COVID-19 Related Articles

COVID-19 RELATED ARTICLES

Praying for end to coronavirus crisis, for frontline workers and the world’s poor

British adults are praying for an end to the Covid-19 crisis, as well as for frontline workers and those living in poverty both in the UK and around the world, according to a new poll commissioned by Christian Aid.

The research, undertaken by Savanta ComRes, found that one in four (26%) British adults say they have prayed for an end to the Covid-19 crisis since lockdown, while an equal proportion (26%) say they have prayed for people working on the frontline and other key workers since the crisis began.

One in five (21%) British adults say they have prayed for people living in poverty in the UK or around the world since the lockdown.

The poll also indicated that the Covid-19 lockdown is slightly more likely to increase than decrease people’s faith in God (5% vs. 2%), life after death (4% vs. 2%) and the power of prayer (5% vs. 2%). This was particularly true of younger Brits aged 18-24.   

Chine McDonald from Christian Aid said: “At times of crisis like the world is experiencing now, faith can play a key part in helping people to cope with daily realities and pressures.”

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Coronavirus and local churches

Dr Peter Brierley considers the effect of coronavirus on our local churches. Dr Brierley can be contacted at www.brierleyconsultancy.com

‘Going to church’ is not what it used to be. With our church buildings closed, many of us  now ‘go’ to services transmitted via YouTube or other social media. They last only about 45 minutes, half the length of a normal Sunday church service.

Some churches also transmit a daily prayer slot, or provide a children’s programme on line once or twice a week.  All such seem to be popular and attract those who may well not have visited the relevant church for years!

So – what are the positives in all this?  For there are some!

Many non-regular church people watching.  It would seem that many people in isolation are watching these streamed services at home, many more than usually attend the church in question. Many churches are reporting increases from viewing of 20%, 50% or even 100%. 

Advantages of social media viewing.  It is easier to ‘attend’, especially for the elderly or disabled, and you can have a cup of tea alongside you if you wish! 

Popularity of format.  Some say they like the ‘personal’ approach with the preacher as he/she seems just a couple of feet away, which means the sermon is more likely to be listened to!  It’s usually shorter also.  It may help bring calm to worried people.  Some may be seeking answers from the Christian faith as to why God has sent or allowed this worldwide plague.

What about the negative aspects of online services?

Middle-class and/or resource dominance.  Many churchgoing people, particularly the elderly and less well-off, do not have a smart phone, a tablet or computer.   

Primacy within the preaching is not known.  How far the Gospel is actually being preached is unknown; how many people are coming to faith is unknown.

Long-term impact uncertain.   Online services cannot give the connectedness of face-to-face interaction, though they may suggest a wider and simpler framework for the future.  They cannot help loneliness to the same extent, nor can the minister get to know people personally.

One probable long-term implication

Helpful service supports faith image.  Churches which are now serving their local community, especially with meals, food banks, and other like services, are building an image of love and care.  Finance for such is often being donated by the churches, and volunteers are coming forward.  Those churches which do the most are likely to emerge the stronger, or at least more respected than they were.

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Use your old clothes to help others in poverty

Lockdown drove many of us to do a Spring clear-out of our wardrobes.  But what do you do now do with the old clothes you no longer want?

Charity shops may be closed for the time being, but there’s still a way to donate your old items and support your favourite charities. Just go online and visit Thrift+ .  It is an online store where you can buy and donate great quality second-hand clothes. And you get to choose which cause to support when you make a donation.

While lockdown measures are in place, they’ve introduced a doorstep collection service, so you don’t need to leave your home to support life-transforming charities.

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Online ‘Talking Jesus’ course FREE
during the Covid-19 lockdown

HOPE Together has made the hugely popular Talking Jesus course available to rent free to watch online during the Covid-19 crisis. 
 
Announcing the new online opportunity, Roy Crowne, executive director of HOPE Together, said: ‘We have had lots of requests during the Covid-19 lockdown to make the Talking Jesus course available online. We are thrilled to do this and to make the course free for churches to use online over the next few months. There seems to be an increased interest from non-Christians in spiritual issues. People are searching for hope. We want to help equip Christians to tell their story and to make the most of every opportunity to talk about the hope we have because of Jesus.’
 
