayer and I commend this to you. As an Interim Moderator of a vacant parish I am planning to send a short message and prayer to my congregation each week and invite them to consider this at the regular worship time on Sunday. If anyone would like a copy of this do let me know and I will happily share.
We all need to place our trust in God at this time and positively look forward to the time when the virus is defeated and we can retake our seats in the churches we love so much and to share fellowship with those whom we have missed. With God’s care and our concerns rooted in prayer that time will come, and all will be well again.
With every blessing
The moderator of the General Assembly, Colin Sinclair has joined with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and other church leaders to call for a national day of prayer on Sunday 22 March, Mothering Sunday.
The call to prayer asks everyone to light a candle at 7pm on Sunday as ‘a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source and hope in prayer.’
Here is some good advice for those volunteering to help their neighbours.
Here is the Church of Scotland – Covid-19 Briefing 17th March 2020 – Cancellation of Services and other information
The Church’s Covid-19 Task Group met this morning, and considered the most recent advice from the Scottish Government, issued on the evening of Monday 16th March, available here. This information from the Scottish Government takes precedence over the briefing note issued by myself at 17:53 on 16th March 2020.
The Scottish Government advised that people should minimise social contact by avoiding crowded areas and large gatherings, including religious congregations, and smaller gatherings, listing areas which were of concern.
Worship – Cancellation of Worship Services
In the light of the above, the Church of Scotland Task Group has agreed to ask, in the strongest terms, that all gatherings for worship should cease until further notice, with effect from Wednesday 17th March 2020, or earlier if possible. Other Scottish Churches are taking similar actions. This obviously includes Easter services. Some Presbyteries have already instructed this action. This will include, but not be restricted to, housegroups, meetings for youth work, and church cafes. It will still be possible for an individual to offer a livestreaming of a sermon and prayers. Sunday broadcasts of a weekly service take place on Radio 4, and also on Radio Scotland; other radio stations are available.
Church buildings can be kept open as a place for people to come and pray. Notices should be clearly displayed asking that visitors observe robust hand hygiene, including washing their hands on entry to the church.
The Moderator, the Right Reverend Colin Sinclair, has, along with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and other church leaders, have issued a call for a National Day of Prayer.
The Task Group is aware that closing down worship services will impact on congregational income, and we’d want to encourage people to continue contributing financially as far as possible, and to encourage the increased use of standing orders as an expression of ongoing stewardship.
Funerals The key phrase here is to minimise social contact. Sensitive conversations will need to take place with families and mourners ahead of funeral ceremonies, and to consider the size of groups gathering for funerals. It may be necessary in the future to consider whether funerals should be restricted exclusively to minister, immediate family, and funeral directors. In addition, local guidance from funeral directors and crematorium staff will be critical here. It should be noted that many crematoria have the facility to livestream services and to host a recording of services for a period of time after the cremation service.
For weddings, the advice offered in the briefing note of 12th March 2020 remains unchanged; certain venues will be restricting attendance, and it may be that couples have to work through what changes have to made, including in some cases rearranging. Travel restrictions on travel into the UK will also have an effect on guests at weddings. Again, sensitive conversations will be the order of the day.
The decision has been taken in the light of Scottish Government advice to cancel the General Assembly of May 2020. The Office of the General Assembly will be in touch with commissioners separately.
The above is offered in the light of current information, and is of course subject to further public health guidance and directives from the Scottish Government.