This week has been a different one. Lisa, the kids and I have been at home self-isolating as our eldest son started the week with a temperature. It’s not how we planned this week to go but it’s had some surprising moments of joy. Alongside the challenges of working out how to learn and grow together without leaving the house, we’ve received care packages, cards and flowers, computers and all sorts. This is a season we have not walked before but it’s one where we are encouraging one another to find God afresh in.
Whatever happens over the coming months, it is beginning to be clear that it is going to be challenging and different - in the midst of which I am increasingly convinced that God will do extraordinary things in individuals, communities and throughout the world.
As we move forward into this time without the spaces we once used to gather, we are thrown on God in new ways. Of course, there are technological solutions to help us gather in different ways but more importantly there is an opportunity in the weeks and months ahead to discover the depths of God’s grace, the wonder of His love for us and the passion with which he longs to see every heart enjoy Him more. There is an opportunity to serve God and one another with fresh faith and new eyes. There is an opportunity, as we are scattered to see God move profoundly..across the cities.
OAK COMMUNITIES & LIFE GROUPS...ACROSS THE CITIES
We are mindful of the need in this time to care for one another and the communities around us. To contact those who are alone, to stand with those who are sick and to grieve with those in pain. We are suggesting the best way to support one another in this time is to join an Oak Community and to play an active role in your Life Group or seek help to join one. Whilst they may not gather physically, the Whatsapp / email / phone and Zoom/Skype connections will be critical in the coming season - Please click here for ways to connect. To find out more about our Oak Communities, please click here. ChurchSuite also allows us to build a church directory - see the note at the bottom of this email for how to update your settings and use it.
PRAYER...ACROSS THE CITIES
We would like to encourage you to pray for one another as much as possible, using phones and texts to encourage one another where possible.
We have launched a new Facebook Group called ‘7:7 Prayer’ - based around Matthew 7:7. The idea is for us to pray for 7 minutes at 7am and 7pm each day for those affected by the crisis. The groups allows us to post who and what to pray for (please ask permission before posting about someone).
SUNDAYS...ACROSS THE CITIES
Sundays will continue...just in your home. You bring the cakes and the cuppa, we’ll live stream and provide family resources to help you connect. Our hope is to stream our worship and preaching team live this Sunday morning at 10.30am on our website - simply head to the site - theoakchurch.co.uk/live on Sunday morning. There will also be links to this week's resources for The Nest, Treehouse and Oak Youth. This week Adam Glass will lead us in worship from his home with me, Chris Mason, joining the stream to share some news and a short message. It would be great if you can make it at 10.30, we really want as many of us as possible gathering together to worship, but we understand that the changes to home schedules mean this might not be possible. With this in mind, the whole Sunday page will be available during the week enabling you to use the resources when you can get to them.
HOSPITALITY...ACROSS THE CITIES
Our Foodbank centre will remain open as long as we are legally able to. However, we may need some extra help as the main warehouse stocks deplete. Please consider how you may be able to help with food as you shop in the coming weeks. Please take any donations at this stage to the Asda collection point or other community baskets. This is a time where our most vulnerable need, more than ever, everyone to play their part in giving to one another.
Our Connect Lunch team will be working hard trying to keep in regular contact with those most at risk of loneliness while our lunches are unable to run. They are also looking at ways to safely provide practically for those in need. More information on this and other potential ways of reducing social isolation anxiety will come in the coming weeks.
GENEROSITY...ACROSS THE CITIES
In these uncertain times, we come to God who has provided for us all and for all of humanity for all time. This is an opportunity to respond to people's needs as individuals, Life Groups and Oak Communities - responding personally to the needs of those around us. This may start with a little milk but may grow to mortgage payments and larger help - this is a time to come together and as the early church did ‘give to those who have need’ (Acts 2:42).
We are continuing to move ahead with our Special Offering this Sunday primarily looking to raise £30k for a ‘Treehouse & Families Worker’ - this remains, on the long term, a key priority for the growth of the church in the months and years ahead. However, in light of the current situation, we would like to broaden the scope of this Special Offering to enable us to use these funds to care for those in the church and in the wider community. We do not know what will happen in the economy in the coming months but it seems timely that we have this opportunity to invest in the children and families of Leeds & Bradford and to be able to respond, should we need to, to the needs of those around us.
