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There is a lot of discussion these days about the need to develop what is called “herd immunity” with respect to the coronavirus. A simplistic explanation is that once a significant portion of the population acquires immunity to the virus, infection surges will decrease and life can get back to “normal” (whatever that means!). But for this to happen, communities need to mingle and interact with one another. As they do, infections will spread, but so will immunity. In the end, the “herd” will be healthier. Sounds like a plan.

I am neither a doctor nor a scientist but, as a shepherd of the flock of God, I see a parallel with our church’s need for a spiritual herd immunity. That is, for our spiritual health, we, the sheep, need to interact with one another. As we do, we will increase our protection against debilitating viruses such as self-sufficiency, despondency, complacency, false teaching, spiritual near-sightedness, and a host of other threats to our spiritual health. The Chief Shepherd has provided a way to develop this. It is called gathering. If we gather to exhort one another in the faith, our flock will be better equipped for health. 

Many have responded to the opportunity to gather on Sunday mornings and/or evenings. It has been beneficial. And now we have the opportunity to gather during the week as well, via small groups: our Grace Groups.

Government’s recent relaxing of restrictions allows for ten visitors to gather at one’s home, while respecting hygienic protocols, including social distancing. This means that members of our church have the opportunity to have face-to-face (well, mask-to-mask!) fellowship. The elders encourage you to do so.

As we have often communicated, some of our members are physically vulnerable and therefore this will not be possible for them. But many of us are not, and therefore such fellowship should be pursued. The women’s book club is planning on meeting. The elders are having in-person meetings. Families are getting together. Grace Groups can follow suit.

Though the numbers are restrictive, perhaps your Grace Group could be like an amoeba and divide and multiply. Perhaps you can take turns with some Zooming in with those who are meeting in person. In whatever way you choose, if it can be done carefully (in line with protocols and each taking personal responsibility) it probably should be done.

Contrary to what some pundits are promoting, the Scriptures make clear that the church is not something that can survive virtually. Rather, we need in-person fellowship. Normally, we need to be in the presence of others if we will benefit spiritually and be of benefit spiritually to others. The book of Acts is full of instances of God’s people gathering and, in so many instances , amazing things occurred (Acts 2:41–47; 4:23–31; 12:6–17; etc.). Further, as we have been often reminded, God exhorts us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24–25).

Sunday afternoon, I went for a walk with Jill and Katy. As we discussed the sermon, they helped me to see a truth that until then had been more theory than practice. Though I had preached the sermon, their insight aided me in a very personal and helpful way. The meaningful fellowship with two sisters in Christ fostered my spiritual health. And though they would not like being compared to a “herd,” I am grateful that their “mingling” with this old goat was a means of strengthening my walk with Christ. 

Brothers and sisters, that’s the point of gathering. That’s the point of small group gatherings. Let’s make the effort to gather and protect and promote spiritual health among our flock.  

Being immunised with you,