Lockdown has been a time of trying new things, and in the past weeks many people have been joining online church services. For some, it will be the first service they have been to in a while.
Prayer is a key part of any meeting of believers – but it can sometimes feel strange when other people seem to pray effortlessly but you have no idea where to start.
God cares about you and longs to hear from you, and the reopening of churches for private prayer may be a good opportunity to try praying yourself, if you haven’t before. Here are some useful pointers to help you talk to Him.
The Lord’s Prayer
A good starting point for structuring your prayers is the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name – addressing God and praising Him for all He has done
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven – acknowledging He is in control and not us
Give us today our daily bread – ask God for what we need
And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors – confessing and repenting of our sins, as well as forgiving those who have hurt you
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one – asking for help in overcoming sin and for protection from Satan’s attacks
While Jesus Himself taught this prayer, He does not say that this is the only way to pray…
When should I pray?
Nowadays we can send a text anywhere, anytime. Equally, we can pray to God wherever and whenever. Just like texting, prayer is communication with God – it can be brief or lengthy, and the best bit is that the person you’re talking to loves you unconditionally! Unlike a text though, we don’t even have to use any words: the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself….intercedes for God’s people (Romans 8:26-27)
It can be useful to have a routine of prayer, similar to how you might call relatives at the same time each week. Don’t be afraid, however, to pray spontaneously when something prompts you – such as hearing somebody is ill, or when you see something wonderful in God’s creation. God promises to always listen to you: we know that He hears us – whatever we ask (1 John 5:15)
Prayer should not be regarded as a duty…but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed (E.M. Bounds)
What should I pray for?
Firstly, remember how powerful God is. We shouldn’t put limits on His ability to do anything – He parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14), made a blind man see (John 9:1-12) and, ultimately, raised His son Jesus from the dead. God will be listening and working in even the smallest of prayers: if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move (Matthew 17:20)
It is also good to listen to God before you pray. You can do this by reading the Bible, and sermons can help direct you too. After all, reading the Bible helps us know God more and communication is much easier when we know someone well! Let Him shape and inspire your conversation with Him.
Don’t be afraid to be persistent either, especially you are praying for something God has put on your heart. None of your prayers will go unanswered, even if the answer is “wait” or is a different solution to what we expect. God’s plan is perfect and we will understand more once we’re in heaven: You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand (John 13:7)
Who should I pray for?
With so many situations to pray for, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are a couple of ideas:
You can imagine circles working outwards, beginning with yourself then moving onto your partner or family, then your friends and church. Finally you can consider your nation and then the world. Some of these are very large topic – so try to listen to, or to feel, what God is saying you should pray for in that moment.
Another idea is to use the fingers on your hand starting with your thumb, which is strongest, to represent those who support and sustain you. The pointing index finger reminds us of those who guide and help us while the tallest, middle finger, represents our governments and leaders. The weak ring finger reminds us to pray for the helpless and weak and the final little finger represents yourself.
Remember it is okay to pray simply. As Joyce Meyer says, Prayer is simply talking to God like a friend and should be the easiest thing we do each day.
Fancy giving it a try?
The Try Praying initiative is an excellent 7 day guide to praying and shows it is much easier than you think! A lot of churches, including Bristo, have these booklets outside so pick one up as you’re passing.
Alternatively, Bristo Baptist Church will be reopening for private prayer soon. (You can check the website for announcements.) Members of the congregation will be on hand to answer any questions you may have, and to provide even more ideas on how to pray.
Drawn in by creation: a photo series
A couple of weeks ago, we looked at ways to stay creative during lockdown. This is a lovely example of creative worship from Jeanette Holligan, who has been inspired by God’s creation while on walks around the green spaces of Edinburgh.
Her photography, or photos shared with her from others, often sparks words as well, and her responses have been included with the series of pictures below.
