How come there are only 3 months of the year left? Where has 2021 gone? I guess we have all been so busy and reflecting a lot over the last 19 months. We have come such a long way, through so many twists and turns in life. As we emerge out of this global pandemic, we may be wondering what next. As leaders of Swallownest Baptist Church, we are truly thankful for your support and heartfelt prayers. None of this has been easy for anyone, let alone for the team who have had to make quick decisions, spend more time meeting and sacrificing many things. However, as Rob writes we have felt God’s presence throughout. It has enabled us to unite more and be all the stronger for it, all glory and praise to God. As we move into a new season and as we continue to discern God’s call for our community, we also look forward to many great opportunities – as we reach into the community with some new initiatives, new style of services and plenty of opportunities to share the love of Jesus with those we journey with. It’s been quite a journey, but the best is yet to come!
At the start of the pandemic, when the school’s first shut, I told my two children “you’re living through history”. I suppose we don’t yet know the full, long-term implications of the last 19 months on our own lives, on our society or on the life of our church, but we certainly can look back with thankfulness about the faithful way that God has guided Swallownest Baptist Church through the storm. Since March 2020, we’ve had to learn and adapt: how to record and build a service in isolation (I remember preaching behind my dining room table, wearing a shirt and pyjama bottoms); how to live stream; how to lead a “hybrid” service for YouTube and an in-person congregation. The technical side has been such a huge learning curve, and we have been so blessed that more and more people are willing to serve God by pressing buttons, tweaking faders and clicking mice – as well as those more visible volunteers taking on new roles singing, preaching, tinkling ivories and leading communion. I remember starting the series on Haggai, back in April, by reflecting on us re-building in the ruins of what had once stood and, looking back now, we can see that God was faithful when he spoke to us through those verses: “I am with you, declares the Lord.” (Haggai 1:13b)
Well, it’s been a ‘Year and a half’ hasn’t it? Lots of challenges and changes for all of us. I’ve been privileged to be part of an amazing ‘Sunday Streaming’ team who have worked their socks off to bring Swallownest Baptist Church into many homes via YouTube over the past 18 months. The challenge for me has been bringing the notices each week and trying to help keep communication open and everyone connected. It was very scary at first and I was so nervous. I was way out of my comfort zone, but as the weeks went on, I began to relax and my confidence started to grow. I am totally convinced that this was the work of the Holy Spirit. I could not have done this on my own. It just goes to show what we can do if we ‘step out of the boat’ and have a bit of faith! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)
I want to take the time to look forward to what is to come. I know that covid has not gone away but we are starting to “open” the church to “normal activities” like the first communion (it was such a joy to be able to join together around the Lord’s table) and by the time you read this the ladies fellowship and the Mum’s & Tot’s will have restarted their meetings. I’m also going to restart the men’s breakfast soon, please contact me if you are interested in attending.
I want to thank the Lord for his protection and strength during this unprecedented crisis, I know that I for one would not have been able to cope. One of my favourite illustrations of this is ‘Footsteps’, I’m sure that when I look back, I will find that there are more times where there are only one set of footprints than when there are two sets. So I would like to leave you with this passage from Exodus 15:2 “The Lord is my Strength and my Defence, He has become my Salvation. He is my God and I will praise Him, my father’s God and I will exalt Him.”
As a deacon at Swallownest Baptist Church I have been very involved in the nuts and bolts of keeping the services going through the pandemic. From four techies, fully masked up, with just one person at the front to now – an almost full church – the change has been a joy to watch. My role at church is mostly in the sung worship and tech on a Sunday morning, so one of the most emotional moments for me was when the congregation were once more allowed to join in and sing with us.
The impossible balancing act of trying to open as much as possible, whilst keeping people both actually safe and feeling comfortable has been a real
challenge for us. I hope that we’ve walked the line more or less down the middle, we have certainly worked and prayed hard to do so.
I’m really grateful to those who have stepped up to run the technical side of the services and play in the band. Both the new members of the team and the stalwarts who have been there without fail every week are very much appreciated. We would not have been able to provide the services that we have without you, so thank you. On that note, we’re always looking for people to bolster our team and have a wide range of jobs from the very simple to the really challenging, training provided. Many hands make light work, so do get in touch if you think you can help.
From Matthew chapter 8, in the storm Jesus says ‘ “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” and he rose and rebuked the wind and sea and there was a great calm.’
Father God, help us to lean on you in the storm, knowing that you are a God of miracles and love. We pray that your spirit will be with us as we move into the calm, be in our decision making, our daily conversations and our homes. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.