FIVE MORE REASONS WHY WE NEED TO GATHER POST COVID
We shared last week about the effects over the past few months, with most churches having stopped meeting in person, with “services” online, meeting “virtually,” and using technology to connect, and what that means for us going forward as a church.
We know that once we restart services will feel strange. And we will have to endure restrictions and protocols that are awkward, inconvenient, and frustrating, but there will be a deep desire to gather again.
So, using the sentiments of David Gundersen, let again explore why we need to gather.
- There’s nothing like singing together.
There’s no experience on earth like congregational singing (Ps 95:1–2). Singing together glorifies God by re-enthroning him in the hearts of his people. Singing together brands our minds with truth and warms our hearts with grace. Singing together symbolises our unity as we harmonise over the gospel. Singing together expresses our emotions to God (and we have lots of emotions right now).
But we don’t just sing to glorify God; we also sing to encourage each other (Col 3:16). And we can’t sing to each other through a screen. Yes, we’re vulnerable and singing as a congregation is not permitted right now: But, like the underground church has always done, God’s people will figure out how to praise him together, as faithfully and safely as possible. We’ll wear masks, or clean the air, or meet outside, or recite psalms, or even whisper. But ultimately, God will hear the rising praises of the Christian church, and it will be good if we’re there to express them together
- We need baptisms and communion.
Whether have joined Communion services “virtually” or not, every believer needs to see and taste these gracious symbols so that we can sense the gospel story once again. Baptism and communion remind us that God communicates to us in sensory ways. In these two sacraments, we taste and touch and see and hear the gospel, whether the splash of water in a baptismal font as a new believer dies and rises with Christ, or the broken bread and crushed grapes that feed us with the remembrance of his sacrifice (Matt 28:19; 1 Cor 11:26). The way we practice these things may look different for a season, but our hearts will need them more than we know.
- You have a job to do.
If you’re a Believer, you have a job to do when the church gathers. The work of ministry isn’t mainly for ministers and leaders. It’s for every Christian. Every believer has spiritual gifts meant to be used, and every church body desperately needs every body part to be active (Rom 12:4–8; Eph 4:15–16; 1 Pet 4:10–11). When we stay home, we can still listen and give and call and text virtually. But there are many ways we simply can’t serve or encourage or build up Christ’s body unless we’re physically present.
- Our worship is a witness.
Each week our friends and neighbours and co-workers walk through the same broken world we do, but without our hope and our map. Each week they suffer challenges and tragedies that make them wonder where grace and truth can be found. Yes, there are ways we can minister to them online, and we should rejoice that God’s now reaching new people with new methods. But the unbelieving world also needs to see the gospel’s transforming power embodied in a local family of Christians, who love God and serve each other in the most gracious and gritty ways.
- Greetings change lives.
It may seem strange to end with the act of greeting — a simple activity that’s become so restricted and complicated. But all over the New Testament, the writers not only greet the churches but ask Christians to greet each other.
These greetings aren’t just an afterthought tacked onto the end of their letters. These greetings symbolise the reconciling power of the gospel and foster our family dynamic. The way we greet each other — and the fact that we do greet each other — is central to the church’s life and witness.
Happy greetings remind us of the gospel unity we enjoy in Christ. Awkward greetings declare that the healthy church shows no partiality. Avoided greetings remind us to resolve our conflicts and reconcile our hearts. Every greeting reflects God’s love, reunites Christ’s body, enables hospitality, cultivates selflessness, opens doors for ministry, and bears witness to the God who’s welcomed us through Christ Jesus.
Even if these greetings are masked, touchless, and distanced, they’re still life-shaping micro-events in every church. You will understand that when we meet again – some of your happiest moments will be seeing other people. We need to see each other.
We may not be able to return right away to St John’s or Thornhill United. We will need to exercise caution for ourselves and those we love. We will need to keep watching from a distance for a while. But when the time is right, God’s people can and must gather again, and I hope you’ll join in.
After all, our gatherings are ultimately a taste of heaven. The Bible’s vision of heaven doesn’t look like a quarantine, a livestream, or a Zoom call. It’s a “face to face” encounter with the risen Christ and a worshipful reunion of both saints and angels (Heb 12:22–23; Rev 22:4).
In the life to come, we won’t be siloed and segregated in mansions of glory, but living and working and loving and serving together in a new world where righteousness dwells (2 Pet 3:13). So, once we know it’s safe, wise, and no disservice to our communities, let’s gather together again — in person — until all things are new.
FOOD 4 THE NEEDY OUTREACH
Our Sandwiches Project has operated for 12 full weeks, in which time we have collected and distributed a total of 5 146 loaves of sandwiches, which equates to 51 460 double-sliced sandwiches.
510 of the loaves were bought using funds donated in response to the Food4Needy Campaign.
While the sandwiches constitute the bulk of donations, we have a number of donors who donate fruit and vegetables.
