As we respond to these unprecedented days, many immediate questions surround us. How do we operate in faith and wisdom rather than from a place of fear? What does loving my neighbour really mean in this situation? (Matt 22:39-40) How do we practically meet or gather as God’s word instructs us to do while still obeying the leaders of the land? (Heb 10:25; Rom 13:1-2)
Our thoughts and plans are outlined below:
- Sunday gatherings as well as planned events are on hold until further notice (including Student camp).
- Our Sunday meetings for the foreseeable future will be online, via our Church at Home page on our website. These will be made available as videos from Saturday evening and will then remain on the website. We really want to encourage people to watch together at 09h30 on Sundays to keep a sense of the ‘church gathered’.
- We are asking that all Life Groups and all other small groups don’t meet in person.
- Rather, we are going to use a free, video conferencing tool called Zoom (you can download it here) to stay creatively connected.
- Prayer: Each Monday we will send out prayer points encouraging us to use Tuesday as a focused day of prayer into the pandemic. We will continue in our rhythm of fasting on the first Tuesday of each month and we’ll get creative around ‘meeting’ digitally in smaller groups to pray.
- Using Philippians 4:6 as a guide, we are encouraging all One Hopers to set an alarm for 4:06PM each day and to stop whatever they are doing and to pray for 2-3 minutes.
- Love others by thinking through how we respond to those around us as well as the most vulnerable in society.
- Be inclusive and invite others into community who may be looking for a place to connect.
- Use the extra time to pursue personal spiritual disciplines
- Keep your eyes and hope on Jesus
THE HEART BEHIND THE CHANGES
SUNDAY MEETINGS AND EVENTS
All Sunday gatherings as well as planned events are on hold until further notice. Included in this decision is the postponement of our student camp which we will reschedule for later in the year.
However, while physical health is so important in this time, staying connected as a family is of equal importance and we are calling for social distancing, not social disconnecting. More than ever, we need to be ‘together’ as a body. Communicating, finding out how people are doing, anticipating loneliness and cabin fever, praying for one another and encouraging one another are all going to be vital in the weeks to come.
Our Sunday gathering remains a vital part of our being together. Therefore we are going to move our Sunday experience online. On Saturday evenings, we will upload a video onto our Church at Home page on our website, for us to all watch and engage with on Sunday morning. We’d love for families, individuals, people staying together etc, to all watch together at 09h30. That way, even if you are back home in Zim or PE, we will still be ‘gathering together’ as a church family. Dispersed, but unified.
For those without access to the internet, please contact Charmaine on 084 412 4209 and we will do all we can to help.
LIFE GROUPS & OTHER SMALL GROUPS
When scripture teaches us to love our neighbours as ourselves, we must then ask what love looks like in this season? I find it helpful to think of it like this: “If I was among the most vulnerable in SA right now (immune compromised, suffering from TB, undergoing chemotherapy, elderly etc.) how would I like to be loved?” That gives us a great starting point for how Christians should be responding.
The medical advice is pointing to slowing down the infection rate as being the most powerful tool to help medical services being able to treat infected people without the system becoming overwhelmed. The way that is done most effectively, we are told, is by practicing social distancing.
Therefore, as a vulnerable person, I would really hope that you wouldn’t just carry on going about business as usual and living as if nothing was happening. I would be hoping like mad that people would refrain from sending out messages or misinformation which might lead to greater problems in a few weeks. (On that note, can we emphatically discourage the circulation of any ultra-charismatic messages about just “binding and cursing” this virus and living in “faith” that it won’t touch us. The Bible clearly shows us that Christians suffer alongside the ungodly and we cannot endorse a “faith” that forces the rest of the population to bear the brunt of our stance. It does real-world damage.)
To love others as neighbours in this time, we need to act responsibly and carefully – Phil 2:4 says is so beautifully, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
With the above in mind, we have decided to ask everyone to stop meeting together and to instead find creative and digital ways to encourage each other and to stay connected.
