I am from Suffolk. Born and bred. There’s no city in Suffolk. I grew up in the third largest town, Bury St. Edmunds. Comparing Suffolk to many other counties, it would be fair to say that I was born in the countryside.
But then God called me to the real countryside, to Botesdale. Being a Suffolk lad, I thought I knew about country living, farming, how to speak Suffolk … I was wrong!
Life is different in the real countryside. It’s about knowing the history of the village and its people. It’s about knowing everyone, and greeting them every time you see them. It’s about knowing who is related to who, and how long they have lived there. It’s about community.
Church too of course in Bury St. Edmunds is different to big city Churches. But then, there is Church in the real countryside.
How do you do Church, be Church, at a time when your building is closed? When you can’t meet? When you can hardly walk past each other close enough to say hello? Our Church sign says, ‘Church For The Community’. How can we be that when we are closed?
Well I would like to think that we are not closed. The building, yes. The Church, no.
Since lockdown like many Churches we have discovered the app, ‘Zoom’. And given the age of some of our congregation, to have nineteen households join in on Easter Sunday was so encouraging. Our children’s and youth groups, prayer meetings and house groups have moved in a similar direction too.
My role includes much more prescription collecting, making phone calls, fetching tablets from the vets, walking dogs and doing grocery shopping. (I dislike going shopping at the best of times, but this is what God is calling us to do!) And the amazing thing is that many of these trips have been for people who are not part of Church.
Parkview Chapel is not closed, far from it. Yes, we have our fair share of those who are vulnerable, and must stay home. But we are all doing our bit from the list above, and more I’m sure.
Hebrews 13:16 (N.I.V.) says,
‘And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.’
One of the ways we show God’s love to people is to care for those around us. You could say that this is what Church should be doing anyway, lockdown or no lockdown. Perhaps God is using this time to show us all again what being Church actually is?
And all we do as Christians should be for the glory of God. And may be, for this particular time in our world, this is too good an opportunity to miss for Churches. We must show Jesus to people at this time.
We can not look back in a years’ time, two years’ time, and think ‘what if’. I don’t want my community to look back and ask, ‘Where was my local Church when I needed help?’
Kev Gladwell, Church & Community Pastor, Parkview Chapel, Botesdale, Suffolk.