Today is the one year anniversary of the World Health Organisation declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic. It is a moment to grieve and lament lost life and great suffering, all around the world. We don’t want to diminish that in any way, but it is also an opportunity to come against the disappointment of the last twelve months with life-giving thanksgiving.
We are exhorted to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Thankfulness is a key theme throughout Scripture. See, for example, the Psalms, from 7:17 to 147:7. In the New Testament: Colossians 2:6-7 “overflowing with thankfulness” and Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to…being…thankful”. The writer of Hebrews reminds us in these times of earthly shaking that we, followers of Jesus, are citizens of a kingdom not of this world, that therefore cannot be shaken, so. let. us. be. thankful (Hebrews 12:28-29). Thanksgiving is also a key to overcoming anxiety (Phil 4:6-7, “with thanksgiving”). It is a mighty spiritual weapon against Satan’s discouragement deception.
So this week we took some time out as a staff team to ‘count’ the blessings of this past year, to highlight the good things God has been doing in the midst of trial and difficulty – and to give thanks to him.
We are so thankful for (in no particular order):
- Increased opportunities to be still, and connect with God, especially our greater enjoyment of his good creation (remember when we started to hear the birds singing again?)
- Deepening of existing relationships across our church family (many of us have had to be more real, and open with each other, being humble enough to allow others to minister to us, as well as seeking to bless them)
- Creation of new relationships, especially within our respective local communities (through online socials, clapping together, and singing songs for VE day on balconies, out of windows, and in gardens)
- Continuous provision for our foodbank – resources, volunteers, and generous financial donations
- Learning new ways of engaging the church, and reaching out (like the online church-wide social we ran with breakout rooms featuring interior design training, cooking workshop, Pilates class, and developing makeup skills room).
- Online platforms for our now online services (church online, youtube, Zoom) that enable us to connect, stay in touch and reach people across the globe (we have people temporarily tracking with us from Brazil, for example) – and involve lots more people in our services
- Life Groups growing stronger, not weaker, transitioning well to online meetings, and caring more intentionally for one another
- Discovery of untapped talents and gifts, and generally recovering creativity, people are writing poems, books and songs, more than ever
- Many new members joining our church family (despite not having set foot properly on our premises)
- Great new staff team members joining our team and making a massive difference
- Parents feel more engaged with what their kids are learning at church than ever before, through the phemonemonal 4pm, Zoom online sessions
- New babies being born
- People getting married
- Being on the verge of appointing eight new deacons!
- Flourishing of the church’s prayer life, Freedom Fridays (weekly for lockdown #1); TGI Mondays, Rom 12:12pm prayer times, pre-service prayer times (with communion); Sunday online prayer response team; 40 Days of Prayer through Lent
- The building project progressing with work set to start in April
- Financial provision: we anticipated an operational deficit of £150k! due to no premises hire income – we ended up with a deficit of just £23k
- People coming to Christ – hallelujah – some of whom have never been to the church building; one young child came to faith from overhearing part of an online service they wouldn’t have otherwise listened to
- Prophetic words continuing to come week after week, encouraging, comforting and strengthening many
- Committed participation in courses such as Alpha, Every, and the Wellbeing Journey (with 40 people staying the course through the latter and getting involved in our church)
- Amazing Christmas events, reaching 1000s with the good news of Christ’s coming, and people coming to faith in response
- Leaders being trained, equipped and raised in the midst of a challenging time
- New ministry ideas that are blessing others: Clusters (joining Life Groups together online to study, for example, the Fear of God, and how to READ the Bible once a term); minute meditations, helping us to chew/ruminate on Sunday’s messages and let God take his word deeper into our hearts
- And so on…
Please make time today to stop and give thanks. Why not write a list out of all the things you are thankful to God for from the last year, and take some time to praise him, and be with him?