I will never forget walking over Wallingford Bridge on the 22nd March last year. As I made my way to the Ridgeway Centre, I felt incredibly emotional. I realised that this would be the first Sunday, possibly for centuries when God’s people hadn’t gathered in the town to worship him together. You may recall, that like tens of thousands of other pastors streaming on Facebook live, I chose as my text, Psalm 46. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” I remain thankful that this has and forever will, remain true.
The following week, we pooled expertise with our Didcot congregation and shifted platforms to Zoom. We praise God that this has served us every week since. However, we are hopeful that this morning will be our last Sunday morning Zoom service.
Starting next week and running for five consecutive Sunday mornings, we will be meeting at 10.30 in Garden Clusters. Please do not think of these as a novelty or an alternative to church. Rather, they are the means by which, we the church of Jesus, can gather, build new relationships, pray, testify, worship, share communion and learn together. That’s right. We can do what the New Testament church did whenever they met in one another’s homes. Please do contact the office if for whatever reason, you have not been allocated to a Garden Cluster.
Now of course, it would have been possible to have opened up the Ridgeway Centre a few weeks ago. However, on reflection we realised that this would mean, like the end of last year, that only a limited number would be able to gather without satisfactory interaction with those at home. Therefore, we have continued with Zoom so that we could create a ‘level playing field for all’.
That said, I am encouraged that this evening’s meeting, starting at 7.00 pm is more or less fully-booked. We trust that from next week and for the weeks when we gather in Garden Clusters, that these evening meetings, will be available via Zoom and will include live music as well as teaching.
Fairly soon, we hope to announce the format from the 27thJune onward. This will include the number and timings of services, along with questions regarding children and youth work.
However, I do want to remind you about two things that the Lord said to us many months ago. The first is from Matthew 9:17, where we read: “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.” I believe that we need to ask ourselves again how God would have us respond to this word now. Surely, God didn’t just intend to bring us comfort during lockdown, but to serve us a challenge when restrictions would ease! Secondly, in May last year, I shared with you that the Lord had clearly said to me, “to prepare for three years”. That at the time seemed like an eternity. However, as I look back, I am so thankful for God’s grace. Indeed, in many ways I believe that this spurred us on to make decisions regarding the future of The Fountain, prepared our hearts for Chris and Odelia moving on, helped us realise the need for better communication (hence Church Suite), given us the courage to move to Garden Clusters and convinced us that we need to look for a building in Didcot that will serve as a missional resource. We continue then to listen to what God is speaking by his Spirit.
Thank you again all for your support and especially, to all the AV and technical team, who continue to give them sacrificially to the Kingdom. I dare not think where we would be without you!