REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2020
A YEAR OF LOSS OR A YEAR OF GAIN? (1)
Many of us – me included – have found this year a truly awful one on a personal level.
It has been a time of loss personally
It also has been a time of loss for the church.
Due to this pandemic we have entered an unprecedented time where we:
- Have had periods when we have not been able to meet together in our church building
- Have not been allowed to sing together
- Have not been allowed to hug each other
- Have not been allowed to eat together or even to talk together
- Have not been able to celebrate Easter, Harvest or Christmas together in our normal way
BUT this has also been a year of unprecedented GAIN for the church and let us focus on this and not on the loss. For we have been promised that:
“we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8: 28)
This has been a year where we have:
- Seen more clearly than ever that we, and not the building, are the church
- Set up TEAMS so that we can continue to meet together and worship together
- Established LiveStream that has reached out way-beyond our local community
- Been reminded that we all have testimonies and answers to prayer that we can share
- Established structures within the church that will stand us in good stead for the future
So, let us review a year that has been VERY different from those that have gone before.
Let us thank God for all His mercies and blessings on us this year.
Let us learn from God so that 2021 will be a better year than this one.
Here is a message of hope as we review this year – from “Faith Spilling Over”
Lean in and listen to Isaiah speak a promise of hope using an unlikely image: a tree stump. (2)
(Yes, you read that right. God can use even a tree stump to bring hope.)
The Israelites faced a hopeless situation when Isaiah prophesied coming doom brought on by the Babylonians, who would conquer Israel, pillage Jerusalem, and carry off captives to Babylon. As a consequence of forsaking God, Israel would be cut down like a tree.
Not very good news. (Maybe not so different from the news we’ve seen on our television screens this year.)
Yet Isaiah spoke a word which still speaks hope to us today: even when a stump looks dead, new life can spring from it. (3)
At the close of 2020, you may feel your hope has been cut down like the tree Isaiah wrote about. Disappointment weighs heavy as you struggle with helping your kids through one more month of online school, or you wonder about God’s faithfulness when you still can’t find a job.
The Israelites in captivity might also have wondered what happened to the promise God gave David about a king from his line to rule forever. Yet Isaiah prophesied that a shoot would sprout from David’s cut-down family tree, and its branch would bear fruit.
That branch was Jesus, a son of David, the offspring of Jesse.
I see two encouragements for us today from Isaiah’s prophecy: (4)
1. Our Redeemer has a plan.
When Adam and Eve ruined God’s perfect world, God had a plan to redeem it. He had a plan to restore Israel from Babylonian captivity, and 800 years later, when the disciples’ hopes were dashed to the ground because their Messiah lay dead on a tree, God had a plan.
Your situation may look hopeless, but God has a plan. He can redeem anything in your life to make it serve His good purposes.
2. We have a future hope.
We can look back now and thank God for the fruit that resulted from the branch of Jesse. The Son of David came to save us from sin, and today He rules over a kingdom of people living around the globe. His second coming will be even more glorious than the first.
Even if your life feels barren today, you have a promise of future fruitfulness because God works all things for good, and He is glorified when your life bears fruit, especially when that fruit comes after a difficult time.
Better still is the promise of your future in heaven. Jesus is preparing a place for you, and when He returns, He will take you to be with Him forever.
Friend, no matter what disappointments we’re facing, let’s look to our Redeemer today. He has a plan, and we have a future with Him. Jesus will dry every tear and make all things new.
SO NOW, WITH NO FURTHER A-DO, LET US LOOK BACK AT A MOMENTOUS YEAR
REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2020
“PASSING THE BATON”
A YEAR OF VISION – “2020 VISION”
From the start of the year the Vision of the church was to equip others for ministry – to look for our successors in every area – to train them up and to release them – to “pass the baton”.
This is not just a vision for me and the other elders. This is a vision for us all – who are you “training up” to first assist and then take-over from you in the ministry you are fulfilling in the church?
This Vision 2020 is still very much on our hearts but has been very much affected by the most profound event of 2020…
2020 – A YEAR OF LOCKDOWN
Towards the end of 2019 reports began to come out of China of a new Coronavirus – soon designated COVID-19. It appeared in the UK in the first couple of months of 2020 and then overwhelmed us like a tidal wave in March.