(Photo: Jeanette Holligan)
Oh taste and see that the Lord is good
New life springing up
Heaven and earth meet
A sound is released an invitation a smile
Created to thrive
To burst forth
(Photo: Jeanette Holligan)
What can you see and feel?
I see movement
God’s glory on display
I see beauty in the clouds
Our creator calling us to join him
as he displays his splendour and majesty for all to see
(Photo: Jeanette Holligan)
Beauty in everyday life. Take time to stop when something catches your eye and ask God to speak to you.
The words from a song came to mind – a song based on Amos 9:13, by Kevin Prosch, “So Come”
Behold the days are coming
For the Lord has promised
That the plowman will overtake the reaper
And our hearts will be the threshing floor
And the move of God we've cried out for Will come,
It will surely come
For You will shake the heavens
And fill your house with glory
And turn the shame of outcasts into praise
All creation groans and waits
For the Spirit and the bride to say
The words that your heart had longed to hear
Even so come
(CREDIT: Kevin Prosch, Even So Come 1991)
(Photo: Jeanette Holligan)
Our Father never slumbers or sleeps
He is fierce as a lion and gentle as a lamb
The mother looks around proud of her new babies
She has dreams for them
But for now their company and nearness she cherishes.
(Photo: Kate Downes)
Drawn in drawn upwards
There's a story being told
I'm invited to look linger and contemplate.
Movement in the sky
God is at work displaying his glory for all to see.
The trees giving an invitation.
Romance is in the air.
Our bridegroom king is wooing us setting us apart.
The green speaks of pastures new fresh encounters. Life more abundant.
If you’ve felt inspired to write, or create your own artworks, we’d love for you to share them. Let us know what creative ways you’ve found to worship during this time!
At Bristo Baptist Church we have recently been reading the book of Philippians. Although we began in February, it took on a whole new meaning for us once lockdown began.
Philippians was written by Paul to a church in Philippi (in modern day Greece) which he had established during his second missionary journey. This book is one of the Prison Epistles, which were written while Paul was under house arrest in Rome. “Epistle” means letter or message and is often instructional, written by a teacher or leader. As we read, I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:8), Paul was very close to the Philippian church and must have found it challenging to not be allowed to visit those he loved.
We have also had to change our way of life – not meeting loved ones, not sure when we’ll be together again – and so we can find encouragement from Paul’s letter.
Paul was under house arrest for two years while on his third missionary journey, which involved travelling to Jerusalem with aid during a famine. However, the authorities at the time wanted to halt Christianity’s spread, and so arrested Paul.
Despite this terrible event, God had told Paul you must also testify in Rome (Acts 23:11). From this, Paul was confident God’s plan was for him to minister, whether to the guards around him, or by praying and writing to others. He therefore prayed that God’s plan would be carried out, rather than for his release – I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel (Philippians 1:12).
God knew this current pandemic would come and, even though it has disrupted many plans, be assured that you were meant to live through this period. He has placed you in whatever situation you are in to work for His kingdom. Paul was able to pray and carry out God’s plan at a time when letters took weeks to arrive… how much more easily can we follow His plans nowadays!
“Perseverance” may imply that we have to ignore bad things that are happening. However, Paul doesn’t tell us not to doubt, but instead that we should hold onto God’s promises.
Times of doubt can come during times of conflict. For the Philippian church, conflict came from outside, through authorities and false preachers, as well as inside, through disagreements. For us, conflict may currently exist in news articles, social media and even within our homes.
Paul’s advice to the Philippian church was to not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition…present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6). We can do the same, knowing God will listen and relieve anxieties in a practical way – or change our perspective and bring us peace.
Doubt can also appear during times of suffering. Despite his suffering, Paul was excited to share the gospel with new people. At this time, our suffering may be emotional, such as grief, stress or loneliness, or financial difficulties. While we’re not promised that we won’t suffer, God does promise that He will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9). Think though of all His love that you’ve already shared during this period, and will continue sharing!
