Coronavirus Update – 17 March 2020

Dear friends,

Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ. 

You will by now have seen and heard the Downing Street statement by the Prime Minister and his Advisers yesterday afternoon. It was, of course, deeply significant for us all to absorb, especially as the implications dawned upon us all of the instructions to minimise, and indeed cease wherever possible, all non-essential social contact. 

The direct application of this instruction to churches was later confirmed in Parliament by the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. It is vital that we hear and cooperate with the authorities in their efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus to assist our valued health care workers and to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. 

The pastors and elders met for prayerful and extensive discussion last night (Monday) and again this morning (Tuesday), this time with the pastoral care and operations teams. We are unanimous as to how we should proceed.

We are suspending until further notice and with immediate effect all church services, meetings, ministries and activities for Christ Church Dunstable and The Way, including Sunday services, home groups and all youth and children’s groups. 

The Way Coffee House will remain open for the time-being but only for take-away refreshments.    

Our decision is in line with the recommendation and request of the government and the NHS. It is also in accord with the advice of our own church grouping, the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC), which is advising all our 600 churches to immediately cease all gatherings. 

This drastic action is reflected today across our whole town and nation and is, of course, unprecedented in peacetime Britain. We fully understand that it is, and will be, a shock to many of you. Yet it is important that we grasp that this is the situation throughout Dunstable, the UK, and indeed throughout the world at this time. 

However, this does NOT mean our church is “closing down”; far from it! We are wide open, but with a difference. It simply means that instead of face-to-face gatherings, we will need to devise new and innovative ways to worship, to relate to each other, to share the Word, and to care for one another, including using the phone to encourage and pray together, online means of streaming Bible ministry and encouragement, and through delivering practical provisions to the door of the most needy and vulnerable. 

We will be in touch with you all within a couple of days with confirmation as to how we shall “build one another up in our most holy faith” (Jude 1:20) through prayer and encouragement on Sunday and throughout the days and weeks ahead. Thank you too to all those who have already volunteered to help in practical ways.

Meantime, the pastors, pastoral team and home group leaders are here for you if you need help and support at any time; please telephone the church office or email any of us direct. 

Let us rejoice, in the words of Psalm 46, that the Lord is King:

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
(Psalm 46:1-3, 7 NIV)

Let us remember that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is all-powerful and unchanging, continues to love and care for each of us as his people; he is as much our Good Shepherd today as he has been throughout our lives thus far. 

Yours very warmly in Christ Jesus

Mark, Gareth and Ross

for and on behalf of all the elders