We started recording the attendance at the soup kitchen on a daily basis from the beginning of week six in order to assist us in planning. It needs to be borne in mind that food collected from the soup kitchen is generally taken home to feed family members. Consequently, the number of people being fed is considerably greater than the numbers recorded.
In week 9, in June, the weekly attendance at the soup kitchen, run by field worker Pinkie Libala and her team, peaked at 1 014, compared to 654 in week 8. This is probably due to two factors, grant money running out and increased numbers on Youth Day, when additional food was supplied. It has now returned to levels pre-Easter being about 100 recipients a day or about 500 a week.
Youth Day saw 147 adults and 60 children attending the soup kitchen. The fruit donated by Food Lovers’ Market, as well as a further six pockets of oranges and a few packets of apples received from other donors on the day were handed out. In addition, attendees received a tin of pilchards, a bag of porridge, Niknaks chips and a mask each.
According to co-ordinator Jane Purchase, 34 people (31 parishioners and 3 friends of St John’s) have offered their services at various stages to spread the loaves of bread that we buy on a bi-weekly basis.
This is over and above the sandwiches already being done by teams throughout our area each week day.
These volunteers have been wonderfully supportive, with 60% of the group donating additional loaves in their own right, while the balance are only too happy to be able to contribute to the cause of feeding the needy in a practical way. Approximately half of the group are in the 70+ age group. They generally get 5 loaves to spread at any one time, with a few brave folks taking on 10 loaves.
With the decline in the numbers at the soup kitchen since week 9, we have undertaken to shift some of the sandwiches to assist in feeding the 120 matrics at Walmer High who are at school till 4.30pm each day in order to complete the school year. The Dept of Education school feeding scheme supplies all learners in poorly resourced schools with a meal in the morning but not this afternoon. In fact, Walmer High was closed on Monday and Tuesday this week due to Covid cases, so we only resumed their sandwich drop off from Wednesday.
We have received a number of donations of clothing, bedding and masks. A Mill Park friend of St John’s has donated sleeping bags made from sheeting disposed of by hospitals, other recycled materials and fleece fabric. She has also started making warm winter blankets using fleece fabric and knitted and crocheted squares.
The Centre of Concern has also donated bedding (blankets, duvets and pillows) to the plight of the patients at Dora Nginza Hospital, through our neighbour parish St Saviour’s, many of whom are literally being covered with newspapers in order to keep warm, due to a lack of resources and overwhelmed staff.
Belinda Jordan also continues to co-ordinate our mask making and distribution project to indigent households.
Petro will explain how to install this on your smartphone.
Click here to watch.
Do you have a sewing machine?
Would you like to help to make face masks?
St John’s has partnered with Masks for PE and is encouraging people to make masks to give away in needy areas.
Wearing face masks when out and about is mandatory. Everyone needs at least 2. That’s a lot of masks!
Masks for PE makes it very easy for people to help.
They supply packs with enough pre-cut fabric for 30 masks, thread, fabric ties and instructions.
Finished masks will be packaged along with instructions in English and isiXhosa as to how to wear them safely and how to care for them.
Masks will be distributed at our Fountain Road Soup Kitchen in Ggebera and the Centre of Concern.
Belinda and Mike Jordan will be co-ordinating this project for St John’s.
Contact Belinda on 083 447 3900 if you want to start sewing and to arrange for delivery and collection.
Please Whatsapp Debbie (083 454 0479) to arrange collection.
We would appreciate it if you could deposit your dedicated giving contributions via EFT into our bank acount:
Branch Code: 050417
A/C Name: St John the Baptist Church
A/C Number: 080281206
(Please make sure your name & reference is included)
SPECIAL INVITATION !!! From Jericho Walls to join in with the Prayer initiative for the Week of 13th- 19th July.
Dear Praying Friends,
I would like to invite you to join our “24/7 WhatsApp Prayer Watch” for the week with the purpose of praying 24/7 for our nation. We will be seeking the Lord for spiritual breakthrough in South Africa.
We will be sharing daily prayer information on this WhatsApp Group to help facilitate focussed prayer according to these three key areas:
• Spiritual Awakening of the Church
• Salvation of lost Souls
• Social Justice
Please send me the following information to register you on the Group:
• Name & Surname
• Cell number
• Hours you choose to pray
Some people may only want to pray for 15 min or 1/2 an hour.
Thank you for persevering in prayer for our country!
Inviting all TEENS to join us on a ZOOM meeting today @ 5PM.
Join Zoom Meeting
Inviting all Children’s Church kids to a Zoom meeting this Sunday @ 10am!
Join Zoom Meeting
Inviting all TEENS to a Teen Church Zoom meeting this Sunday @ 10:30am!
Join Zoom Meeting
Please contact Andrew 083 546 2451
or Petro 072 663 9774 should you have any questions or require assistance with ZOOM.
Please be aware that the recycling area is currently closed until further notice.