Paul tells his readers to stand firm in the Lord (Philippians 4:1), creating images of the tortoise formation in which Roman soldiers would create a defensive shell with their shields. Even when the battle seemed desperate, the soldiers would still have to listen to their commander’s voice. Paul was certainly feeling desperate – For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain…Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! (Philippians 1:21-22). However, he held onto God’s truths and promises, all of which helped him to stand firm. For us standing firm also means listening to Jesus, especially His promises which never change…
His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100:5)
The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble (Nahum 1:7)
Joy & optimism
Paul’s letter inspires us to find joy in any circumstances, something which may surprise us – I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12).
We, who are so much freer than Paul, can surely find plenty of things to be thankful for, even in our current situation. Pretty flowers, sunshine and beautiful sunsets are all given by God to enjoy – the same God about whom Paul writes I can do all this through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).
Paul clearly experienced many feelings during his house arrest, but we can see his genuine joy in God’s blessings. We see this even in his optimism about death - I eagerly expect and hope that I… will have sufficient courage so that now, as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death (Philippians 1:20).
So today, know that you can trust God, even if His plans are different to yours. He knew this period was coming and has not abandoned you because of it – I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
Are there any parallels to our current situation you’ve been reading in the Bible recently?
*all Bible verses are taken from the NIV
Staying occupied during the long weeks of lockdown have been a struggle for many of us – even if we have work to do from home or household chores, it can be hard to keep fulfilled during our downtime. Movies and tv will only go so far!
Everyone has an inner desire to create things. God is the original Creator – and we, in His image, hold that inside of us too. We can see and appreciate all that God has made (The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 91:1)
There are many instances in the Bible when God called skilled craftsmen to create for Him. While we’re not all going to get called up to create bronze and gold fittings for a temple, we’ve all tried to create something at some point in our lives, following the desire to create that God has implanted in us.
For some people, this desire to create is obvious, if they have a hobby like painting. But a lot of people often feel as though they’re not creative, because they’re not “artistic” or “musical”. You might be surprised at the number of ways you can be creative, using the gifts God has given you to His glory (and for fun!)
Here are a few ways you can be creative at home, during the remainder of lockdown and afterwards…
If you play an instrument or sing, you might already spend time practising at home. But it can be even more fun to practise with other people! While we’re kept indoors for the lockdown period, this sounds impossible – but there are ways to get together and play. If you have friends who enjoy music, you could meet them outdoors on a nice day to practise safely.
There are also digital options. The Bristo worship group has been recording parts of songs using Bandlab, an online platform for musicians, putting the tracks together to make recordings of worship songs. If you have musical friends, this can be a fun option.
Something else to consider, for those already skilled at music – have you ever tried writing your own songs? This might be the next step to expand your gift.
Learning lines from a play or movie is its own type of creativity – many people enjoy the social experience of community theatre, as well as the fun of acting itself.
This might seem impossible to do from home. But with a few friends, you can organise a read-through of one of your favourite plays or screenplays.
This can also be something that kids can enjoy – maybe even with costumes! (Or puppets…)
Getting up close to flowers and plants can be a big mood booster for many people, and a vase of flowers can make a huge difference to your indoor space.
The art of flower arranging goes back hundreds of years, and there are plenty of things to learn if you’ve never tried it before! If you want instructions, there are plenty of Youtube tutorials available.
This is also a practical skill to learn, for any event in the future that requires flowers – you can also arrange your own bouquets as unique and personal gifts for friends or family.
This hobby can be a little expensive in terms of materials, and might be easier for those who have their own gardens. However, if you want to splash out every week or so, it can be a relaxing and peaceful hobby to enjoy. (Not to mention low-stakes… flowers are always going to look good no matter what we do with them!)
There are many types of sewing, knitting and embroidery to try. If you’re after something potentially calming, a lot of people find cross-stitch to be a contemplative and relaxing activity. Once you know the basics, you can focus on creating your own patterns and pictures, experimenting with new ideas.
