Throughout COVID, and in response to changing regulations, we have tried to balance three important considerations: 1) The need for God’s people to gather, 2) Love for those at risk in our family and in the wider community, 3) Godly submission to the governing authorities. This latest round of regulation changes (we are now free to have up to 750 people in the auditorium with proper social distancing) has prompted further reflection.
We take the risks and concerns arising from COVID very seriously. We also need to acknowledge that COVID has been habit-forming for all of us. Many have enjoyed the comfort of being able to view the service at home, and have not returned to physical gathering despite a number of relaxations in the regulations. Meanwhile, I have become increasingly convicted at a theological level, that church requires physical gathering. While we thank God for the digital platforms that have helped us through the hard lockdowns, they are no long-term substitute for physical gathering. In fact, they can have the perverse effect of promoting a consumer attitude towards church.
With that in mind, and with what the church leadership considers to be in the best interests of our church family, we will be scaling back our online presence. Celebration Sunday (31 October) will be in-person only. We will not be streaming or recording the service. From the following Sunday (7 November), we will stream the sermon only. We are streaming the sermon to accommodate those who remain at high risk. From Jan 2022, we will only publish the sermon on Monday.
Of course, all of these plans are subject to changes in the regulations and the spread of the virus itself. In a season of change, they are intended to help us make yet another change: the transition back to physical gathering. They are intended to affirm the beauty of God’s design for the local church, and to help us to experience it. God-willing, they will have that effect.
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