With last week’s announcement by our President, South Africa has shifted to Lockdown Alert Level 1. More sectors of the economy are opening and, of great encouragement to Christians, increased numbers are being permitted for corporate gatherings of churches. Whereas from 1 June numbers per church service were restricted to 50, churches can now house up to 50% of their capacity—in line with social distancing—with a maximum of 250 for indoor attendance and 500 for outdoor gatherings.
Though this Sunday we are limiting in-person attendance to 80 people per service, in the coming weeks BBC will be able to accommodate our entire membership (with their families) over our three scheduled services each Sunday (8:00 AM; 9:30 AM; and 5:30 PM). This is good news!
Additional good news is that, if we gather outside, the entire membership, with their families, can gather for oneassembly. This good news opens the door for new opportunities. Let’s make the effort to embrace them.
Understandably, some church members, because of legitimate health concerns, are hesitant to attend a Sunday gathering. Compassionate patience and sensitive understanding are called for. However, a significant majority of our members should be making the effort to register to gather on the Lord’s Day. Bad habits don’t take long to form and are hard to break. So make the effort to rekindle the good habit of joining with other church members for corporate worship.
I recently spoke to a pastor in a region of the USA where church restrictions were lifted several weeks ago. He lamented that only about half of the congregation has returned. Sadly, for many in that church, it appears that the COVID cocoon became a spiritual coffin. This threat confronts us as well. We should all be careful. Is the workplace, the mall, the restaurant, your children’s school, more of a priority than that for which Jesus died (Ephesians 5:25–27)? The deacons are doing a stellar job of following health protocols as we gather. Further, as each member exercises personal responsibility for their welfare—just as each of us does in other public spheres—gathering at our church building can be a “safe space.”
The elders are discussing plans for an outdoor service in October to facilitate the gathering of the entire church membership. This, we trust, should provide us with the opportunity to engage in God’s prescribed regular means of grace for his gathered church. In addition, this will enable us to corporately add new members to the church (several who have been patiently waiting since March!). What a joy that will be!
Logistics and weather permitting, we hope to be able to have such outdoor gatherings monthly, if not more frequently, until lockdown is no more. But this will require each member to adjust their schedule in accordance with the resolve to prioritise the Lord’s priority: corporate worship, mutual edification, and faithful fulfilment of covenanted church membership responsibilities.
Brothers and sisters, it has been a long six months of weekly lockdown livestreaming to a “scattered” congregation. Perhaps we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If so, livestreaming will eventually cease, multiple morning services will come to an end, and the Body will gather as one. This is good news!
In the meantime, let us each apply the effort to faithfully fulfil our corporate responsibilities in accordance with our new opportunities.
See you on Sunday,