Call to Church Leaders: A Pledge This Easter

With Easter this weekend, we want to get the message far and wide that the Church is here for the nation. This Easter we are asking 1000 UK Church leaders to publicly commit to supporting their local communities, to bring a message of hope, so that no-one will be alone, without the help they need, during the COVID-19 crisis.

We are working with press and media to publish this pledge this weekend.
Join us in spreading good news this Easter. Sign the Pledge and Share!

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Barnabas Coronavirus Emergency Network (BCEN) Launched

LAUNCH OF THE BARNABAS CORONAVIRUS EMERGENCY NETWORK (BCEN)

The needs of the poor and persecuted church are urgent and must be met now. Coronavirus is creating a humanitarian disaster, especially for persecuted Christians, in many parts of the world.

And the reason for this disproportionate effect on the Christian community?
Persecuted Christians are on the margins of society, discriminated against in daily life, and often discriminated against when general aid is distributed. Many are desperately poor already because of discrimination. They have no savings, and with lockdown they have lost their meagre incomes.

Many pastors and clergy have no means of support if their congregations cannot meet.

Barnabas Fund, the leading aid agency for persecuted Christians, has launched the Barnabas Coronavirus Emergency Network to urgently meet these needs. We are joined by over 85 partner organisations. These include global church denominations, representing thousands of congregations worldwide and some are theological institutions with close links to rural pastors caring for their vulnerable flock during this time. Associations such as GAFCON, EFAC, the Communion of Reformed Churches, and Pentecostal Networks are all part of the Barnabas Coronavirus Emergency Network, giving us direct access to our brothers and sisters at the grassroots. Our objectives are to monitor the effects of Covid-19 on persecuted Christians, and learn how to support those Christians better.

BCEN is obtaining reliable up-to-date information which Barnabas Fund will share with supporters to inform their prayers.
BCEN is guiding Barnabas Fund’s response in terms of practical support for coronavirus-affected Christians, thus ensuring that funds given are used as effectively as possible in this unprecedented and fast-changing global emergency.

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Coronavirus: Missional & Theological reflections

This page is updated every Thursday – last update: 2 April 2020 Go to latest version

This week we have seen the continuing theological reflections on COVID-19 growing steadily. We have tried to categorise them in some way to make it easier to navigate.

For a number of years Christians have been considering how we re-imagine church in a post-Christendom landscape. The rupture to our normal lives has been dramatic. The way in which normal life is being changed and shut down provides an opportunity for the church to practice the two greatest commandments.  

During a crisis there are both dangers and opportunities. In a national emergency we have the chance to counter fear with peace and panic with the reassurance of God’s presence and love. In the last few days new blogs, prayers and reflections have been produced that might help us in an era of social distancing and isolation to start rethinking the mission of the church in these strange new times.

A new resource for churches dealing with Coronavirus, with three focuses: Prayer, Prepare and Proclaim has been produced by Hope1315.

More reflections on isolation and trauma

The SCM blog continues the series of theology in isolation this week with an article from Florence O’Taylor on a view from the middle trauma theology and covid-19. There are also interesting reflections on creativity and paralysis from Grant Stewart in South Africa and Emily Scott muses on how our brains don’t work as well during a time of crisis and trauma. On Tuesday Lucy Peppiatt (Principal of Westminster Theological Centre) wrote on charismatic Christians and coronavirus reminding us that ‘good habits that can become bad habits when exaggerated in a crisis.’ We shouldn’t underestimate the degree of trauma this will bring to us all.

Lament, judgement and moral challenges

CMS have created an excellent virtual lament space which is being added to on a daily basis and can be found here. Intended, perhaps, for lent initially this is a good place to browse. The heavy weight theologians have begun to offer reflections this week. New Testament scholar and former Bishop of Durham N T Wright’s article for Time magazine entitled Christianity offers no answers about the coronavirus: it’s not supposed to has been widely hailed. Wright says, ‘the mystery of the biblical story is that God also laments. Some Christians like to think of God as above all that, knowing everything, in charge of everything, calm and unaffected by the troubles in his world. That’s not the picture we get in the Bible.’ Ian Paul (Premiere Blogger of the year in 2017 and 2018) offers a longer treatise on plagues, judgement and the book of Revelation and Luke Bretherton reflects on how coronavirus presents a moral crisis not just a medical one.

Finally, the first online academic conference has been announced for the 17th June led by Professor Neil Messer from the University of Winchester. Titled Christian Theology in the Midst of COVID-19 it aims to be, ‘an attempt to stimulate some initial theological reflection on the global COVID-19 pandemic.’ Offers for papers until the 30th April.

