It’s probably fair to say that in the past few months we have witnessed the biggest upheaval in the way we ‘do church’ ever experienced in the UK. It has transformed the way we worship, the way we have fellowship and the way we serve our communities.
It has been a huge challenge, but it has brought many moments of hope and new opportunities.
According to research by Tearfund* 24 per cent of adults in the UK say they have watched or listened to an online religious service since the coronavirus lockdown started. Amazingly, this number increased to 34 per cent among 18-34 year olds.
One in 20 UK adults (five per cent) who say they have never gone to church before, have watched or listened to a religious service during lockdown.
Furthermore, five per cent of UK adults say they have prayed since lockdown began, even though they’d never prayed before! It seems that God is at work, stirring hearts and making himself known, despite church buildings being closed.
At CMS we have also been thinking about the impact of communicating online. Most of our staff team are still working from home and it looks unlikely that we will return to the office before the autumn.
We have been heartened by the many online conversations we’ve had with our mission partners around the world. Our use of video conferencing has increased dramatically and has equally decreased the gap of distance and time zone when UK staff and people in mission meet together.
CMS in church: virtually
Our mission partners have been able to join online services with their supporting churches in the UK in a way that’s neither been considered nor possible before.
“It’s been lovely to have Anne [link mission partner] join us for zoom services and prayer meetings”
“It was a delight to have the [mission partner] family join us on Zoom…they met for a ‘coffee morning’ with our smaller congregation…we would hope to do this again another time.”
Plus our staff have been able to make virtual visits to churches to speak about the work of CMS. Martin Stephens, vicar of St Michael & All Angels Macclesfield, reflects on a pre-recorded CMS talk used as part of their service:
“The closure of our church building for public worship has been both a challenge and an opportunity for us. We were suddenly freed from ‘what we’ve always done’. We can now include video clips into services with ease, whereas an old building and no permanent AV set-up had previously made it a challenge! Having clips from CMS and other organisations is helping to widen our horizons, even in lockdown, and is engaging our church community in new ways. It is also a plus environmentally as speakers don’t need to travel a long way for a short slot in our service, so we will look to continue this in future.”
If you’d like a CMS representative to contribute to your church’s online service, whether pre-recorded, or live, please do get in touch with the church relations team using the link below.
CMS in church: physically
When we visit churches, whether in person or online, we want to share what God is doing in CMS, but we also want to share his message and see him at work within congregations. Last year, before we could have imagined the impact of a global pandemic, Emily Roux of the CMS church relations team visited St Peter’s Woking on behalf of CMS. She shares her experience:
The gospel reading for this mission-orientated Sunday, was the parable of the Good Samaritan. Over the next few weeks, I read Luke 10 again and again and finally a clear three-point structure emerged during one of my morning runs before work!
The Lord showed me how the actions of the Good Samaritan in Jesus’ teaching were in fact the foundational example of what mission is! I discovered that this parable shows us that anyone can ‘do’ mission.
It was a blessing to be able to be with this special community of believers on this occasion, especially as God knew that I would discover the ‘coincidence’ of sharing Ugandan examples in my sermon, on the first service of the church’s new Ugandan curate, with an ex-mission partner in the congregation who himself served in Uganda during the 1960s and 70s!
From the church’s perspective, the timing and content of what Emily shared was perfect for the mission conversations they were already having. Rev Sam Waako, curate at St Peter’s, explains:
I believe the examples of people in mission Emily gave, was what we needed to hear as a church to go ahead and explore the idea of re-connecting with CMS.
A few months after Emily’s visit, first the leadership team and then the PCC agreed to form a link with CMS mission partner, Malcolm Pritchard, who is based in Uganda. I believe there wasn’t much resistance to this decision, partly because of Emily’s visit and what she had shared with the congregation.
Her visit was a blessing to us, and I hope she was blessed by us.
We love these types of encounters, when a whole church is inspired by a message of mission grounded in God’s word. And thankfully, we can encounter God at any time, whether in person or online!
With churches set to reopen on 4 July, and new, evolving restrictions in place, we will all have to reimagine our corporate worship once again. For some churches that may mean small gatherings, for others it may mean continuing to worship online.
However your church decides to gather in the coming months, CMS would love to join you.
If you’d like us to take part in an online service, or visit in person at some point in the future when it’s safe and appropriate, please do get in touch.
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*Read the Tearfund-commissioned research