The Talking Jesus course includes six practical, video-based teaching sessions with inspirational testimonies to give real-life examples from people who are talking Jesus. There are also short parable-style films designed to get groups thinking. To access the course free until the end of August visit www.hopetogether.org.uk/talkingjesus
 
HOPE Together, the Church of England, and KingsGate Community Church in Peterborough, developed the course to equip Christians to talk about Jesus, sensitively, appropriately and with respect in everyday life.

Recommending the course, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu said, ‘The most helpful way people hear the Good News of God in Jesus Christ is by a follower of Jesus Christ sharing their encounter with Jesus Christ. This inspiring course will help Christians to be witnesses to Jesus Christ wherever God has placed them.’  

The Talking Jesus course is ideal for small groups. Group members are invited to discuss the video teaching, apply it to local situations, and pray together asking God to help each one to make Jesus known naturally and effectively as opportunities come up in everyday life. The goal is to equip Christians to make the most of every opportunity to help friends, colleagues and family members to consider Jesus for themselves and become his followers.

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C of E has been ‘astonishingly present’
– says new Archbishop

During the coronavirus crisis, the Church of England has been accused of “vacating the public square or of being absent.”

So wrote Bishop Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York Designate, in a recent article for one of the national newspapers.  But he goes on: “I simply do not recognise (this).  The Church of England has been astonishingly present, albeit in many new and remarkable ways.”

The Bishop then gave many examples of various local churches who have reacted with positive action during the crisis. Some have started food banks, helped refugees and asylum seekers, set up telephone prayer services, started zoom Bible groups, or organised children and youth events online.

“These stories are being replicated up and down the country,” he continued. “Most astonishing of all, plenty of churches report very large numbers of people joining their streamed services.

“Of course, we long for our church buildings to reopen. But when they do, it won’t be business as usual – partly because we are discovering new ways of serving our communities. 

“When we do return to the sacred, beautiful space of our church buildings, with all their vital and much-missed resonances of continuity, I believe the Church of England will emerge from this stronger than it has been for a long while. 

Bishop Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York Designate, was writing in the Daily Telegraph on 12th May 2020.

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Blessed are the truth-tellers
(during the pandemic)

 ITV News journalist and presenter Julie Etchingham, a practising Christian, has defended the role played by journalists during the Coronavirus pandemic.

She told the Christians in Media website, “Reporters are coming in for a lot of flack for the questions they are asking government. But what else are we for?  We all get that this is a crisis like no other; that few in government have ever had to navigate such a challenge.

“But, if we’re still attempting to function as a democracy in the face of this, then scrutiny is clearly crucial.  Many in our frontline services and the wider public are demanding answers. We are there on their behalf. We don’t always get it right. This isn’t a moment to trip people up, but urgently to get to the truth.”

As a Christian who has worked in communications for around 50 years, I strongly support Julie Etchingham’s view. Now is the time for truth and accuracy to be at the centre of all our communications.

So, yes we need to be praying for and supporting the front-line health service staff, the public health experts, the scientists researching vaccines to combat the virus, and the key workers keeping our societies running.

But we also need to be praying for and supporting the men and women working in and with the media to publish, upload, broadcast and distribute the most accurate information, without spin or distortion.

So here is a prayer for the media in these challenging days.

 Loving God,
We pray for everyone working in and with media in these challenging times.
Encourage all who seek to explain and interpret the fast-changing world around us.
Embolden the truth-tellers, truth-seekers and fact-checkers.
Promote coverage that builds our shared humanity and where everyone has a voice.
Bring clarity where there is confusion
Bring knowledge where there is speculation
Bring wisdom and insight when the way ahead seems unclear.
And bring us all to a knowledge of truth that sets us free, and helps keep us safe.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Amen.

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A biblical plague of locusts

A new wave of crop-eating locusts has been devastating East Africa, just as communities are also dealing with an increase of coronavirus cases.

At the start of 2020, Ethiopia and Somalia faced the biggest invasion of the insects in 25 years – and the worst in Kenya and Uganda for 70 years.  The locusts also reached parts of South Sudan, where millions of people are already suffering from severe food shortages amid conflict and political instability.

The latest plague could be 20 times larger. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), is calling it ‘an unprecedented threat’ to food supplies and jobs.

Yet tackling the locusts will be even harder now that coronavirus has forced governments to close their borders. With severely reduced air travel and cargo shipping, pesticides from Europe and Asia can’t get into the countries – and to the farmers – that need them. Tearfund is asking governments to recognise activities responding to the locust swarms as essential services, so that they can continue despite the restrictions on travel.

