At the end of March we met as a church to reflect on the last year and to formulate plans about how we will seek to come out of lockdown. Below is an email from that summarises the recommendations that came out of that meeting.

Dear All,

On Sunday, 28 March, I promised that I would be sending an update on what was proposed at our meeting last week as we plan to emerge from the lockdown restrictions in the weeks and months ahead. We discussed things further on Tuesday night at our Elders‘ and Deacons’ Meeting and I’m now able to confirm plans that I presented last week.

The headline for the coming months is that we anticipate that progress will be gradual. We, like the government, don’t want to restart things so quickly that we then need to reverse decisions made should the situation change. We’re well aware that this hinges on many things we cannot control. All our plans are in God’s hands and we look to him for all that we need. Our plans for restarting church activities will prioritise the following three things:

  1. PHYSICAL CHURCH SERVICES – while our livestreaming of services will continue for the foreseeable future, we want to prioritise the importance of physically gathering as God’s people. Many, many people have remarked how much they miss physically meeting as God’s people. To this end we want to encourage everyone to consider coming back to the building for services as soon as they are able to. We will continue to make the church building a safe place for all those who come. Sunday services aren’t all that they were before in light of the current restrictions, but they are still a highly significant means of grace and well worth coming along to.
    All that being said, some people will feel able to come to services in the building straight away, others will want to be more cautious. But we do want to encourage everyone to consider when they might start coming back to the services in the building in the months ahead.
    To help families to return we are prioritising the restarting of Sunday school and crèche, which will recommence on Sunday 25 April, one week later than originally stated. To increase our capacity at our physical services we will be recommencing our evening services in the building from this Sunday, 4 April.
  2. PRAYER – we desperately need to commit our ways to God and seek his help for the months ahead. To help us do this as a church family we are going to designate our 5 Sunday evening services in May as prayer meetings. These meetings will split into three parts:
    • We will start all together in the building and livestreamed on YouTube for a song, a short talk from the Bible and an introduction of the topics for prayer.
    • Then we will split to prayer with the people in the building praying and the people tuning in online joining a dedicated prayer group on Zoom. This will be hosted and run by someone in the building so we can coordinate the groups to both start and end at the same time.
    • The third and final part of the meeting will then conclude all together in the building and on YouTube for another song, and a closing prayer.

Each Sunday evening we will focus our prayers on a different aspect of church life, as well as praying for other churches, organisations and countries beyond Beccles.

  1. SOCIAL INTERACTION – while many of us have been able to keep in contact with the church family through Zoom on Sundays and for Home Groups, we have all missed the social interaction from meeting together physically. The onset of summer and the removal of restrictions in the weeks ahead makes seeing people from church possible. We are planning on helping social interaction and time together both formally and informally:
    • Formally we are planning for a church picnic and church barbecue at Ringsfield Village Hall on Sunday 4 and Sunday 18 July respectively. These outdoor gatherings will enable us to spend time with one another and enjoy games and activities too. To help us make the most of these times together we will not hold evening services on these two Sundays.
    • Informally we want to encourage us to make time to see other people from church – be that through inviting people to your home, inviting them to come for a walk or meeting up at the park. We realise that although some people might find that an easy thing to organise, other people might appreciate some help connecting with folk at church. We are thinking through how we might be able to facilitate this and will let you know as and when we have further plans.

We anticipate that other church activities are unlikely to function in earnest until September at the earliest. There are still groups and ministries like the Ladies‘ Bible Study and the Men’s and Ladies’ Breakfasts which will still be able to function online or in people’s gardens. And JAM might well meet for a couple of “one-offs” in the summer term. But, by and large, the things mentioned above remain our priorities for the months ahead. We will, of course, keep this under constant review and will keep you updated with any further progress in this regard.

I hope this helps put you in the picture of what is planned in the weeks ahead. Before I finish I want to help us consider how we might feel in the weeks and months ahead as activities at church restart. This will feel, in some ways, like pre-season training or going back to school:

PRE-SEASON TRAINING

Before a sports team is ready for a new season they undertake some pre-season training. This helps them regain the fitness and conditioning that they have lost in their time off playing. The last year has seen lots of people unable to exercise their faith in ways that they want to: fewer people have been able to meet physically at church; fewer people have been able to serve; in recent months none of us have been able to mix together informally.

As a result, coming back to church, for many of us, is going to feel like pre-season training. It might well be painful as we regain some of our spiritual fitness. But let me encourage you to persevere with your eyes on the Lord Jesus and your love directed towards him and his people.

GOING BACK TO SCHOOL

Children can respond rather differently to the prospect of going back to school after the summer holidays. Some are really excited. Some are dreading it. And others lie somewhere in between. In much the same way we are going to find different people will respond differently to the prospect of church activities recommencing. Some are really excited. Some are feeling apprehensive. And others lie somewhere in between. It’s worth thinking how we are feeling and then working hard to be really understanding of how other people are feeling too. And more than that, to love and support them along the way.

I’m so thankful to the way that God has sustained us as a church this last year. Many things were mentioned at our meetings last Thursday and Friday and there was much cause for thanks. But that said, there have been many, many things we have missed. And I’m excited that many of these things are going to recommence, God willing, in the weeks and months ahead. Please join me in praying that God will help and sustain us for what lies ahead and that he will use us to love each other and reach out with the good news of Christ.

This comes with much love in our Lord Jesus,

Tom (pastor of Beccles Baptist Church, on behalf of the elders)