Knitting can also be calming, once you’ve got the basics down. The physical feeling of making stitch after stitch and watching your creation grow is really enjoyable. And you’ll never be short of scarves!
There are endless projects you can make with a few sewing skills. And this is a pretty easy hobby to get started with at home, during the lockdown. There are many books and video tutorials with easy to follow instructions to get you started.
If you ever wanted an incentive to create something, cooking and baking provide the perfect balance between effort and reward.
Just by following a recipe, you’re creating something (which you then get to eat…) but with practice, you can start creating your own recipes. If you’ve never invented a recipe before, it can be fun to find two similar recipes and use them to create your own version of the dish.
Other challenges might be to buy an ingredient you’ve never used before, and try to make a dish using it. If you live with someone else who enjoys cooking, you could try your own mini version of Masterchef, with a little friendly competition. Maybe each person could make their own sauce for the same piece of chicken or fish, and the winner can be decided with a taste test!
Baking is another way to get creative, as there are usually more decorative options with baked goods. Even a basic batch of biscuits can become a fun project with a few different colours of icing!
Not all creative endeavours have to have a big audience – sometimes, they can have an audience of one! A nice letter written to someone special can be a creative exercise, and it can also be a great way to set an easy goal for yourself: you know you’ll only have to write a page or two, not a whole novel!
A letter can also take other forms. You can include a picture or short poem for the person you’re writing to (if you don’t like writing your own poetry, pick a few lines from a poem you like, and maybe explain why you wanted to share them.)
You don’t even have to write the letter. You can record yourself speaking to the other person and send it, maybe as a WhatsApp voice note. You could even film yourself speaking to the camera, and send a video letter!
A prayer journal is a great creative activity, and one you can add to daily. Writing down your thoughts, feelings and prayers can be a healthy exercise, as well as a creative one. Taking your inner thoughts and putting them onto the page can help you take a real look at how you’re feeling.
While all of the ideas listed in this blog can be done as your own form of worship – appreciating the abilities God has given you, and your capacity to enjoy them – bringing creativity directly into your time with God can be particularly powerful.
You don’t have to write in a journal, if you don’t find yourself connecting to writing. You could draw, dance, sing – or listen to the Spirit’s prompting for ways that you can include your unique talents in your worship time.
Ask for guidance
If you’d love to start creating something but aren’t sure where to start – just ask!
Of course, you can ask those around you for help and tips, as they might have noticed something you enjoy doing that you hadn’t thought to pursue before.
But this is also something you can bring before God. He was the one who made you and gave you your talents and desires. Even something as seemingly small as a new hobby can make a difference in your life – and He knows what you’re going to love doing!
As we come to the end of our tenth week of lockdown, we've all found it challenging at times to follow Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour” (Mark 12:30-31) especially given that, currently, loving your neighbour realistically means isolating yourself from them.
However, this does offer opportunities to connect with others in new and exciting ways, and the chance to hopefully build relationships that will continue past the end of the pandemic.
Here we offer some suggestions from Bristo, Scotland and beyond, on how to show love to others during this time.
Ideas from Bristo Baptist Church members
“We’ve been getting to know our immediate neighbours better by baking cakes for each other on alternate weeks and passing them over during the clap on Thursday nights” Christopher
“My next-door neighbours are in their early forties and both working full time from home during the pandemic. They have twp children, one who is able to get on with school work on his laptop. But the other younger child is about to start school after the summer holidays and has had to be left to her own devices a lot of the time while her parents worked – and has been playing up as a result.
Upon hearing their struggles over the garden hedge, I had an idea to put together a surprise “lockdown care package” to leave on their doorstep to cheer them up. I found an unused gift bag and other things I had in the house for my grandson, like chocolates and Jaffa cakes (plus a bottle of wine for the parents) and sneaked it round to their front door.
