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Open Hearts Closed Doors

Open hearts – closed doors

Like many church communities around the country, Immanuel Church, Chichester have been forced to prayerfully consider whether continuing with a gathered community on Sundays for worship is the right thing to do. We made the difficult decision to revert to purely online worship. It was right for us. However, with vaccinations rolling out we now have some light at the end of the tunnel.

Many of us in church leadership have pondered how best to maintain pastoral care when gathering is not advisable in all but the most restrictive of circumstances. I found myself wondering how many people were falling between the cracks of any system put in place to make sure people feel connected.

COVID-19 has brought with it a rise in fear and anxiety which, in turn, has led to an increased sense of loneliness and isolation. At the very beginning of the Bible we read that we are made in the image of the Triune God, the One who continually enjoys the perpetual relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is no surprise that forced separation and isolation is damaging to the very nature of our humanity.

What we did – why not try it?

At the church I help lead, our mid-week groups have focused on their members. We have set up contacting teams who pick up those who are not currently part of one of these networks. At one of our Christmas services, a church member challenged us all to reach out to just one person in our community, to consider prayerfully who it was God was prompting us to contact, and then to act upon this with a phone call or letter through the door. Sounds simple enough, but it was a great challenge and reminded us of the importance of relationship.

Over the years I have realised how important small acts of kindness are. Achievable by all, they might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But even if they only impact one person, they can make someone’s day and potentially break a cycle of loneliness and isolation. So why not ask God: who shall I connect with today?

Written by Rev Paul Collins, Minister of Immanuel Church, Chichester