Preliminary Biblical reflections

One theme that is cropping up in the blogs of Ruth Gee (Assistant Secretary of the Methodist Conference) and Stephen March (Pioneer Development worker in the diocese of Leicester) is the subject of Babylonian Exile. Ruth reflects on a people in exile and a people of hope. Stephen’s blog fuel for pilgrims asks whether the coronavirus may be the saviour of the church? James Fox Robinson (Prayer and Spirituality enabler from the Diocese of Bath and Wells) has started a series of corona reflections based on the book of Jonah that are worth investigating and Kiwi missiologist Steve Taylor has a short vimeo clip on Reading Luke 10:1-11 in a COVID lockdown

Being isolated and alone

Other bloggers have been reflecting on the idea of being isolated and at home. A great post from Evangelist Canon J John is on being home alone can be found here. Theologian Karen O’Donnell has blogged on doing theology from a place that hurts and is worth a read from the perspective of trauma theology. It reminds us not to rush towards resurrection. Again the reflections produced by tragedy and congregations is helpful is the unfolding of trauma for larger groups like congregations, charities and other organisation. The Methodist church blog on mental health is also worth checking out. Finally the Revd Inderjit Bhogal has reflected on self isolation or sanctuary.

General theological reflections

There are a growing number of general theological blogposts around coronavirus that help us think about the issue in broader brush strokes and the kind of questions we might be asking. Israel Olofinjana (Baptist minister in Woolwich and leader of the Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World) has blogged around 6 responses to Coronavirus. Clive Marsh (Vice President of the Methodist conference) writes that God is in control of his wonderful and fragile world even in these strange times. Steve Latham’s (Baptist Minister in King’s Cross) Corona Theology post is helpful too. CTE’s Ben Aldous has blogged a general reflection on coronavirus and Acts 17:28. Paul Bradbury (Leader of Poole Missional Communities) has blogged on the parallel between our atomised society and the virus and finally Philip Yancy looks at the issue of suffering and plague times in relation to the unfolding situation.

Being a Good Neighbour

We already know the government has called on up to 250,000 NHS volunteers to help those who are older or frail and self-isolating to pick up shopping and medicines and we have seen a spectacular response of 405,000 people in 24 hours. Details of that here. An excellent blog on being neighbourly during coronavirus from The Life Beyond the Breadline Research Team at Coventry University.  Also a helpful page by MTAG (Mission Theology Advisory group) which includes thoughts on being a good neighbour.

Young people

A great blog from Youthscape Dangerous hope explores the challenges of Youth work in the coronavirus pandemic. Youth For Christ have created some materials to guide youth workers on moving their work online find out more here. And South West Youth Ministries have a great link to all sorts of useful tools here.

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In This Together: Community Matters Fund

Local authorities, parish councils, charities and community groups are being encouraged to apply for extra financial support from Western Power Distribution as the company launches its ‘In This Together – Community Matters Fund’.

 

This £500k fund intends to support communities affected by the coronavirus outbreak within WPD’s operating region, by helping local organisations to deliver vital support and services directly people in vulnerable situations. 

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Sing Resurrection: Easter Counter-Infection Starts to Spread

Tuesday April 7th 2020

For the first time in history since the resurrection itself, millions of the faithful will be unable to gather together to sing the great Easter hymns and songs. This coming Easter Sunday will be like no other before it. Many believers will be connecting with their churches via livestream in their own homes, but a new initiative called Sing Resurrection aims to get them out out of their houses for a few minutes…

Art courtesy of Nicholas Markell. Copyrighted. www.markellstudios.com

The idea for Sing Resurrection came to David Pott from Bishop Auckland as he was driving south along the A9 in Scotland on March 18th after visiting his brothers just before lockdown. “I had been thinking about the Italians singing on their balconies, said David, “and then in a few seconds the basic idea came that Christians should be invited to step out of their front doors or into their gardens and sing Jesus Christ is Risen Today and Thine be the Glory at 10am on Easter Sunday.” He started to share the idea on March 20th and very soon the idea began to capture the imagination. Organisations including Churches Together in England, The Northumbria Community and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland agreed to support it.

Sing Resurrection is described as a counter-infection of joy and hope in the current situation in the world today – and this counter-infection is starting to spread beyond the UK & Ireland to other parts of the world too. Further information about how to participate, including lyrics and music for the hymns can be found at;

https://ctbi.org.uk/sing-resurrection/

NB In line with government regulations, no gatherings are allowed in connection with Sing Resurrection.

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Holy Week Statement from British and Irish Church Leaders

Monday 6 April 2020

At the start of Holy Week, as Christians follow in the footsteps of Jesus as the events that lead to Good Friday unfold, followed by the hope of Easter Day, leaders of churches throughout the British Isles have issued the following statement and call to continued prayer as we face the Covid-19 pandemic.

