Dear Friends
At the beginning of the year the world ushered year 2020 with such pomp and fanfare. People from all walks of life started making plans of what to do or in fact getting ready for major celebrations (birthdays, weddings, holidays, examinations, anniversary celebrations and so many other things). But then little did the world expect or anticipate “Coronavirus”would change the way the world operates in such a short space of time.

Suddenly, our government announced a complete lockdown with exception of  frontline “essential” workers and depending on which headline you read, the number of deaths in Italy, Spain and all around the world kept rising flight cancellations or disruptions took hold, empty supermarket shelves with scrambles for loo roll grabbed the headlines. Everything about our usual or normal way of life was gone, in a blink! Just as it started, new catchphrases emerged – Lockdown, stay at home, save the NHS, Save Lives, essential travel, Social Distancing, Self-Isolation, Frontline workers, Furlough to name a few as we began life in lockdown.

Ordinarily, one may be led to think why Coronavirus and why now? With a whole month in lockdown and depressing news from around the world, we realise that without a single bullet or army deployment, our “usual” whole secular world order is in disarray. The world leaders, their military with superpower labels and technocrats could not prevent the new virus from spreading. Realising there is no quick fixes, we have seen how self-preservation can easily set previously friendly nations, against one another with embargoes on sale of personal protection equipment (PPE).

Since the lockdown, many have had time to reflect and possibly, like me, quickly realised how much our family, freedom to go out and come back whenever we wish, health, church family, friends, personal space, loneliness and even our work means to us. In response, we are adjusting and appreciating life more by gradually adapting our way of life to make the most of what is left using new approaches to life and adopting any available technology, even if it is begrudgingly so.

But, guess what, beneath every dark cloud, there is always a silver lining!
“What do you mean?” you say…

• “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those whom his favour rests.” Luke 2:14
• “…we need reawakening, refilling with His Holy Spirit”
• “…and prepare you for the challenges of 2020”
• “…the need to remain relevant to the community in which we live”
• “…God’s unconditional love for each of us”
• “…Rock of Faith and vault of Grace; Here the love of Christ shall end divisions”
• “…differences between the individuals became much less important”
• “…let us continue, against the odds, to build up a patient, tolerant, loving community in a world full of selfishness, intolerance, and pain!”
• “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins” 1 Peter 4:8

All the above quotes were from the pastoral letters of Witham URC monthly magazines between January and March 2020. Our current situation has given me an opportunity to at least reflect on these quotes and urged me into action.

Beyond these quotes, I hope, like me, you will take this time to explore how you could turn the Coronavirus epidemic lockdown into opportunities to do whatever God wants of you, in the community and the world at large.

Sharing a few of my reflections:

Frailty of Life:
Life can change in a flicker! But for the mercy of God, all the man-made things we build ourselves become useless when we are set upon by a plague like Coronavirus. Nothing in our world is neither more powerful nor bigger than God who created heaven and earth. I pray that the Lord will hear us and come to our rescue sooner! Please relent and remove this plague from the world. Heal those affected and protect others. – (Psalms 90:12-17, Isaiah 40:6-7)

Humility:
Coronavirus has no respect for status or boundaries but is not as powerful as our God. Our hope and trust must therefore be in God who created the earth and all that is within it. Failing to keep our hope and trust in Him is like building our house on sand rather than a solid rock as foundation. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Frontline Discipleship:
Whatever hardship or inconvenience the Coronavirus pandemic may have caused all over the world, the lockdown has made everyone re-evaluate their busy lives. I hope for the better, given all the free time most of us have saved from commuting as well as having all borders closed, all sports competitions cancelled and more than a quarter of the world in lockdown. There is now more time to check on friends and families with more ways than one, to drop a word of prayer, bible passage for discussion or even share a testimony. I pray that when this is all over, the world will be a better place with the new attitude to live life with love and appreciation for God’s blessings.

Gratitude:
I noticed a change in society’s attitude towards front line workers such as Doctors, Nurses, Care givers, Porters, Paramedics, transport, supermarket, post office, community, Charity, funeral homes and so many other essential staff. Suddenly, we started to acknowledge these people who were not previously seen as heroes for their sacrifices and hard work saving lives and keeping the economy going. (Psalms 103:2-6)

Loving and Generous Community:
As soon as the talk of lockdown started, I was pleased the elders drew up a contingency plan to ensure everyone in the fellowship could be contacted and made aware of the support available including the prayer chain. Volunteers sprang into action as soon as lockdown was announced and once again the fellowship responded as the need arose. The love of God includes being patient, tolerant and building communities through kindness and generosity of time, checking on those who may be lonely or ill and keeping their spirits up. I am pleased to be part of a fellowship thatremains committed to creating a loving community of people and families.

Time with God:
Since there is no daily rush to catch a train or avoid early morning rush anymore in lockdown, I spend more time with God, getting to know him better. If anything, by the time Coronavirus has gone, I will be further along in my daily bible study and other materials I had put off from reading. Sundays have also become special as I look forward to setting up YouTube links to the praise and worship songs. Listening, talking through the sermon, and praying together as a family unit on Sundays, is back in fashion because we are all together at home. I pray when we are out of lockdown, our society will start to use Sundays to worship God again and not just as another sporting or shopping day.

So, whatever your reflections or challenges of 2020 may be, I leave you with these words from Psalms 46:

God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So,we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken and mountains fall into the ocean depths. even if the seas roar and rage, and the hills are shaken by the violence. There is a river that brings joy to the city of God, to the sacred house of the Most High. God is in that city, and it will never be destroyed; at early dawn he will come to its aid. Nations are terrified, kingdoms are shaken, God thunders, and the earth dissolves. The LORD Almighty is with
us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Come and see what the LORD has done. See what amazing things he has done on earth. He stops wars all over the world; he breaks bows, destroys spears, and sets shields on fire. “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalms 46 1-11 (GNB)

Remember that we are only locked down, not locked up!

Tunde Biyi