However, there is some discretion and sensitivity needed here, as we recognise that for those who are single or not connected in a family unit, this can be a very isolating time. Obviously gathering with anyone else at all increases one’s personal risk of infection. This personal risk must be weighed, especially over the coming weeks or months, against the very real benefits of fellowship in person and the mental, emotional, and physical risks of complete isolation. And so, as individuals, families, groups of families and smaller groups you may feel you have confidence to connect (i.e. the risk in meeting together is low). For these gatherings, we recommend you keep up to date with the latest government advice.
A TOOL FOR THE TIME
Zoom is a powerful (and free) video conferencing tool where up to 100 people can meet. We have been using it for over a year already and it is reliable and easy to use: You can download it here.
We would love to encourage you to sign up for it, and then use it to:
- Meet weekly as a Life Group
- Get a few friends together to chat and pray
- Maybe start a Bible study?
- Plan a group that meets after the Sunday preach to talk through the preach.
- Or any other creative way you want to gather.
It’s going to take some experimenting to get right and it may feel a bit awkward at first, but push through – we need community!
You may not be part of a One Hope group but would really love to join one over this time. If that’s you, please contact Charmaine on 084 412 4209 and she’ll let you know what’s available to join and how to go about that.
At the start of this year, we felt a renewed call to prayer and dependency on God – only He can do the work!
We want to call you to two things:
Firstly, Each Monday we will send out prayer points encouraging us to use Tuesday as a focused day of prayer into the pandemic. We will continue in our rhythm of fasting on the first Tuesday of each month and we’ll get creative around ‘meeting’ digitally in smaller groups to pray on some Tuesdays.
Secondly, Philippians 4:6-7 says: The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Using Philippians 4:6 as a guide, we are encouraging all One Hopers to set an alarm for 4:06PM each day, to stop whatever they are doing and to pray for 2-3 minutes. It will be so great knowing that we are doing that together, wherever we are.
More to follow here but we are working in collaboration with a bunch of organisations and Stellenbosch churches to form a united effort to help those who are going to be very vulnerable during this time. From helping with food for those who can’t work, to assisting in getting people without transport to the hospitals in weeks to come.
To get updates and to get involved, please message Robyn on 071 864 6262
Also, let’s do the obvious. Check in with neighbours who are vulnerable especially the elderly, those fighting illness and the lonely. See if they need shopping done or if you can take them a meal. Even just offer to pray for them. Keep social contact high with phone calls and messages – especially consider those not in a family setting.
MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY
Ephesians 5:16 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
As fear and anxiety rises, we will find many more people open to the gospel over this time. They may even just be open to a less intimidating way of doing church (i.e they can do it from their bedroom, without meeting people etc). Invite people to ‘join us’ for our Sunday services, or to be a part of a small digital group. It’s an easy invite and even something you could thoughtfully suggest on a neighbourhood or family Whatsapp group or the like as people may not know where to turn. Leading people to Jesus as their saviour and hope is the ultimate act of loving kindness.
“People’s spiritual instincts and questions get triggered in moments like these. Give them the Good News of the Gospel. A world struggling with death needs both the hope of resurrection and the power of a God who suffers with them. The appetite for the Gospel has been whetted like it hasn’t been in years. A generation that’s sick of hype is ready for hope.” – Carey Nieuwhof
TIME is one of the great opportunities presented to us with the cancelling of social engagements, possibly not having to factor in travel time to work etc. In this unusual season, let’s use our time wisely and continue to press into God purposefully through the following spiritual practices:
- Be devoted to daily devotions (what a cool opportunity to have these more regularly with our kids!)
- Be devoted in prayer
- Be devoted in our commitment to gather as a church – even digitally!
- Be devoted to one another – even though this might look quite unusual and different
- Be devoted in our love and care of others
The church of God has faced far rockier days and yet, led by King Jesus himself and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the church has not just continued to meet but has grown and been strengthened even in her darkest days. Isn’t this just so wonderfully like our God? Taking what is weak and making it strong, turning what was meant for evil, into beautiful and creative good? Remember to face the facts, as we face the Father.
With love, Paul
(For the One Hope leadership team)