Coronavirus (Covid-19) Statement
"You have never been this way before"
It seems that hardly a day goes by at the moment without a new development in the fight against Covid-19 and the announcements by the Prime Minister on Monday 16th March 2020 about new restrictions on contact and movement have certainly brought new factors into play. There were some initial questions about whether the recommendation to avoid all social gatherings included faith groups, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock clarified during questions in Parliament that it sadly did include all faith groups. Experience around the world has shown that such groups are very efficient spreaders of the virus, so they have to pull back too.
Suspended, but not closing down!
We have consulted other church groups to see how they are responding. The Church of England is suspending all public worship until further notice (https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches), while the FIEC (which doesn't have control over each of its member churches, so cannot force them to comply) is strongly recommending that all churches cancel services and activities for the foreseeable future (https://fiec.org.uk/resources/coronavirus-advice-on-church-meetings).
This sadly means that we must inform you that Salway will be closing its doors and not running any Sunday or other activities until we have some indication from government that this crisis is passing. That is not likely to be soon, but we will keep the situation under continual review and endeavour to keep you informed about any future developments.
A living fellowship
But Salway as a church is not going to cease to exist just because we cannot meet each other physically. One of the exciting possibilities for churches today is that they can keep connected digitally, so we will increase our presence across the web over this period. For instance, we are looking into ways of using videos to get encouraging ministry, teaching, and fellowship news to you. Lifegroups could run if members are able to connect via Skype (watch this space for further news about this). And we will also be able to get prayer material to you electronically, so keep an eye out for e-mails about this. If you are connected to Facebook or Twitter (which you can access by clicking on the links on the salway.org homepage) then there will be regular encouragements and updates, there, too.
We appreciate that not everyone is connected by e-mail or Facebook, so we will make every effort to keep those people informed by more traditional means, and in this we would be grateful if all of you would also be on the look out for others in the fellowship. Thank you to those who have responded by saying that you would be available to run errands for others if needed or provide help for those who are shut in or self-isolating, but in the area of staying in touch this is something we can all do. Why not make a point of phoning others in the church, just to have a chat and provide some spiritual encouragement? If you would normally be at a particular meeting or group, you could still keep in touch with those who are part of that group and arrange to pray at the same time.
Whatever you do, don't remain cut off by silence - at least phone one of us up so that you hear a friendly voice. And as I said yesterday, if you are ill, please let us know so that we can pray for you to begin with, and then see in what ways we can get help to you. A church is a living fellowship and we want to ensure that all of us are cared for.
The Lord is leading us
When Joshua was told to lead the people across the Jordan the Lord acknowledged that this was a route into an unknown future; they had not been that way before. But what was important was that it was the Lord who was leading them. The account of the crossing of the Jordan shows the ark of the covenant, that visible symbol of God's presence, going ahead of the nation into the river, and then remaining there until the whole nation had passed. We, too, are in uncharted territory, but the Lord is leading us. This is not a route we would have chosen, but he will be with us the whole time. So let's keep trusting him and believe that he will help us and glorify his name through this.
With our prayers in the Lord Jesus,
Ian, the Elders and Trustees