Lockdown Provision in Jersey
No one saw the coronavirus pandemic coming in early 2020, something more significant for many churches who were looking to appoint a new pastor. Yet in Jersey, there is a story of God’s provision at just the right time.
Quennevais Evangelical Church (QEC) called Leon Coates to be their pastor on 8 March, to begin in September. Leon was formerly Assistant Pastor at Dewsbury Evangelical Church in West Yorkshire, some 380 miles away, so a visit was arranged for the whole family.
They arrived on 12 March for the weekend but with growing fears of the coronavirus already affecting the church, Leon decided to stay a while longer to give more support and see if the situation would ease. The following weekend the UK was put into full lockdown.
It was clear the virus wasn’t going away any time soon so the elders at both Dewsbury and Quennevais agreed with Leon to move the start date from September to begin immediately! An answer to prayer that arrived at the perfect time.
The lockdown pastor
“Straight away I was able to provide online services from the church, including the midweek prayer meeting. While one might say you could do that from anywhere in the world, it was encouraging for people that I was there with them in Jersey – streaming from the church building itself” said Leon.
He was also able to mail out services on a CD to those without internet access and to take shopping to those that were in self-isolation.
“The most difficult part was not being able to mix with people. When you move to a new place you just want to get stuck in – having people over for dinner and going to theirs. But we could do none of that” he said.
Yet God was still working in the situation.
“It has been a great blessing to be here for the people of QEC, to keep pointing them to the Saviour during this time, when otherwise they may have struggled for pastoral direction, with our other elder in full-time employment” Leon explained.
“One of the biggest blessings for me, and I think for the church, was to be able to conduct the funeral of a dear sister in Christ. There were no visitors allowed in her nursing home because of the virus. However, when she was on end of life care they did allow me, as her pastor, to go and visit. I was able to pray, read Scripture and sing with and for her.
“I took a short graveside committal service, with only 6 attendees. Another providence of the Lord was that I had met the lady’s family in Pontefract - a few miles down the road from Dewsbury - just a few months before, as I preached at their church!”
Partners for the gospel
It’s an encouraging example of two FIEC churches partnering together for the gospel.
The role of pastor was seen as essential by the Government of Jersey so the church in Dewsbury was able to oversee the delivery of the Coates family’s possessions from Yorkshire to Jersey to complete the move.
A joint service between Dewsbury Evangelical Church and Quennevais Evangelical Church was held in May - hosted on Zoom of course – to officially induct Leon as pastor.
Leon remembered: “This was such a joyful occasion, recognising the Lord’s timing in all of this. While we were sad to leave Dewsbury, especially with the short notice, it has been evident to all of us that this was where the Lord wanted us, and now”.
In the same boat
As many churches look to begin gathering again, Leon is now in the same boat as other pastors as they try to discern the best way forward for their congregations.
“We’ve been meeting for six weeks now and we have all loved being together so much - a particular highlight was celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
“Some who are at higher risk choose to stay away of course, although infection numbers are low on the island. There seems to be more fear in people than their risk requires so it has been a difficult balance challenging inappropriate fear and encouraging appropriate risk assessment” he explained.
In a unique time to become the new pastor of a church, Leon shared two positives to take from the lockdown:
“There have been people tuning in online that would probably never come to church otherwise. We pray the Lord saves them.
“Lockdown has also shown the need to reconsider what church is. I’m not saying it has changed - Scripture remains the same on this. Rather, we have been forced to think hard about what church is and how to do it in the current environment. We pray that the Lord would purify his church through this process.”