Community and the Coronavirus
Pastor Oliver expresses his heartache on not being able to gather as a church and shares how we can continue to encourage, strengthen and love one another during this period.
Day 2 of the Covid-19 "Circuit Breaker". The traffic on the streets around my home has reduced by half. I headed out to the nearby coffee shop to buy and pack lunch to be brought home, and there was hardly a dozen people during this lunch hour. On my smartphone app, which measures a city mobility index; the percentage of Singapore moving is 21% as compared to usual. It seems that the effect of this "circuit breaker" is showing in people practising social distancing and staying home. I know as a citizen, this is the responsible thing to do. I know as a Christian, this is one way of loving our neighbour. We do this to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already caused much disruption, suffering and grief. I know all this, but I cannot help but feel sadness and heartache.
Firstly, my heart aches for the ever-increasing infections and deaths due to Covid-19. And these cases are no longer numbers I watch on the daily Channel News Asia updates. I just found out that my seminary professor's daughter is now on a ventilator and fighting for her life due to Covid-19. This has now become personal. And I'm sure that GBCers will personally know of family and friends who have been impacted health wise or financially by this global crisis. Let's be praying for them.
Secondly, my heart aches for community and relationships. You see while this is the second day of the "circuit breaker" for most of you, I developed a sore throat and a fever last week and had gone to see the doctor on Friday 3 Apr. I was given a mandatory five days of medical leave and given a MOH advisory to strictly stay at home. So, this is the sixth day of being homebound! I longed to meet my dear friends for meals and coffee. I missed my "kakis" whom I go to the fight gym with. And I also missed the church intensely.
Sure, I can still do my daily devotions, read my bible, pray and watch online services and hear sermons over the internet. However, something is missing when the church does not gather. Human beings are made in the image of God. God, as a triune God: Father, Son and Spirit, is in an eternal relationship of love with one another. We are designed for connections with one another. So, when we are deprived of something we were made for, our hearts ache. More than that, as believers committed to a local church body, as Grace Baptist Church, we are parts of one body. As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:5,
"So it is with Christ's body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other."(NLT)
We, Grace Baptist Church, are parts of one body that represents Christ. And we belong to each other. When we cannot gather (and rightly so, amid this Covid-19 pandemic), we ought to ache. We should feel out of sorts. It is because as parts of a body, we long to be a "whole" body. We feel the need to connect with those our hearts belong to. We long for one another and for the time when our sovereign and loving God will bring Covid-19 under control, and when we as, a church can gather again.
But as for now, between Apr 7 to May 4, when we are amid this "Circuit Breaker", how then can we live as a church scattered? Eugene, on behalf of the pastors and elders, has written a note to the CG Leaders. In it, he urged us to strengthen one another's trust in God, to persevere in love for one another, and to keep connecting to one another. He gives practical examples of how to do this here. Have a read. The advice is helpful to all members of GBC as we seek to care and connect with one another in these challenging times. Let's put these into practice in the next few weeks.
Also, because we are not physically gathering as a local body of Christ, we shall not be livestreaming the Lord's Supper. The pastors and elders have deliberated and prayed, and we have decided that we will defer observing the Lord's Supper until we are physically able to gather as a church. We debated over this matter and sought Scripture. Our thoughts and deliberations are included here in this article. What can we do in the meanwhile, during this time when we shall not be practising the Lord's Supper? We can fast and pray. We live in unusual times when the church cannot physically gather. So, we fast, depriving ourselves or a meal or two, so that we can spend the time in prayer. We fast and when our stomachs remind us that we are hungry, let that turn into a hunger for when the church can physically gather again. We pray, and when we do so, we plead to our sovereign and loving God to have mercy and intervene in this Covid-19 pandemic. We ask for God's presence and sustaining grace in our lives. We should focus on this as an opportunity to sharpen our longing for Jesus Christ and for one another.
Beloved friends in Christ, till we meet again, stay safe and well. And for this Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday weekend, may you continue to dwell and reflect on the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Jesus who died for the forgiveness of our sins and won the victory over our final enemy death, and by His resurrection, assures us of life everlasting. Amen!