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Bristo in Lockdown

Saturday, May 9, 2020

ipad and computer screen

The Covid-19 lockdown has touched every part of our lives, and church is no exception. Some churchgoers were first made aware of what was to come, when we heard we would no longer be able to meet for services – this was announced before the wider lockdown went into effect.

While we all understand the importance of doing our part and keeping everyone around us safe, we feel the loss of our regular meetings keenly. If there was ever a time we needed the support and love of our church, this is it…

But that support and love is still there. And as the lockdown has progressed, we have found many ways of meeting and sharing from our own homes.

One of Bristo’s first reactions to the lockdown was to start a Whatsapp group, Bristo Connected, which has allowed us to keep in contact on a day to day basis. It has given us a place to share words and testimonies, worship songs, art, prayers, announcements, good news and bad. This isn’t the first group Whatsapp that has been in use at Bristo, but it’s certainly the biggest, and possibly the most active. (And probably has the most emojis, but we’d need to count them to be sure… not that I’m volunteering.)

There has been a strong show of support for the recent use of Zoom for Sunday services and prayer meetings. The app was used before by some of the smaller groups, but we’ve found that even the bigger meetings can work well (with some careful management, screen sharing, and strategic muting.)

Many members of the congregation have commented on how much it means to be able to see everyone’s faces when meeting, which we weren’t able to do when following the written services at home.

Some have also mentioned how much nicer it is when taking communion, as you can be sure that you are eating and drinking at the same time as everyone else. Interestingly, it seems that some churches have questioned whether you can even have communion when you’re not physically together, but at Bristo the agreement has been that if we’re together in the spirit, that is all that’s needed.

In general, the separation we’re experiencing has made for serious reflection. For many, the lockdown has highlighted the importance of staying in contact with our brothers and sisters. The incredible privilege we have enjoyed in being able to meet together in the past has also been mentioned – it might be that none of us knew how blessed we were. Doubtless when we are able to meet in person once more, everyone will be fully aware of how wonderful it is to be together.

Of course, many of us miss meeting physically. It does make a difference, being able to give someone a hug, or lay hands on them while praying. (Although from some testimony shared recently, it has been made apparent that a digital laying of hands can be remarkably effective! We might want to consider writing to Zoom and asking them to add a prayer symbol, along with the thumbs up and applause buttons.) It has also been mentioned that while Zoom gives us the chance to meet face to face, making eye contact becomes tricky…

Everyone has agreed that we are very fortunate to be living in an age where this kind of technology is available. It has prompted a few discussions about how we might be able to incorporate technology into other areas of our church life, such as our outreach programs.

All the discussions around the lockdown might bring Psalm 133 to mind, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” Meeting in person is good, and pleasant, and it is missed. Yet, while it may seem like we are more separated than we have ever been before, we are all still unified in Christ – and the amazing experiences we have had, as we work to stay connected, have shown that to us all.

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