‘The locust plague, together with the coronavirus pandemic, could mean all the work Tearfund supports communities with is on the brink of collapsing,’ says Ephraim Tsegay, Tearfund’s Country Director for Ethiopia. 

‘If the second wave of locusts is not prevented before it inflicts further damage, more people will be forced to leave their homes to find food, land for their animals to graze, and an income elsewhere. It will also make people more vulnerable to coronavirus. 

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Christians Against Poverty (CAP)
concerned at rising level of household debt

“The coronavirus crisis will push thousands of households to the brink.”  So warns a spokesman for CAP, the charity which helps people in debt.

So, while CAP approves the Government’s recent £20 per week boost for those on Universal Credit and those receiving Tax Credits, “what many won’t realise is that a staggering 2.83 million people will still fall through a gap in this vital provision.

“These people are those who are still receiving ‘old style’ benefits that Universal Credit is designed to replace – things like Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA). 

“Around one in five of our clients will therefore miss out on the Government’s support package, which is worth more than £1,000 over the next twelve months.”

In all, CAP has listed three further changes it would like to see the Government make: 

Increase Job Seeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance by £20 per week.

Increase Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to the median market rents. 

Suspend the benefit cap during the pandemic.

In the meantime, CAP has launched a coronavirus emergency appeal to provide everything from emergency food packages to fuel vouchers, to crucial mobile phone credit to help those who are isolated stay connected during this time.  It points out that one in five adults in the UK has less than £100 in savings, and that 38% of their clients’ debt is priority debts like rent, Council Tax and utility bills.

If you can help, go to www.capuk.org

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Fear is in the air – 
and it is a particular kind of fear

Mark Greene, the  Executive Director of London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, considers the fear of death – and our defence.  For more, please visit https://www.licc.org.uk

Amidst the daily readjustments, the working from home, the scurry for loo paper and pasta, the calls to relatives, and the deep concern for our livelihoods, the underlying fear that chills the nation is a fear for our very lives. Our delusions of invulnerability have been shattered.

For the first time since the threat of nuclear annihilation hung over the UK in the 60s, millions of us are worried about dying, or worried about someone else dying. Suddenly, the question that door-knocking Christian evangelists and Jehovah’s Witnesses used to ask, ‘if you were to die tonight, where would you go?’ has a fresh pertinence.

In reality, we ourselves may be in need of reassurance.

Death has been firmly off the evangelistic and teaching agenda for some while. Yes, we have all heard sermons on death at funerals, but I suspect that on such occasions many of us are too busy grieving to fully take in the glorious truths of the future we have in Christ. Physical death has a sting – it is an enemy. Jesus weeps at the tomb of Lazarus, but Jesus also raises him to life – a foretaste of the day when He will raise all who are His to eternal life in a transformed body.

Of course, there are many ways we can serve our neighbours and co-workers – offering practical help, sharing supplies, calling – but one of the most powerful is to be a non-anxious, non-fearful presence, and to seek ways to share how our peace flows from our assurance of eternal life in Christ.

Out of love, Christ gave His life that we might live. And it is that perfect love that drives out fear (1 John 4:18), and empowers us to take risks for others. In dangerous times, army chaplains tell me, people are much more open to offers of prayer, much more open to phrases like, ‘bless you’, or ‘praying for you’. Workplace groups testify to the same reality: co-workers in trouble are quicker to ask for prayer – if they know it’s on offer.
So I am praying, as David did, that the Lord would be your shield (Psalm 18:2), your very present help in this time of trouble, and a fountain of hope and shalom to others.

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Visit the C of E online page

There is now a range of digital resources for to you connect with God at this difficult time.  These include:

Time to Pray app (https://www.chpublishing.co.uk/apps/time-to-pray) which is free and has an accompanying daily audio offering on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Mental health reflections (https://www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/mental-health-resources/supporting-good-mental-health)

Tips to tackle isolation (https://www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/mental-health-resources/dealing-loneliness-and-isolation-five-top-tips)

Finally, there are the Church’s smart speaker apps, which provide a range of Christian resources.  https://www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/our-smart-speaker-apps  In March alone, the number of people using the Alexa app rose by more than 70 per cent.

More details at:  https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-online

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