Lockdown Week Six – A Message to FIEC Churches
A message from FIEC’s National Director to all FIEC churches as we enter the sixth week of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we enter the sixth week of lockdown - and it looks as though the current restrictions will last for some time to come - I went to assure you that the FIEC staff are working to support you and your churches as best we can in these difficult times.
We have been humbled and encouraged by what we have heard from our churches during this time of challenge and opportunity. We want to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.
Many churches have experienced the pain of bereavement - whether from COVID-19 or other causes, and the added pain of not being able to grieve and comfort one another because of restrictions of social distancing. We are praying for you that you will know the Lord’s comfort and the assurance that he is present with you.
Many of our churches have rapidly switched to online gatherings, and it has been encouraging to hear reports of many unexpected guests listening in and hearing the gospel preached. It is easy to invite friends and family to join a live-stream service from the comfort of their own home. We rejoice to hear news of conversions.
We know that it has been much harder for many of our smaller churches and those with elderly congregations. We pray that you will trust in the Lord’s sovereignty and goodness, and know that you are richly blessed in Christ and not alone because he promises to be with you.
We are continuing to provide advice to our churches about legal and practical issues during this crisis, and are regularly updating our website with the latest information.
We are very grateful for our colleagues at Edward Conor Solicitors (ECS), the law firm we established two years ago, who are providing Christ-centred legal expertise. Many churches are using this time to address governance issues that have not been top priority, for example adopting new constitutions or converting to a CIO. ECS is ready to help you. As an FIEC church, you can also take advantage of the helpline (01858 411568) that entitles you to 30 minutes of free advice.
FIEC Activity and Support
We have been able to furlough some of our staff team who don't have sufficient work during this crisis period, but the majority of our ministry team are still providing help and pastoral support to our churches.
We think prayer is crucially important, so as a staff team we are praying for you. We have added a new prayer feature to our website, which enables churches to post public prayer requests. We want to encourage you to be praying for one another, so please do share your prayer requests, both needs and encouragements. Prayer is one of the key ways we can support each other in our ministries so that we are Independent churches working together to reach Britain for Christ.
Aswell individual support to church leaders, we are planning to organise a weekly webinar to help church leaders think through the leadership challenges the crisis presents. We have trialled holding one of our Local Conferences online and hope to be able to repeat this in other regions. We are encouraging churches to support one another locally and regionally by establishing virtual fraternals for prayer and encouragement.
The work of the kingdom has not stopped, and we are delighted that we are still receiving applications from churches to affiliate to FIEC. The challenges of the crisis have reminded many churches of the danger of isolation and the importance of standing together with those who share their gospel convictions. We have recognised one new church plant and another has applied for recognition, and we have been able to make grants from our training fund to a number of men and women who will be starting their training for ministry in September.
We are still very much hoping that the FIEC Leaders’ Conference will be able to go ahead in November, but we are keeping this under constant review. We won’t open formal bookings until there is greater certainty about whether it will be able to take place.
We are conscious that uncertainly about the likely length of the lockdown is very concerning to churches, and it seems likely that churches will not be amongst the first activities allowed to resume.
As National Director of FIEC, I have participated in a regular Zoom call with Government officials at Number 10, including the Minister for Faith, which has been an opportunity for church leaders to raise their concerns with the Government. I have raised the issue of the prohibition of marriages, which is causing increasing difficulty for many Christian couples, and we will be lobbying for the restrictions on our physical gatherings to be lifted as soon as is safe.
The Government is sympathetic to the needs of churches and their religious communities, but we all need to have patience as they wrestle with an immensely complex emergency. They are grateful for the way that most churches have followed their directions.
Just a couple of weeks ago we celebrated Easter and the glorious good news of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. The Easter weekend may be over but we need to remember that we live every day in the light of the victory of the resurrection, and with the joy that our sins have been forgiven because Jesus has borne the wrath of God in our place.
We pray that you will be sustained and encouraged by this great hope we have, and that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, you will be able to share this glorious good news with the people of this nation who desperately need to hear it, and may be more open to listening during this time of crisis.