The next day I received a text asking if the lockdown fairy was me, to which I replied “I couldn’t possibly comment!" So they guessed, and were very appreciative of the kind act. I had also included a printout of “the Father’s Love Letter” but so far have had no comment regarding that - a conversation for another day!” Andrea
“The Bristo Baptist Church blog has been great to find a way to get involved with church from a distance. Even though the blog is new, I'm hoping it can be something church members can get involved in and enjoy together in our online space.
We're also aiming to create blogs that can be shared with those outside the church, if they're interested in learning more about what we do and believe.” Kate
Ideas from Baptists across Scotland
Every Sunday the Baptist Union of Scotland holds a National Prayer Evening on their Facebook page. On Sunday 17th May, their theme was “Loving your Neighbour.” People around Scotland gave many ideas on how to do this, from donating to food banks and assisting with their deliveries, to creating social media groups for neighbours to keep in touch and help each other out when needed.
As so many churches have now moved online, it was also suggested that links to Zoom services could be shared with others, or perhaps the Blessing UK video which involves over 65 churches and movements singing God’s blessings over our country.
As restrictions are now being lifted slightly, why not visit a friend who has a garden and have a good catch up, especially if they’ve been on their own during the lockdown? Even a telephone call will be appreciated!
If the good weather continues you could also offer to do gardening for somebody, an ideal activity for maintaining social distancing while having a conversation.
For somebody who still has to self-isolate or shield, a bunch of flowers will brighten up their home, while posting cards offering to help others in your street – with a short Bible verse on them, or an offer for prayer – will also go a long way in showing them God’s love at this difficult time.
If you find out it is somebody’s birthday or anniversary in your street, you could even arrange a socially distant street party to celebrate together!
Please let us what else you’ve been doing to show love to others during the lockdown!
Earlier this month, one of our words for the week was “weary.”
This is something many of us have experienced during the lockdown time. Objectively, this seems a little strange, as this is a period that is literally defined by the importance of not going anywhere or doing anything.
Of course, for a number of people, this time has meant more work than ever – those who are home schooling, for example, or those working on the front lines and in key worker roles.
Even those who are not affected by the above, however, have found themselves growing mentally and spiritually weary as time goes on and uncertainty weighs down on us. And as our lives look so different now, it can be hard to find ways to truly rest.
We are promised, however, that we will be given rest if we seek it.
Matthew 11:28-29 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
So what does the bible say about rest?
Rest in nature
Psalm 23:1-3 The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
This is one of the best known passages of the Bible. It’s something that everyone can immediately identity with. Green pastures, quiet waters… later on in the psalm, the author goes on to speak of going through the valley of death, and feeling God’s presence with them instead of fear. Is this because they were first strengthened by a moment of rest with God?
While the psalm uses poetical imagery, it can also be taken in a literal sense. Nature can be deeply restful. Of course, not everyone has easy access to actual green pastures and quiet waters – some may not even be going outside of their homes at the moment.
But God may well have his own idea for something you will enjoy, whether it be a moment in a park, a garden, or a view from your window.
Rest in obedience (and snacks)
Kings 17:2-6 “Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”
So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
When this story takes place, Elijah was actively doing good, obeying God’s commands – he had just warned of a coming drought, the result of God’s displeasure with the idolaters in Israel. But just after this, when God told him to go and hide himself, he did. He didn’t push on with his ministry, or try to find another good work to do.
God had prepared the place for the rest, and also a plan to keep Elijah strengthened, by having the ravens bring him food.
This is a very practical moment – Elijah needs food for strength, so God sends it to him. How often do our troubles seem so much worse when we haven’t eaten all day? Elijah rests because God has commanded him to, but the rest itself is something that God has designed to benefit Elijah’s human needs.
Rest after work
Genesis 2:2-3 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
This is something very important to remember, any time we try to convince ourselves that we can get along fine without rest. Do we think we’re going to do better than God?
This would later become the Sabbath day, a day only for rest. Of course, Jesus made a point of freeing us from the religious structures of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12, “How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.") But the importance of time set aside to rest was built into humanity from the very beginning.
