Tuesday Update 21
Dear brothers and sisters,
This is the 21 st and final weekly update – with information in future to be included on the Sunday bulletin, which will be emailed out ahead of services. Now notwithstanding the possibility that there may be a 2nd wave of Covid-19 and, consequently, a subsequent lockdown (local or otherwise) I thought that this might be a good opportunity to reflect on the government’s closure of churches, along with the rest of society, in these past five months.
The Westminster Confession of Faith (ch.23 – Of the Civil Magistrate) states that there is a duty upon the civil authorities to ensure the well-being of the Church of Jesus Christ. There is, in the Confession, a mutual responsibility between the state and the church:
- the state has this duty “that unity and peace be preserved in the church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered and observed.” (para.3)
- and the Christian has the duty “to pray for magistrates, to honour their persons, to pay them tribute and other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority for conscience’ sake.” (para.4)
In normal times, it is no business of government to presume it can close churches, or restrict worship within churches by banning singing. But these are not normal times. It is clear (and has been almost universally accepted by churches) that the government, in acting for public health reasons as a result of a global pandemic, has acted within its legitimate powers. It has, therefore, been right and necessary for churches to submit to the authorities, per the above from the Confession.
But let us also say this: in a highly secularised and increasingly-aggressively-secular context, now that the government has presumed to close churches once, and churches have accepted that decision on the particular ground of public health, it is far from impossible that voices may emerge in the future to seek other grounds for the closure of churches and the restriction of worship.
It is (or should be) clear that there are virtually no other legitimate reasons for the government to presume to close churches and limit worship – OR - for churches to accept such a decision and comply with it. We need to be clear that, were there any attempt to close churches down, or limit our worship, for virtually any other reason than we’ve seen this year, then we would (under God, and for his glory’s sake, and in line with Christian conscience) have to defy such an order and obey God rather than men … and, let us not overlook this important point: be prepared to face the consequences.
We would have to invoke the magnificent spirit of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Dan.3) who, when required to abandon God and go along with the Babylonian practices, replied: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
We certainly ought not to be bombastic, or to go seeking controversy – but we should equally be clear that our first and primary loyalty is to God and God only. Our chief duty in life is to glorify him and enjoy him for ever – let us resolve that nothing will prevent us from doing that.
Service this week
This week (DV) we’ll be remembering our young people going back to school after their lengthy break. Then we’ll give some thought to Psalm 122, a great expression of joy and delight at entering the House of God for his praise.
Deacons are reminded that the Deacon’s Court meets tonight at 7.30pm by Zoom. Please do pray for the deacons as they continue their oversight of the practical and financial side of church life.
Easing of Lockdown Latest
The return date is this Sunday, 9th August, and we look forward to meeting together for public worship, albeit in a somewhat restricted circumstance.
The detailed information sheet about what to expect when you come to church was issued last week, and should give you a good idea of what to expect, from the moment you arrive right through to the moment you depart. Rest assured that all necessary steps are being taken to ensure a safe and comfortable experience.
For those who don’t yet feel able to return, remember that from 9 th August, videos/CDs will not be available by Sunday morning, as now. The recording will be on Sunday morning – therefore it will not be available until Sunday evening on YouTube, and we hope to deliver CDs on Sunday afternoon.
The new church website is now up-&-running, still at the same address: falkirkfreechurch.org.uk.Thanks to Steven Randall for all his hard work in redesign, and also to Tom Scamman for his support of that work and all his work to date on our web-presence.
I’ll be compiling the prayer update tomorrow, Wednesday. If there is anything you’d like to be included, please call or email me by 12-noon – especially if you or your family are self-isolating/ symptomatic, or have any kind of particular requests.
With warm Christian greetings,
David Randall, Minister