Malcolm Fife

It's been a since the first lockdown in 2020 and URC Mersey ministers have written articles about the challenges – and opportunities – during the last 12 months. Here the Revd Malcolm Fife, who serves Christ Church Haydock URC, Cross Lane United Church and Huyton URC, reflects...

It really does feel strange

At the time of writing we are just at the beginning of Lent 2021. It is just over a year since the world found a new virus that would change all life as we know it.  It is almost a year since the United Kingdom entered its first lockdown and many churches have not reopened since.

What a year this has been. I would never have expected to have still been recording my services each week to be sent out on YouTube Facebook and DVD. I stand in an empty church to make the recordings. It really does feel very strange. Any performance is improved with the addition of a live audience and preaching perhaps even more so. The congregation in a church really makes this happen as the Spirit drives the preacher to new heights.

Two of my churches have decided to open, one much sooner than the other but my experience of preaching was really different. Once again the whole worship felt really suppressed on the days that I was planned to lead such worship. 

Amazing positives

As you can see therefore, the pandemic can affect us in many different ways, but, I have found some amazing positives. Firstly, I believe that I have had more time to spend in preparation. My time spent in the presence of Jesus has been life changing. I think that this has shown in my preaching as I have much more time to spend thinking and preparing. I have had time to spend in the presence of God which is not always available in my normal working pattern. One of the other great differences is the reach that my services have. The number of views that we are receiving on Facebook and YouTube is unprecedented. I have had messages from those who have never been to church but are enjoying the word each week. I would never have seen mission looking like this.

I have seen kindness which is not always visible in our society. In one of my churches two young girls who attend Girls Brigade began to see the need that was around them and suggested to their Mum that they could try to help. They ended up sending multiple boxes of food out to those who were trapped at home or unable to buy the food they needed.

Helping others during pandemic prep at churchIn another of my churches we opened our doors for the Business For Youth Sunflower project.  These people used our brand new kitchen to prepare and send out thousands of meals during the school holidays in the summer. They are currently putting together similar numbers of boxes of food to be sent out to those who need them.

These are two of the ways that people are helping. I am sure that these are not the only stories that are coming out of our churches in these difficult times. In adversity we can see wonderful new things happening. I remember the words of the hymn 'they will know we are Christians by our love'! How true these words have proved to be over the last year.

As our lives start to get back to some sort of normal I pray that these wonderful works will inspire many, many more and our churches will once again come back to life in all its fullness.