The day of rest is listed as the final moment of creation, the seventh part of a seven-part story. It’s included every time we look at these events – we consider it a part of “creation”, even though God wasn’t creating anything on that particular day.
Might a time of rest be just as essential to our works as the works themselves?
Rest in faith
Mark 4:35-40 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Jesus knew that he needed to rest. And he slept through some circumstances that would ordinarily have someone’s full attention. Interestingly, the storm didn’t wake him, his disciples did.
He reprimanded them for their lack of faith – the faith he had, that they would be safe. Of course, he didn’t just go right back to sleep, he commanded the storm to be still first. It seems he wasn’t telling them that it was wrong to bother him, but rather that they shouldn’t have been panicking.
A time of rest will often be interrupted, either by others, or by our circumstances, or both. It doesn’t mean that we should ignore those who need help (“I’m sorry, I can’t help you with the storm, I’m having some me time. You understand.”)
It should be noted Jesus did make a point of setting boundaries when necessary – there are many other times in the gospels when he rested, often taking himself away from his active ministry in order to do so.
But when our lives feel like unmanageable chaos, taking a moment to rest can seem as nonsensical as having a nap in the stern of a boat during a storm.
If we do rest, we do so in faith that Jesus will fulfil his promises to us.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
A selection of resources to grow and deepen our faith
In our first blog post we spoke about how Bristo Baptist Church has had to adapt to the lockdown in Scotland. This week, we're looking at how you can continue to grow and deepen in your faith outside of the Zoom and WhatsApp conversations. So, what resources are there to help you?
Some of these have been around for a while - others have been developed in response to the current situation, such as an online-only church festival.
If there are any other resources that you enjoy using, please share them with us!
There are plenty of free resources online, including websites with study Bible options. You’ve probably heard of Bible Gateway, but did you know it offers over 200 Bible translations, including ones in many languages, from Hindi to Twi? Reading different translations is a great way to study as you can see different nuances in what is written. The website also has a verse of the day, which you can receive by email, plus a blog.
A similar resource is Bible Hub, a site that encourages learning and practical application of the Bible. For example, there is a tool that allows you to search by theme and then cross-reference to other passages on the same topic. Like Bible Gateway, this site has over 40 translations of the Bible, and offers parallel readings of up to 13 different English translations. Bible Hub even provides the opportunity to explore the Hebrew origins of the Bible, breaking down each verse word by word.
Logos offers upgrades to access more expansive resources - although the free Logos 8 package is perfect for anyone looking to deepen their Bible study. This package provides over 20 digital books, connected to a search function on the site, plus an option to search for the definitions and morphology behind words in the Greek and Hebrew source texts.
If prayer is something you would like to develop further there are a couple of great options online. The Daily Devotional from 24-7 prayer uses scripture to help you pray each day, and focuses on the movement’s six core values: prayer, mission, justice, creativity, hospitality and learning. This devotional has a handy app meaning you can access the resources at any time, and you can choose to either read or listen. Content is released each Monday for the week ahead, and you can listen back to 3 months of devotions.
The Prayer Course
Alternatively, if there is a group wanting to look at prayer together, why not try the Prayer Course? Made up of eight sessions, which include a video and pointers for discussion, each one ends with a practical section in which you are invited to pray for each other, worship or reflect on what has been discussed.
Although many Christian festivals are sadly unable to go ahead this year, that hasn’t stopped them using technology to reach out to people! Spring Harvest Home was originally started as a substitute for their events - however, they are continuing to publish videos on their YouTube channel for you to enjoy. These videos are perfect for all ages, from Thoughts for the Day to puppet shows from Duggie Dug Dug!
Meanwhile, the Soul Survivor website offers a back catalogue of talks from Soul Survivor festivals, aimed at teenagers, between 2017 and 2019, while the recordings from Naturally Supernatural festivals are ideal for the whole family. If you are interested in hearing more from the team at their Watford based church, Andy Croft and Mike Pilavachi have launched a daily podcast, Take Heart, on their YouTube channel. This podcast is based on John 16:33 and aims to encourage people to remain close to Jesus even in tough times.
