Doing things by phone, or post, or over the Internet, is not the same as actually meeting together and being with people. People need real live human company.
The year 2020 will go down in history. There has never been a year like it. A commenter wrote “Never before in the history of the church have so many churches been shut for this long. Never before in the history of the church have God’s people failed to meet together in such great numbers for so long.” It’s not just churches of course. Restaurants, pubs, theatres and many shops have also been shut for weeks – in a way that has never happened before.
It has been challenging for many of us, and we have met the challenges in different ways. In March, lots of us heard about something called Zoom, which would enable us to meet together using the internet to teleconference. We decided to try it, and on the 26th of March, we had our first Zoom meeting. We have continued to have Zoom meetings ever since – every Wednesday and Sunday evening.
On Sunday mornings, people were able to go online and watch services from other churches. For those without the Internet, we recorded services onto CDs and got them out. But as the lockdown went on, we decided to do our own services, and on the 3rd of May, we launched our own YouTube channel.
Zoom and YouTube proved to be very helpful. We were able to keep in touch with each other, and get the word out. They even had some advantages. People could listen to the services any time they liked – and they could listen from the comfort of their own homes. (That was definitely an advantage for people who were not churchgoers, and who were not sure they wanted to go to church, but who wanted to know what the church services were like.)
But doing things by phone, or post, or over the Internet, is not the same as actually meeting together and being with people. People need real live human company – and in the last few months many people have really struggled because they couldn’t meet with friends and loved ones. So it was good news when the government allowed churches to start meeting again. Our first Sunday services were on the 26th of July. Of course, things were not quite the same as they had been before, because of restrictions – such as maintaining social distancing during services. That has been difficult for many congregations, because it can be difficult to get everyone in. We decided that instead of having a united service every Sunday morning alternating between Lairg and Bonar, we now have a morning service in each place so that we could get everyone in without too much difficulty. So we are back to meeting at 10.30 in Lairg and 12.00 in Bonar, as we were a couple of years ago – and it looks like that will continue while restrictions are in place. But at least we are able to meet again face to face – and we are thankful for that.