My dear friends,
By the time you read this you will have become well aware of the effects that the current health crisis is having on our daily lives and not least on our church life. Many of you will be wondering what the future holds for us. It is difficult to operate as a church when there are no services in Ayr or at Kilwinning and all our congregational meetings are suspended for an unknown length of time. At the same time, we are being encouraged to develop a practice of social isolation, to keep one another at arm’s length, and wherever possible, to avoid each another altogether.
This of course goes against the grain for Christians. As we know, the church is not buildings, the church is people and can, and often has, existed without any places in which to meet. But we also know that the church is more than just people who happen to have a common interest and common beliefs, but people in community: people who love one another and are concerned for one another and enjoy one another’s company. This is what many of you will be feeling most difficult just now. We have to discover how to love one another at a distance.
In this respect of course we are no different from everyone else in society. What distinguishes us is that we are not only people in community with one another, we are in community with the Lord Jesus Christ. Our relationship with him is what makes us different and will also determine how we will relate to our brothers and sisters in Christ and indeed with the world outside.
It is because of this that we have a responsibility to ensure that, as far is we are able, nothing we do will be harmful to anyone else or make life more difficult for them. Therefore, we should make it our business to do what we can to avoid the spread of this virus by complying closely with the health guidelines laid down by the government, by accepting with patience the restrictions imposed upon us, and by putting the needs of others before our own. At the same time, more positively, so far as we can, let’s try to keep in touch with one another and especially with those who are elderly or living on their own, by phoning or by social media, to ensure they do not feel too cut off. This is especially true for those who are not on-line and do not have the advantages of this technology, and who may easily miss out in the sharing of information and facilities for worship.
Most of us feel it strange to be fit and healthy and yet unable to go to church or meet with other Christians on the Lord’s Day. It just doesn’t seem right. The week doesn’t start properly without Sunday worship. If that is true of you, (it is certainly true for me!), then let’s remember that is the lot of many Christians for a variety of reasons, and has been the experience of believers through the ages. Three of our best-loved psalms (42, 63 and 84) were written by men who longed to be able to worship God in his house. May I make a number of suggestions that you may like to consider.
1. May this time give us a greater appreciation of the privilege of Christian worship and fellowship that we have enjoyed so long, and a desire to make a greater use of the opportunities available to us when they are restored.
2. If you have the opportunity, take advantage of what is available online, including facilities provided within the Free Church. Some of us were able to share in the morning service at Govanhill on Sunday. The process was a new one to us, but even I was able to make contact. Rev. Kenny Boyd intends to continue this practice on future Sundays and also make it possible to take part in the prayer-meeting on Wednesday evenings. Details are given at the end of this letter.
3. For those who do not have the wherewithal for this it is less easy. But thank God, although we are cut off from one another, we are not cut off from him and even on our own, or in a family group, we are able to call on him through the Lord Jesus Christ. Where two or three are gathered in his name the Lord has promised to be with us. It is even possible to pray together with a friend using the phone.
It would be wonderful if this crisis were to lead to a recovery of the old practice of family worship which has so largely disappeared from Christian homes today to our great spiritual impoverishment.
4. If we are on our own, then we are in the same position as the Psalmist who so often cried out to God from his individual situations of need. We can make his prayers our prayers and we will find the same God will answer us.
What of the future? None of us know how long this crisis will continue. It will be longer than we would wish; it may not be as long as some are predicting. Of one thing we can be certain. Our God is in control and it will not last a day longer than he chooses.
This is a time of testing for all of us, and for some considerably more than others. Our endurance will be tested and also our faith. That is why it is so important that instead of leaning on one another’s physical presence for strength and support we learn to lean more and more on the Lord. Many of us will find we have more time on our hands in the next few weeks – let us look on this extra time as his gift to us to study the Bible, to spend more time in prayer for the Church and the nation, and to examine our lives before the Lord.
It is also a time of anxiety and fearfulness for many of us. Let us take our fears to the Lord remembering his word of promise to his disciples:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
The elders are concerned that you should be kept informed about what is happening as far as possible. They will be glad to give any assistance they can to anyone who may require it and will try to keep in touch with you. In the meantime, it is our prayer for all of us that
the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
May he bless you all.
ANGUS J. HOWAT
Contact details for Interim Moderator and Elders: -
Rev. Kenny Boyd 0141 424 3486 Norman Smith 01292 267740
Interim Moderator Clerk to Deacon’s Court-Ayr
Rev. Angus Howat 01292 570136 Graham Keith 01292 441853
Session Clerk Clerk to Deacon’s Court-Kilwinning
Norman Macsween 01294 602444 John Robinson 01563 529879