“What to do now?” – reflections of my 142 Daily Covid 19 thoughts.

I think I was planning for Easter and Holy Week when I first heard the word ’lockdown’ and I couldn’t really comprehend what this was going to mean at the time. Restricted movement, staying at home, what about next Sunday, could it have to be cancelled? These are the questions I asked myself when the reality of this lockdown was fully understood. Ministry was going to become different to say the least, but there must be a way I can keep into contact with ‘my people’ and others as the effect of this Covid shutdown takes effect. This was my first consideration as the month of March was drawing to a close, and communication with others was posing more than a few problems.

Most of my pastorate is what many would describe as ‘very rural’, not only that but most of the older members had yet to master the use of a smart phone mainly because their WIFI provisions were limited or in some cases non-existent. How was I to keep in touch with those who were having to cope with the fears of Covid 19 and how would I assure them of the love of Christ in the middle of such a crisis as this?

Having given thanks for the Post Office and daily mail deliveries even to outlaying farms in Radnorshire, I needed something more to fill my days and I had a feeling that I must reach more than just those close at hand as all around me were becoming fearful. It was then on the 23rd March 2020 that I decided to provide a daily “thoughts” to all the e mail contacts I had and that these mediations would take on a particular format; a contempory thought connected with Covid 19 and a biblical connection, an appropriate photograph from my iPhone photo library and a short prayer to thank God for each day as the Coronavirus continued to dominate our thoughts and as each day continued to bring in worrying news as to what was going on in the world. I had no idea at the time how long I planned to continue these daily mutterings or how I would be able to find sufficient and appropriate things to say. This part of the planning was never uppermost in my mind.

So, on the 23rd March the first ‘blog’ appeared, and it was forwarded to over 65 recipients from all sides of the denominational divide. Some would be forwarded on to others I did not know. I even sent them to the Arch Bishop of Wales’ Chaplain. This became evident when I started to receive responses from New Zealand, Australia, South Devon and Scotland apart from England and Wales where the original e mails were sent.

The first ‘daily thought’ came without any pictorial connection to what was being offered, but later it seemed more fulfilling to attach a place or situation that linked into the thought and provide a look at the surrounding countryside, church or biblical reminder of the love of Jesus to support us during these difficult days that were the experience of all.

Alpha Presbyterian Church Builth Wells

As the days continued without much change it became evident that my ‘thoughts’ were going to take more time to prepare, I became aware of photographic opportunities that presented themselves during each day and allowed me to develop each day’s offering sometimes in the morning or early afternoon.This became a routine. It required a special devotional aspect of each and every day. I became conscious of the responsibility of it as by now I was receiving responses from wider afield, places and people were getting in touch requesting photographs of the churches, the rivers and landscape of my offerings and details of the stories I told.

It was a privilege to share thoughts and mutterings with my local congregation and members of other local churches who would come up to me and comment on the high street complete with mask or full-face shield. It has been an interesting journey that had to come to an end when the opportunity came to re-open the churches again. I thought that because of age and health issues, many of my churches would not be considering such an action, but how wrong could a minister be!

The first request came from a church deep in the Radnorshire countryside with few and aged members. The enthusiasm of these devoted individuals demonstrated their faith and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Having visited the church, ‘decorated’ it according to Presbyterian Church of Wales’s directions, set a date for the end of September when we would come together again to worship the Lord.

Coleg Trefeca the home of Howell Harris now the Connexion’s training centre

Having received a commitment from one, it wasn’t long before a second church made the same request, again from the depths of the countryside so arrangements were put in place to re-open within a fortnight. The oldest member attending the re-opening service was 98. She came with her son and surprised us all!

The Groe park in Builth Wells aside the River Wye

Over these last 28 weeks I have studied the Bible from many different aspects connected with living under difficult conditions and apricated more fully the troubles of many Biblical characters as a result of the pressing problems this pandemic has brought to our land.

My garden refuge a place of much contemplation these last few months

To discover the fears that enter people’s hearts and minds because of this condition for me has brought different situations to the fore. People who do not worship or belong to any church have asked questions of me on the street. They have questioned the conditions associated with funerals and the restrictions that exist and spoken about death and grief that such people who know me well might not have done unless this pandemic had come about. This last week a man who recently lost his wife through cancer found a letter at home that his beloved had left in a drawer for him to discover after her passing, asking that I should bury her at the end of her life. Only recently, weeks after her passing was this letter discovered and in tears, he had presented himself at my door. Perhaps the Lord will enter his life and the embers of faith will be rekindled in him. I await developments in the weeks to come and pray for this man and his problems.

In Brecon Cathedral with Bob Hartman of “Open the Book”

One of the great disappointments of shutdown and school closure is the suspension of ‘Open the Book’ programmes with our local schools. Recently, before the current situation began, there was a gathering of those who run OtB programmes met in Brecon Cathedral. It was a thoroughly inspiring day and we were privileged to meet with Bob Hartman the author of the children’s stories that are used in the presentations. We must find ways to get these programmes back on track once the schools settle down to the new regimes and we can find a place in the school day again.

These young folk are the future of the church and the essential need to bring the Bible and its teaching into their lives must be our mission as we continue to monitor the time tables of the schools and be prepared to organise ourselves at short notice when the moment comes for us to return.

The Leadership empowering plan – great sermon plan too!

As the days continue in this different mode and church worship changes thanks to the electronical wizardry on offer and morning worship is presented through “Zoom” or U Tube and Facebook, we can be thankful  unto God for the ways that the church responds in a positive manner regardless to all kinds of crises or restrictions that come in its way.

This has been the pattern thankfully over the centuries.

When the church is in a changing state there appears someone or something to take it forward. From Whittenburg to Geneva, Wesley to Whitfield, Harris and Rowlands, Trefeca to Bala all have had their part to play in maintaining the witness of Jesus Christ. And it will continue until the Lord decides to roll up the scroll of human history. These Daily Thoughts have given me extra strength over 142 days I trust it helped others too.

Brian Reardon