We would like to take this opportunity to let you know what we are doing to ensure that we remain faithful to our calling at this time of unexpected challenge. For us, as no doubt for you, life has changed radically. We are just over a week into making adjustments, and here is our first report.
World Turned Upside Down, 17th century woodcut
EQUIP is a ministry which aims to support church leaders in the UK. It has meant a lot of travelling, and of course this has had to stop for the time being. We need a new way of working, and so in the last week we have set up 11 new groups which will meet via video conferencing using Zoom. The 11 groups will also be in touch with each other through a new closed Facebook page.
Roger has now had a lengthy conversation with each of the EQUIP members he works with (just over 50). We are greatly encouraged by their resourcefulness. Two have set up a hub – a place that is continuously manned and in touch with increasing numbers of people in their community, including many who do not normally attend church. One of our churches is in touch with lots of children who now receive messages and materials which will provide them with spiritual input. Lots of our churches are developing pastoral teams who will maintain contact with all their church members by phone and by email. Some churches have successfully involved their whole congregations in a virtual morning service. One of our members is sending out a regular ‘thought for the day’. We hope to share these ideas so that they can be used more widely.
ROOTED IN JESUS
Rooted in Jesus is our discipleship programme for Africa. We are grateful that the three teams due to travel to Ethiopia and Kenya (providentially early in the year!) were able to complete their missions; feedback is good, with groups growing in these dioceses. Unusually, all the rest of our conferences are scheduled for the autumn. We were expecting to travel to six dioceses with both the adult and the Junior programmes; planning is ongoing, with postponement perhaps the most likely outcome.
In the meantime we have been taking the opportunity to focus on the ongoing work of translation. We have received the Rooted in Jesus Junior Team Manual in Swahili, and a new version of Rooted in Jesus in Masai which will be printed in Arusha for use with the 300 new churches planted in the last few years by the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro. Translations are ongoing into various other languages too, both of the later books for dioceses already using the course, and into new languages for those looking ahead. We cannot tell what the impact of Covid-19 will be in Africa. Many African countries do not have well-resourced health services, but on the other hand the population is much younger than in the West, so may prove to have greater resilience. We hope and pray so.
PUBLICATIONS AND RESOURCES
The third strand of our work is the production of books and resource materials. Alison is now able to spend more time writing her book on the Psalms, which has a working title World Turned Upside Down (since before the coronavirus!!). She hopes to finish it by the end of the year.
Roger is designing a series of spiritual exercises. If you would like to receive these regularly please do let us know, and we will either mail them out or post them online, depending on the demand. It will be vital for all of us to remain spiritually buoyant as we cope with this virus.
It seems likely that this situation will go on for some time. We are confident that God will use this time to change the church, strengthening it and equipping it to face the future once the virus has gone. In the meantime we remain trustful in our faith and steadfast in our prayers, ready to support and care for others. Every crisis, as we know, brings with it an opportunity.