Dear TBC church family

“The Lord says, ‘Whoever loves me I will save.
I will protect those who know me.
They will call to me, and I will answer them.
I will be with them in trouble;
I will rescue them and honour them…”
Psalm 91:14-15

This is a strange season.  As a Leadership Team we have been praying and asking God for his wisdom, as well as keeping a close eye on the latest advice and guidance from our fantastic health service in the wake of the emerging coronavirus crisis.

Following yesterday’s government announcement, we feel it is right to temporarily close all larger church meetings and activities until we are advised that it is safe for them to resume.  This will include Sunday services, youth and children’s groups, the Wellbeing Café and Coffee and Bowls.  This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but we feel it is the right decision to protect our church family and our wider community.  We are leaving small groups to make their own decision about whether or not to meet, but strongly advise groups whose members include those who are elderly or at risk because of other health conditions to stop meeting for now.

Let me be clear though: church is not something that can be closed or cancelled – together we are the church and we will continue to be church and to explore ways of being family together even while we cannot meet in the normal ways.

A number of plans are forming:

  • We will be streaming church services each Sunday.  This means that there will be a video service that you can watch online at the normal time on a Sunday morning.  We will be in touch with more details nearer the weekend and our hope is that we can make this available to people who do not have the internet too – please bear with us while we work out the details.
  • The church building and Worship Room will be open for quiet prayer every Wednesday afternoon.  There will be no organised gathering for obvious reasons, but if you are healthy and would appreciate time and space to pray quietly (with coffee available) then drop in any time between 1pm and 5pm on Wednesday, from tomorrow onwards.
  • We want to do everything we can to practically care for those who are self-isolating, either because they are unwell or to protect themselves from getting unwell.  If this is you, or someone you know nearby, please let us know.  We will be available to pick up basics from the shops, collect prescriptions, take post to the letter-box and so on.  At the same time, if you feel able to help others in this way please let us know – we could use the help!
  • We anticipate that sooner or later schools will be closing and at that point there will be a large extra need for food bank help, as families who rely on free school meals struggle to make ends meet with their kids at home all day.  We are going to start collecting food for our own short-term food bank here at TBC, as well as still supporting Basics Bank in the city.  When schools close we will make food packages available to families nearby who would otherwise struggle.  If you would like to contribute food we can collect this from you if that would be helpful.
  • We want to encourage everyone in our church family to look for creative ways of being family – praying for each other, encouraging each other and supporting each other through what may be a difficult time.  Small groups have a key role to play and we encourage you to stay in contact with yours over the coming weeks.
  • Astrid, Ellen and I, along with members of the pastoral team, will be in contact by phone and by email.  We may not be able to meet all together but we can come and pray for you on the doorstep or over the phone and we will certainly be asking the whole church family to lift up anyone who becomes unwell in prayer.

So as you can see, we are not closing church, we are just doing church differently.  We want to find creative ways to continue worship, fellowship, pastoral care and church family life during this current crisis.  None of us would have chosen this situation, but it does offer us some unique opportunities to serve one another and our local community, and to learn to be church in a different, perhaps deeper way.  Let’s encourage one another to embrace those opportunities with hope rather than fear.

And above all, let’s remember that we face all things in the presence of God Most High.  Last Sunday evening at our Refresh service there were a number of prophetic pictures and words of encouragement shared, including some verses from Psalm 91 which reminds us that God is our fortress and our refuge.  Our faith is not in hand-gel or good hygiene, although those are surely important; it is not even in the NHS, although my goodness those wonderful people deserve our love, prayers and huge appreciation now more than ever…  But our faith is in God Most High:

He will cover you with his feathers,
And under his wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Psalm 91:4

In him, and with each other, we can face these uncertain times with confidence and courage.

God bless,

Paul Vaswani 
Ministry Team Leader
18/3/2020