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Corner of Church St and Market St Wollongong Sunday 8am, 9:45am +livestream, 11:30am Easy English, 5pm and 7pm
For those of us who were at the 9:45am service last Sunday, there was a tangible, excited vibe and a feeling of anticipation. We were back to sitting together with the relaxation of the 4m2 requirement to 2m2. We weren’t required to wear masks and with a little ingenuity, we were able to sing together as the people of God!
The simple joy of seeing each other’s faces and responses that were so infectious reminded me that we are meant to be together. God has made us social beings and even the most introverted of us crave those personal interactions. When Gavin, our service leader, suggested we do something we haven’t done in months – “Turn to the person next to you and say HI!”, the excited response was amazing, with even a cheer coming from some! And I have to admit to being really moved by the special time we shared with the children who were brought out from kids’ church to join us in the courtyard to sing the last two songs of our service together. It was truly heartwarming.
I realise that there are some of us who are unable to return to church in person, and my heart aches for you in your isolation and separation from God’s people. We do share a special bond and it can feel lonely at times not to be with one another. We look forward to seeing you again when you feel it is appropriate to return.
For those who may be considering coming back but are a little hesitant, can I encourage you to do so? When I returned to church, I was struck by the truth that it really is so much better. God has commanded us to worship together … not because we need to turn up to satisfy Him or to get a tick on the attendance roll to prove our commitment, but because He knows how much we need to be together. We function better as His children when we have others to share this life with – to encourage and support each other and to find joy in worshipping together. We grow in our Christian walk when we see the example of others and strive to walk closer to God with their help.
I have to admit that there are times that having the option of Livestream made it feel more convenient and comfortable to stay home in my comfy clothes and a coffee in hand. Why did I have to go to church? And then my loving Heavenly Father gently reminded me that His Son went to the cross for ME! A little discomfort or inconvenience is nothing in comparison. So,I pick myself up and get myself there and even when it has felt too empty or too quiet, the habit of going is still good for me. (As Paul reminds us in Heb 10:25.)
As Gav and I spoke to our grandkids via zoom or FaceTime during the harsher times of lockdown, I felt an ache to be with them … to reach out and give them cuddles … to be close. Zoom or FaceTime (or Livestream) in reality, is a poor substitute to being with them. That’s how I want to feel about church and my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I recently read a story of a minister whose congregation was suffering great persecution. They persevered for a while, but one by one stopped coming to church until one day not one person turned up! The minister faithfully carried on with the service because he decided “God is still here”! What a privilege it is for us to be able to meet with God each Sunday and know He is with us! I hope I won’t ever take that for granted.
My prayer for each of us is that we can echo the psalmist’s words …
“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty. My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the Living God.” (Ps 84:1)