Alternatively, if you are looking for sermons by famous preachers, Sermons Online offers a fantastic catalogue of talks from people such as Billy Graham and Rick Warren, along with other sections such as music and testimonies.
Joyce Meyer Ministries, established by the American author and speaker, also offers daily devotions, questions and talks. This website also has an app, allowing you access to their resources at any time.
The Bible Project
Finally, if you are looking for something to summarise themes and books of the Bible, take a look at the Bible Project. These short, animated videos are very accessible and perfect for introducing Biblical concepts to a variety of ages.
Alternatively, there are plenty of Bible resources available to purchase, most of which you can subscribe to. These range from Encounter with God , which provides daily Bible readings and looks at contemporary issues in the world, to Cover to Cover which focuses on one book of the Bible over a 7 week period.
There are also resources for the whole family, such as Exploring the Bible Together. This 52 week family plan is an excellent way to worship together while catering for all ages. If you want to look at other resources like these try websites such as The Good Book, BRF Online, Eden and CWR.
The Covid-19 lockdown has touched every part of our lives, and church is no exception. Some churchgoers were first made aware of what was to come, when we heard we would no longer be able to meet for services – this was announced before the wider lockdown went into effect.
While we all understand the importance of doing our part and keeping everyone around us safe, we feel the loss of our regular meetings keenly. If there was ever a time we needed the support and love of our church, this is it…
But that support and love is still there. And as the lockdown has progressed, we have found many ways of meeting and sharing from our own homes.
One of Bristo’s first reactions to the lockdown was to start a Whatsapp group, Bristo Connected, which has allowed us to keep in contact on a day to day basis. It has given us a place to share words and testimonies, worship songs, art, prayers, announcements, good news and bad. This isn’t the first group Whatsapp that has been in use at Bristo, but it’s certainly the biggest, and possibly the most active. (And probably has the most emojis, but we’d need to count them to be sure… not that I’m volunteering.)
There has been a strong show of support for the recent use of Zoom for Sunday services and prayer meetings. The app was used before by some of the smaller groups, but we’ve found that even the bigger meetings can work well (with some careful management, screen sharing, and strategic muting.)
Many members of the congregation have commented on how much it means to be able to see everyone’s faces when meeting, which we weren’t able to do when following the written services at home.
Some have also mentioned how much nicer it is when taking communion, as you can be sure that you are eating and drinking at the same time as everyone else. Interestingly, it seems that some churches have questioned whether you can even have communion when you’re not physically together, but at Bristo the agreement has been that if we’re together in the spirit, that is all that’s needed.
In general, the separation we’re experiencing has made for serious reflection. For many, the lockdown has highlighted the importance of staying in contact with our brothers and sisters. The incredible privilege we have enjoyed in being able to meet together in the past has also been mentioned – it might be that none of us knew how blessed we were. Doubtless when we are able to meet in person once more, everyone will be fully aware of how wonderful it is to be together.
Of course, many of us miss meeting physically. It does make a difference, being able to give someone a hug, or lay hands on them while praying. (Although from some testimony shared recently, it has been made apparent that a digital laying of hands can be remarkably effective! We might want to consider writing to Zoom and asking them to add a prayer symbol, along with the thumbs up and applause buttons.) It has also been mentioned that while Zoom gives us the chance to meet face to face, making eye contact becomes tricky…
Everyone has agreed that we are very fortunate to be living in an age where this kind of technology is available. It has prompted a few discussions about how we might be able to incorporate technology into other areas of our church life, such as our outreach programs.
All the discussions around the lockdown might bring Psalm 133 to mind, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” Meeting in person is good, and pleasant, and it is missed. Yet, while it may seem like we are more separated than we have ever been before, we are all still unified in Christ – and the amazing experiences we have had, as we work to stay connected, have shown that to us all.