Finally, this is hard. This is a challenging season and one that brings up a mix of emotions. Can I encourage you, however you feel, to come to God and bring how you feel allowing Him to give you hope, peace, and grace in this season?
Let's pray together. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.
Love and blessing
On behalf of the Senior Leadership Team at The Oak
The ChurchSuite Directory allows those who are part of The Oak and have selected to have their details shared to see one another's details by clicking on ‘Menu’ then ’Search for Others’.
You can ensure your details are visible so people can contact you and help in the coming months by going, on the ChurchSuite app or through the MyChurchSuite login on a browser, to ‘My Details’, then click on the ‘Privacy’ tab, clicking the options to make your details visible. Then click ‘Save Changes’ at the bottom. You can also select in ‘My Details’ the circle in the middle to upload an image of yourself so people can see who you are.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Updated: 17/03/2020, 13:00 - by Chris Mason
What are the current UK government guidelines with regards to Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Please see the current UK government guidelines here.
NHS guidelines on protecting yourself can be found here.
Please see the 'Doctors of the World' website for a link to Coronavirus advice in multiple languages here.
In the light of current UK government guidelines, is The Oak Church gathering:
The Oak Church has suspended all formal gatherings. Please see above.
What do I do if I am worried (Coronavirus connected) about someone who is unwell in our church community?
If you are concerned about someone in our church community, please look for ways to help them:
- In the first instance, speak to them (sensitively) asking if they are worried about their symptoms.
- Direct them to follow UK Government guidelines requiring self-isolation for them and their household.
- Help them, keeping yourself safe, to get help for their physical symptoms.
- Email email@example.com so we can update the church and pray for them (it is imperative you speak to the person involved and ask their permission to let the church know first).
- Pray for them and ask your Life Group and Oak Community to pray too.
- Ask if there is anything they need and try to find ways of meeting those needs - If you need help, please ask your Life Group or Oak Community.
- If you have been in contact with them during the infectious stage, please follow UK Government guidelines for your own self-isolation.
What do I do if I am unwell?
If you or a member of your household have Coronavirus symptoms, please follow UK Government guidelines and self-isolate your household for 14 days immediately.
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can update the church and pray for you.
Contact your Life Group and Oak Community so they can help care for you.
Monday 16th March 2020
Psalm 46:10 - God is our refuge, our ever-present help in times of trouble...Be still and know that I am God.
We are in a challenging season as a nation, but also as a church. We have families already needing to self-isolate, others social-distancing and others unwell. This is a season for much prayer and love. In this season we find ourselves seeking the one who is our refuge, the one who is our strength, the one who speaks to the wind and waves and also to us and says "be still and know that I am God".
The news of Coronavirus is changing almost hourly and with the update this afternoon from the UK Government we have to make decisions as to how we, as a church family, will respond.
We have made the decision to stop all formal gatherings of The Oak Church beginning immediately.
Connect Lunch, Coffee & Chaos and Oak Communities (as gatherings) are on hold.
Our StayCation will be postponed until later in the year.
This Sunday, our gathering will not take place at the building but in homes all across Leeds & Bradford connected together. Our hope is that, whilst we are unable to meet together in one place, we can still meet together in heart at one time. Using the resources we have available from our wonderful teams combined with streaming technology, we will gather to learn, grow, be family, worship and pray together. Of course, it will feel very different to our usual gatherings, but we are hoping to have Treehouse, The Nest and Oak Youth planning available online to support our families; a live stream of our church news and Sunday preaching for all to access at 11am; and to provide materials for worship so that wherever you find yourself Sunday morning, you can take part and be a part of the church family.
We would also encourage Oak Communities and Life Groups to care for one another and connect with those on the edge of our church family in whatever ways they feel they can. To use media such as FaceTime and Skype, WhatsApp and Messenger to keep in contact and serve one another looking for opportunities to care for the wider community.