They write…


God’s world is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. In the nations that make up Britain and Ireland the Covid-19 virus continues to affect people at an alarming rate, health services along with many of our institutions and organisations, both local and national, are under extreme pressure and people are getting used to living in a very different way, many in extreme isolation. As with all such crises, there is a danger that the most vulnerable in society will be most badly affected.

Christians the world over are entering an important time in the church year as we look to the events of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. At the centre of our common faith are both the depths of despair and the heights of joy. In the Bible and in the songs and liturgies of the Church, we see Jesus entering fully into human suffering. In His rising again, that suffering is redeemed and transformed into hope and joy. After Jesus’ death his disciples were afraid and all seemed lost and hopeless, but the risen Christ met them in their despair and restored hope through his victory over death. We pray that the world today might know this hope in place of despair.

In the Book of Daniel we read about God’s people being taken into exile in Babylon. Daniel could not pray in the Temple in Jerusalem, but he continued to pray in exile – opening his window to face Jerusalem. Though he was on his own he joined with the prayers of the people wherever they were. Now we too are separated from each other physically, but when we pray in our homes we join in with this ancient tradition of our home as a place of prayer. Wherever we are, whenever we pray, when we speak and think of Christ, there he is in the midst of us. We join our prayers with all those who pray in our own churches and communities and around the world.

As church leaders from across the many and varied churches of these Islands we urge all people to join us in prayer this Holy Week and Easter; to pray for those who suffer, those who face untimely death and all those who care for them; to celebrate our common faith at a difficult time; to help and support our neighbours in need; and to observe all the safeguards in place to slow the spread of disease.

Our Prayer

Loving God, in Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for our salvation, cast out the darkness of our anxiety, fear and mourning, enfold us in your love and give us joy and hope this Easter.  Amen.
 

Archbishop Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury
 
Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster
 
Very Rev Dr William Henry
Moderator General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Ireland
 
Rt. Revd Colin Sinclair
Moderator General Assembly
Church of Scotland
 
Archbishop Eamon Martin
Archbishop of Armagh
 
Commissioner Anthony Cotterill
The Salvation Army
 
Revd Nigel Uden
Moderator of General Assembly
United Reformed Church
 
Archbishop-elect John McDowell
Archbishop of Armagh
 
Bishop Hugh Gilbert
Bishop of Aberdeen
 
Revd Dr Barbara Glasson
President Methodist Church of Great Britain
 
His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas
Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain
 
Revd Lynn Green
General Secretary Baptist Union of Great Britain
 
Bishop Mark Strange
Primus, Scottish Episcopal Church
 
Archbishop John Davies
Archbishop of Wales
 
His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos
Coptic Archbishop of London
 
Pastor Agu Irukwu
Redeemed Christian Church of God
 
Mr Rheinallt Thomas
President Free Church Council Wales
 
Revd Hugh Osgood
Moderator Free Church Federal Council
 
Revd Brian Anderson
President Irish Council of Churches
 
Revd Sam McGuffin
President Methodist Church in Ireland
 
Gavin Calver
CEO Evangelical Alliance
 
Paul Parker
Religious Society of Friends
 
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WCC releases “Health and Hope” online publication as a resource amid COVID-19 pandemic

03 April 2020

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has newly released an online publication, “Health and Hope: The Church in Mission and Unity,” a collection of previously published articles that resonate with the worldwide struggle amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The publication, available online free of charge for the next three months, serves to remind us of the presence of God during challenging times throughout history, and of how we can draw upon that history and tradition for the present time.

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HelpTogether

Help together against Covid-19

If you are in isolation or in need of help due to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, this site can put you in touch with local volunteers.

You may be stuck inside and in need of some extra help to get essential groceries and prescriptions, or perhaps you could just do with a chat with someone to pick you up when you’re having a down day.

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YourNeighbour.org

Helping churches be good neighbours
in the Covid-19 crisis

Equipping Church Leaders

Connecting people in need to Churches

Working with government

Churches are working around the clock to demonstrate love to their neighbours through this global pandemic. With so much new information and initiatives each day it can be difficult to know where to begin. YourNeighbour.org equips church leaders with the latest updates and resources and connects people in need to churches.

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Church leaders, WHO hold global panel discussion on COVID-19

Moderated by outgoing World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, the televised 80-minute webinar invites all member churches and partners around the world, as well as the public, to learn more about pertinent issues, such as:

* Why collaboration at all levels in society is important and how faith communities can contribute in containing the COVID-19 pandemic, along with health authorities and governments.

* How church leaders’ constituencies are responding to the pandemic, and how they are accompanying their congregations.

* How to ensure that information received from WHO is distributed and is adhered to.

* How to uphold church life, worship services and convene congregations in conditions of a total shutdown.

* Key aspects of church practices and traditions, that can assist us during quarantine and isolation.

* How do we deal with stigma and discrimination against certain nationalities that have surfaced along with the pandemic?

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