The open (faced) church

“I hear you’re reopening the church?”

“So, it’s back to having services then?”

The easing of the lockdown in July has led to doors being unbolted to reinstate public worship in our buildings. But the church did not take a break. It just changed how it met.

The shift was to hold services on conference call and/or to through social media. This involved the embracing of more technology than usual, although many churches had been doing this for some time. I’m thankful to the local technical talent that has enabled our benefice to not miss a Sunday except when all Britain was blanked out!

It has increased our awareness of interest. The technology that enabled congregations to continue to meet has also turned us to be more outward facing. The restrictions we’ve worked around opened the window for many to watch and listen. So, for those who had to work they can tune in another time; for the frail it provided a new and welcome opportunity to reconnect; for those who’ve been hesitant to turn up at a building it’s been a look-see. My hope is that in the coming months people will move from looking to discovery.

This is the pattern seen when people met Jesus tentatively at first: ‘Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to see Jesus at night’ (John 3v1).

The curiosity about Jesus the teacher from God resulted in a visit ‘at night’ to avoid being too public. But it didn’t end there. Nicodemus heard about how we must be born again – we need new spiritual birth – if we are to see the Kingdom of God. Jesus later met a woman all alone by a well. She had an empty life. As a Samaritan her people were at odds with the Jews, although both groups expected the coming of the Messiah. Jesus transforms her life when he said: ‘I who speak to you am he’ (John 4v26). A royal official was desperately anxious for his dying son and begged Jesus for help: ‘You may go. Your son will live’ (John 4v50). Back home he learnt that his son recovered at the exact hour he’d met Jesus – ‘so he and all his household believed’ (v53).

Three different people. All three heard from Jesus more than they’d expected. We hope that being more open (faced) church will help you to move from looking to discovery.

(Read more about the restrictions and our arrangements.)

Paul Kingman