In the coming days, we will also launch our prayer initiative, alongside other churches in the area, encouraging the church to pray at 7am and 7pm each day. This will be facilitated through a FaceBook page with more details coming soon.
Our special offering will continue this and next Sunday. Please consider how you can play your part in giving to release a staff member to work with our Treehouse and families. We are praying for a huge £30k - please pray.
We will send out more information at the end of the week confirming how we will gather online this weekend. But for now, can I encourage you to invest heavily in your walk with God, love and pray for your neighbour as yourself and be wise. There is a wonderful opportunity in the coming seasons for God to be made known - let His Kingdom come here as it is in heaven!
Much love and prayer
On behalf of the Senior Leadership Team.
Monday 9th March 2020
With the increasing challenges and suffering facing humanity across the globe, how are we to respond to the virus? Should we panic buy? Should we shut down our gatherings? Should we hide in our homes?
Whatever we find ourselves facing, now and in the years to come, we need to first come before God and find the lens through which we can see clearer what is in front of us. When I see things through His eyes, I find perspective and peace.
There is much panic and worry around us, with emergency shopping and hoarding of products clearing the shelves in supermarkets. I find myself thinking “do we have enough soap, toilet roll, tissues”? It takes a conscious effort to choose to see things as God sees them and to come through to a place of trust in the face of challenging situations.
I’d like to suggest four simple things that we are called to in all situations, including this one, that help us find a bigger vision, a kingdom view and an eternal perspective.
1. We are called to God
Jesus, speaking about anxiety, encourages us to go to God before anything else (Matthew 6:33). Before all things, we have been called into a relationship with God by the work of His Son and the power of His Spirit. That relationship is a glorious, sufficient, redemptive and eternal one (Ephesians 1:3-15) – God has called us to Himself. The bigger picture here is that, just as Paul prayed, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21) – there is no fear in either scenario for, if you follow Christ, you have an assurance and a salvation that goes beyond the grave.
Corrie Ten Boom, who faced a global invasion of a destructive ideology wrote: “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strength.” Your strength is found in Christ and He is not worried. In fact, he called us to pray.
2. We are called to pray
With thanks and praise, we are encouraged to bring all of our worries, anxieties, needs and petitions before God in prayer. The best thing we can do in this current season is to remind ourselves who has ultimate power and to seek Him. Stocking up on essentials may help alleviate your concern over whether you can keep your hands clean but it won’t deal with the restlessness in your heart. For that, you need something bigger than hand sanitiser. For that, you need the one who says if you’re tired or worried, come to me (Matthew 11:28-30). For that, you need the one who says that you can’t live on bread alone but need the words (Jesus) of God from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3).
Pray for those around you. For the sick and those vulnerable or prone to complications. Pray for our government and the health professionals in our nation and the nations caring for those who are sick. Pray for God’s mercy.
3. We are called to be wise
A people called to God and called to pray need not be foolish. The scriptures speak much of foolishness with regards to limiting God but also living in ways that aren’t wise or following God’s best for you (Ephesians 5:17). Making good decisions with regard to personal hygiene and self-isolation if you know you are unwell or have been in contact with someone who is, would be wise, not foolish. Following medical advice is wise. Helping others by being generous with food and prayer is wise. This is a season for good decision making based on wisdom and surrendered wills – the laying aside of your own desires for that of God’s. And God calls us to love one another (John 13:34-35).
4. We are called to love
There is no fear in love (1 John 4:18) and because God has loved us, He calls us to love one another (1 John 4:11). Throughout history the church has often been at the heart of the care front – in pandemics, plagues, wars and famines we are called to be a people who first love as we were loved first – it’s our worship to Him (Romans 12:1-13). It has been said rather than asking “how can I stay healthy?”, we could be asking “how can I help the sick and vulnerable?”
With wisdom, in prayer and through the lens of God’s bigger picture, we are called, sometimes on shaky legs, to stand alongside the sick, the fearful, the worried, the hurting and the grieving, the confused and the confounded, those in need and those with plenty, to bring the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14).