When Live Streaming Is Not the Most Important Question (WRF Board Member John Wilson)
There has been a recent posting of reports reflecting (in a very healthy way) divergent views on celebrating the Lord’s Supper online during community lockdown. We were blessed to read and reflect on the perspective that came from our colleague in India, and thankful, for the reminder that in the family of Christ we are enriched by considering how other churches are coping and how other Christians live in the light of our present world crisis.
On the same day, I received correspondence from my very good friend who is General Secretary for the Presbyterians in Zambia. His perspective, in response to my letter of encouragement to him, is helpful … sobering, but helpful.
In my email to him, I mentioned that we are live-streaming at Reservoir (Melbourne) twice each Sunday, and that our pastor is posting 2 minute daily Easter messages this week, and keeping in phone and email contact with every member of the congregation. My African colleague pointed out to me how such concepts are not possible for him, and then he elaborated (not in a complaining way) the difficult path they face. He said, et al:
"Zambia so far has recorded one death, five discharged and 33 still in quarantine. We have a shortage of testing materials and places to take those to be in quarantine. They have opted to use the university of Zambia in Lusaka and other places on the Copperbelt. We are not able to manage the pandemic but we will by the grace of God. We have inadequate facilities to accommodate those found positive.
Our congregations are not able to meet and we are not using any media to do pastoral care. In the rural areas, they feel this is just a story, and members still want to come to worship. We are in a situation which is bad too. We pray that this will be a thing of the past soon. I just wrote to all ministers yesterday that we need to go on with the work of God by creating a way to do pastoral work. Our members to be encouraged that God is still on the throne and he is still our Loving God despite the virus.
It is now 14 days since we went to church but, as a church, we are glad that some of our members are still supporting their ministers despite the situation. They are able to send some help and this is why I have taken time to write to all ministers to continue in the faith and spend time to read and plan for the work of God. We never know what comes after this, but we believe that all what happens is to the glory of God. It is not easy but we see the power of God in everything including His love in this.
While, I have just been thinking that what next after this? Will all ministers survive? What about the Synod secretariat (head office), where will it run to when all the resources come from the congregations? I wish we had the central system to help all the avenues. As God is all I trust and will continue in my faith trusting Him as the journey is His and he will make us survive. Pray for us as we pray for you too. I see that you have high numbers of cases.”
While not all this is news to me as I’ve spent many a month in Zambia, but it had me thinking afresh. He asks: "Will all ministers survive?” I wonder, will this virus yet sweep through Africa with devastation unseen to this date? How do our African ministers of the Word survive when there are no invested moneys for churches to call on, no savings accounts lodged anywhere, no electronic giving - and where every minister depends on the Sunday giving in the plate. So, no worship services means no plate offering, means no giving = no stipend. There will be no government stimulus packages for them; state welfare does not exist. They face suffering ahead.
I asked another pastor friend, who serves a rural and distant congregation in the NE of the country, how he’s coping. Again, his reply is sobering, and helpful:
“Abusa Wilson, my wife and I are fine. We are also not worshipping here. This week Sunday was the second week where churches in Zambia have closed. We worship in our homes without the technology you have there. Each family worships alone. There is prayer and fasting as individual families and homes. On Sunday, we had deacons court. This is the time when we put tithe together and then finance meets to allocate funds. The deacons had to go round homes of Christians to collect tithe from those who were ready to give. When we met, they reported that some Christians were not ready to give the tithe because they were not coming to Church to worship.
I can see a situation becoming worse if we continue staying away from Church. We pray that God should win this war for us. If people in Italy, Spain and USA die in large numbers where the medical facilities are up to date. What would happen to us if the virus spreads?
What may not be understood in the west is that the unfortunate part is that most of the citizens of my country depend on hand to mouth for daily sustenance. It is terrible. We really need prayer because this is war against mankind. Only God can help us.”
Once more, may our loving Father and God win this war the world is facing. God bless you.”
When “Live-Streaming” Is Not the Most Important Question, by WRF Board Member John Wilson
CCAP Zambia Synod is an evangelical Presbyterian denomination that stayed out of the more liberal union church of 30/40 years ago. They have about 70 ministers - all of who serve the Lord humbly and faithfully, loving the Word of God, planting churches and evangelising the lost; and they run a small theological college in the far NE at Chasefu.