Lockdown Update & Leaders’ Conference 2020 News
An update from FIEC’s National Director about the current lockdown restrictions for churches, and news on the 2020 Leaders' Conference.
Dear brothers and sisters,
As we enter the 11th week of lockdown. I know we are all feeling increasingly frustrated, fraught and wearied.
We are missing being able to gather as churches and struggle with the uncertainty and lack of clarity as to when we will be able to resume public worship.
I can assure you that the FIEC staff share all these frustrations, and we are praying earnestly that the lockdown might end soon.
The recent relaxation to the rules has allowed us to meet in small groups outside for the first time since March, and we are grateful that this enables some face to face contact and for individual pastoral visits that observe the requirements of social distancing.
I have continued to take part in a regular Zoom conference with No 10 Downing Street, and we have lobbied as hard as we can for churches or be allowed to open at the earliest opportunity.
We do, however, need to be realistic and patient. It is likely that churches in England will be allowed to open after 4 July, but this will be for private personal prayer. It is unclear when we will be able to gather for congregational worship, and even when we can, there will be many limitations due to the social distancing rules and obligations to clean.
Churches are beginning to gather again in many European countries and America, but at present physical congregations are often half what they were before the crisis.
We continue to be encouraged by the way our churches are adjusting to these restrictions, and how they are making the most of new gospel opportunities. We are still hearing of increased numbers viewing streaming services, and many are engaging with their communities and neighbours in fresh ways that are building relationships for the future. We have received many reports of conversions, and some churches have even been able to hold on-line missions to their communities.
We also have been encouraged by the stronger relationships that have been fostered between many FIEC churches at a local level as they have supported each other through this crisis.
As an FIEC staff team, we are trying to do all that we can to support you in your ministry during this lockdown. We have initiated a weekly webinar for church leaders to help them navigate the challenges of the lockdown. We are pleased that many of our churches have made use of the prayer feature on our website to share their prayer requests and encouragements. Working with our colleagues at Edward Connor Solicitors, we have kept our advice to churches up to date and accurate.
We are very thankful to you for your continued prayers and support for us, and for your continued generous giving to the work of FIEC when we know that you are facing financial pressures and uncertainties of your own.
We are thrilled that new churches are still applying to join the Fellowship because they share our vision to be independent churches working together to reach Britain for Christ. We will be considering four new churches at our National Recognition Team meeting next week, and at least another four in September.
Leaders' Conference 2020
One very major development since my last update to you is that we have sadly taken the decision to cancel the FIEC Leaders Conference in 2020. This was a very hard decision to make, because the Conference has been so blessed and beneficial to so many churches and leaders over the years. It is often a highlight of the year. We will all miss the opportunity to gather together in Torquay, and it will be especially painful when we will have endured such a long period without being able to meet one another physically.
There are a number of reasons that have contributed to this decision. The current uncertainty about the likely length of the lockdown makes planning very difficult. It is highly likely that we would not have been able to utilise the Riviera Centre, in the same way, this year due to social distancing requirements. We were also conscious of the significant financial risk to the FIEC if we went ahead with reduced numbers, and we anticipate that, come November, many FIEC church leaders will rightly need to devote their energies to their own local church.
I know many of you will be very disappointed by this decision, and we share your disappointment. However, we believe that it is the only prudent option, and we trust that you will understand why we have taken it.
I am particularly disappointed because I am convinced of the importance of the focus of this year’s Conference on world mission. I can assure you we will not allow this to be forgotten, and we will return to the issue in a future Conference. I am thankful to all our speakers who have already given so much time, prayer and thought into preparing for the Conference, and for their gracious understanding of the decision we have had to take.
God willing, we hope and expect that we will be back in Torquay in 2021 where we will be anticipating the Centenary year of FIEC in 2022.
We have no plans to try to run a virtual Leaders’ Conference this November. We know you are all likely to be very busy at that time, and we think there are better ways we can serve you. We will, however, plan to hold a short vision afternoon meeting to share the news and plans of FIEC and to do the formal business that is needed for our AGM.
We hope that taking this decision now, rather than delaying in the hope that circumstances will have changed by the summer, will give you clarity and certainty and help you to plan for the Autumn.
Please be assured of our ongoing prayers for you, and do contact us if there are any ways that we could help and support you at the time.
Make the Most of Every Opportunity
This current crisis has surely reminded us of the great spiritual need of our nation. The Coronavirus that is bringing death, and causing so much grief and hardship, is an anticipation of the wrath that is to come when Jesus returns. As Christians, we alone believe the glorious good news that God has sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die in our place so that we can escape the wrath to come and receive the gift of eternal life.
Let us not lose sight of our mission to share this glorious good news with the lost world around us, trusting that the gospel word is God’s power for salvation.
We have just celebrated Pentecost, when we remember that God has poured out his Spirit upon us to empower us to be witnesses to all people. Let’s open our eyes to the harvest that is all around us and make the most of every opportunity of this unique season.
Why not join us for our leadership webinar at 12noon on Wednesday 17 June, when we will be encouraging one another to keep evangelism central to the mission of our churches during this lengthy lockdown.
Our churches cannot meet physically, but we need to take heart that we are not shut for the business of the kingdom. Let’s still be about our work of making disciples.