Church of England Diocese of Birmingham Frankley

Coming out of Lockdown

30 May 2020, midnight

120 of Jesus’ friends and family came out of lockdown rapidly when the Holy Spirit came upon them. They poured out onto the streets of Jerusalem with a passion and love which overcame their fear of death and their fear of the Jews.

They spoke with other languages as the Holy Spirit enabled them and told those who had come to Jerusalem for the Jewish feast how even though they crucified the Messiah, God’s chosen one, he had risen from the dead and was alive. If they repented and were sorry for their sins and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and were baptised, they would be saved and receive the Holy Spirit.

Their generosity in selling what they had and giving to the poor and sharing their belongings meant that no one went hungry and their joy and gladness was evident for all to see.

They had fellowship with each other and the Lord and worshipped in the temple on a daily basis and many signs and wonders were done in Jesus’ name and the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.

The flame that was seen on each of the heads of those in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost burnt brightly burnt brightly for a short time. Locking themselves away had been sensible. They had seen what had happened to Jesus and they needed to protect their friends and family. Persecution was inevitable when they came out of lockdown and continued to preach about Jesus. All were persecuted and the majority died a martyr’s death.

The rushing mighty wind which brought them back to life and propelled them onto the streets continued to guide them throughout their lives. It was persecution however, which dispersed the friends forcing them to move out of Jerusalem. Because they travelled throughout the known world, Christianity spread quickly and a cruel world was transformed in many places by the power of Christ’s love.

It is difficult for a church in lockdown to burn brightly. Assembling together was vital for the early Christians for the Holy Spirit gave different gifts to many members. Only together could they show the love of Christ to the world.

When our Bishops ordered us to lock our church buildings, it seemed as if our voices would no longer be heard and that we were disengaging with our world, something that has never happened before.

We have been missing the hugs of both our biological family and church family members. Many of you in lockdown on your own for over two months now, must have felt extremely isolated.

Those who are elderly and vulnerable in society have been commanded to stay at home and have had to rely on the generosity of others. Food has been left on doorsteps and many with relatives have received daily phone calls from loved ones.

Receiving food and medicine is necessary to sustain life, but more important is having an opportunity to love others. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” We need someone to love. I am so glad that you are phoning each other on a regular basis. I trust that you are praying for each other. These are ways of loving.

We have a wonderful opportunity to draw closer to God in prayer. Our loving and giving is God’s work in his world and he will show us the way forward.

There are churches who have sacrificially given of their time and finance to help others. New Starts on Frankley estate has given out masses of food parcels. Jo, the manager of the shop shared what is happening in our zoom service on Thursday.

During this time however, we need to be wise as well as loving. Now is not the time to stream on to our streets, trusting that Jesus will protect us from COVID 19. Many are still catching the virus and dying and most of us are in a high risk age group. Unlike the early Christians, we can easily communicate with others using the phone and modern technology.

During lockdown our buildings have become less important. Because most services either take place through zoom or live streaming, those who wouldn’t normally be able to travel, the sick, the disabled and those without cars are able to participate.

We are able to look at a variety of Christian services using different kinds of music. This will give us lots of ideas and enhance what we do in our own setting.

Younger people, who are more savvy than we are with technology, are more able to participate. On Thursday two of our children were able to introduce the service with a video showing us what Pentecost was all about.

Zoom meetings enable us to feel more equal. There is no hierarchy. No one can hide at the back of the church as we all appear in matching frames.

Churches across the world are weighing up the need to physically worship together against their fear of catching the infection. Sadly this week we have heard about more than 40 churchgoers who attended a service after lockdown was eased in Germany earlier this month who have contracted coronavirus.

The service was held on 10 May at a Baptist church in Frankfurt. Church officials say they followed social distancing rules and disinfected the building ahead of the service.

Those attending services had kept 1.5m (5ft) apart, and were provided with hand sanitizer.

Our church buildings are not going to open for services soon, though I may be allowed to conduct small weddings and funerals shortly. We need to implement a lot of safeguarding measures before we open which will make fellowship awkward. It is easier to continue as we are.

When we do reopen our doors, it is important that we don’t disenfranchise those unable to attend. I guess zoom meetings will continue for years to come alongside our regular worship. They will be particularly useful during times of heavy snow, during the yearly cycle race and if there is a fuel crisis. The church will never be the same again

Meanwhile, instead of streaming into our streets and shops, let’s stay at home and concentrate on inviting our friends and family along with those we miss to learn about Jesus through social media and through our love.