The following article is our original response. Regular updates are posted here.
We’re living in extraordinary times, and the situation and strategy concerning the Coronavirus pandemic seems to change daily. The Bishop of London wrote to clergy and churchwardens today to remind us “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7).
The Archbishops of York and Canterbury have also made a public announcement about the Church of England’s response to the pandemic. You can read it here.:
Here at St John’s, we’ve been reviewing the situation on a regular basis, and seeking to keep the more vulnerable members of our community safe, while also making sure that we’re a stable, loving and faithful presence in our neighbourhood - a beacon of hope for Hoxton.
This means precautions but not panic, and faith rather than fear. God is still sovereign, and he will lead us through this current storm.
Precautions: What We’ve Done
We’ve already put in place a few measures over the past few weeks:
- Communion in one kind only
- Sharing the peace with British Sign Language
- Praying for people without ‘laying on hands’
- Changing how we serve at the Sunday cafe
- Extra cleaning and deep-cleaning of the church
You can look at a video summary of what we've been doing here.
We were hoping that many activities would continue as normal, knowing that we may have to adapt as the situation unfolds.
What’s Happening Now
As of today, we now know that there are some major changes for us to take as a church. These will naturally all be under daily review, but what we know at the moment is set out below:
- Sunday Services
The most significant change is that we won’t be holding our Sunday services in their usual form. We’re not sure what will happen just yet, but be assured, that worship and prayer in some form will happen for our church family. We’re currently exploring the possibilities for a) live-streaming a service, complete with worship, sermon and communion; b) holding small prayer gatherings throughout the day - with no more than 10 people at a time; c) some combination of both of these.
- Midweek groups and activities
The Archbishops are clear that the church has not shut down - we’re just changing how we ‘do church’. We’re encouraging midweek groups to continue: Streetlevel Hangout; Lent Connect Groups; Sing For A Change; Alpha; Worship Leader Course; Streetlevel Sports; as well as Morning Prayer.
- Special Events
We’re cancelling the larger special events that we had planned: The Encounter and Live At St John’s are the first two events that have been cancelled.
- Digital Connections
We’re exploring different ways to allow people to meet digitally - specifically looking at video-calls and chat-groups to help people stay connected. We’re also really keen to encourage people to make telephone calls to check in with one another.
The staff team prayed for every member of our church family by name today, and we’re continuing to pray every weekday morning at 9-9.30am. We’re exploring the possibility of hosting an online midday prayer meet-up via a video call - watch this space! We plan to ring the church bell at regular intervals during the day to remind us all to pray for our neighbourhood, our nation, and the world. Please pray for your friends and neighbours. Please do send prayer requests in to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Caring for One Another
Please do keep in touch with friends and neighbours - and if you don’t know your neighbours, this is a great opportunity to introduce yourself and see if you can support them. Some members of the church, as well as some of your neighbours, will be in quarantine or self-isolation. Perhaps speak to them through the door / intercom, and offer to do some shopping for them.
- National Day of Prayer - Sunday 22nd March
The Archbishops have invited us to join in a national day of prayer this Sunday, and to mark it by placing a lit candle in your window at 7pm.
I’m sad to say that many people in our neighbourhood work on zero-hour contracts or are self-employed. Along with small business owners, they will be hit hard by this situation. Please pray for them, and buy local, especially buying food from local small businesses.
The church is now projecting a £40,000 loss this year - due to lost bookings, and a drop in the level of financial giving on Sundays. If you count yourself a member of the church family at St John’s, and you’re not yet giving regularly by Direct Debit - now would be a great time to start! Donate here: https://stjohnshoxton.churchsuite.co.uk/donate/