On the 18th March the decision was made to shut the church building – prior to the Government ordering all church buildings to shut. The VERY NEXT DAY – the 19th March – Chris and Vince began to work on the technology needed to enable us to continue church services through LiveStreaming – first on Facebook Live, then on Youtube – and the setting up of the TEAMS networking of virtual meeting rooms.
We do not know whether this pandemic has its origin in man, in an attack of the devil or the judgement of God. But this we DO know that God will use ALL things for good. And technology and approaches to church that we had never even considered before have been developed and have become the norm.
The church has been seen, more than ever, to be a people and not a building. The church has been challenged to grow strong in the Lord. The technology has enabled us to reach out with the Good News WAY BEYOND Ashford – even to the Ukraine!
We thank God for blessing us with Chris and Vince and all the technology which has meant that this year – 2020 – has seen us launch into a new era of church work.
LOOKING BACK AND REMEMBERING
Every week, as a church family, we take communion. When we eat the bread we remember that Jesus gave His body for us. When we take the “cup” we remember that Jesus shed His blood for us. We will never forget His substitutionary death because the symbols always remind us.
Remembering is SO important.
In the Old Testament book of Joshua the true story is told that, after 40 years of wandering in the desert, the Israelites finally crossed over the River Jordan and into the “Promised Land” (Joshua 3). A miracle was wrought and as the priests stood in the middle of the Jordan River, bearing the Ark of the Covenant, the waters piled up and the people crossed over on the dried-up river-bed. When all had crossed over the waters flowed again. They were then told to take 12 stones from that river-bed (one for each tribe of Israel) and to built a memorial from them that all would see as they passed by from that time onwards – the need to remember and never forget was established (Joshua 4: 1-7).
THE CHURCH WEEK
We begin by thanking God that we have a church building – that we want to be used more and more and more for His glory. Yet, this year has shown us, as never before, that WE are the church and we have continued to be together as church whether in the building or on-line. And we thank God for the regular meetings that are held amongst us and remember them now –
- GROWING IN WORSHIP AND NUMBERS – I have been part of this church family for 3 ¼ years now. When I first came we regularly got about 25 people attending. This year we were often seeing 50 or more people on a Sunday. At the height of Live Streaming in July we were getting up to 90 people “tuning in” to us – some as far away as the Ukraine and EVEN Scotland!!! We thank God for this. Numbers are not as important as spirituality – but they’re a good indicator of God’s blessing on our fellowship.
- TEACHING SERIES – this year God has led us on a clear journey in or teaching and learning that we must not forget. We focused first on “2020 Vision” and saw through the lives of Elijah and Elisha, Moses and Joshua. Aaron and Hur, the principle of passing the baton and of upholding one another in prayer. At the beginning of February we began our “All-In” series on the “10 Commandments”. And then we were hit by “Lockdown”. Livestream focused initially on recognising that church could never be the same again – we need to start to develop new “norms” of church life which are more about going OUT to the community around us rather than hoping that they will come in to us. During the month of July the focus was less on teaching series and more on family sharing and interaction – we had two separate services at this time – one in the building led by Dudley and one on TEAMS led by Owen and Ernest. In September these two services came back together again and our focus was on “The Journey of Life” – how God is with us through times of trouble and how He has plans for us to bless us. And so we have come to the Christmas period where our focus has been on “The God of Hope”.
- In the midst of this teaching, we have been blessed by guest speakers throughout the year. Vince and Chris launched their speaking ministry in the church. Dudley has shown us how gifted he is in speaking. And we have had visitors to talk to us – Geoff Gould on two occasions and Alistair Hornal on one.
- SUNDAY CLUB – [Linda report here]
- U3A – have been using the church for play reading in January and February
- OPEN ARMS – continued to serve the homeless and vulnerable from our church building till the Lockdown in late March. Since that time they have made the decision to focus on getting a town-centre venue which they can use on a daily basis and it is with great sadness that we have therefore had to say “goodbye” to them.
- WORSHIP PRACTICE – this not only continues but has, this year, been opened up to any from the church (and beyond) who wish to come along on a Tuesday night and sing and worship
- WEIGHT-WATCHERS – are now firmly established in our church building – which is a constant witness to them. For a while this was meeting on a Monday as well. There have been two changes of leadership this year but, as a group, they continue to value using our building
- HOUSEGROUPS and monthly SUPERGROUP– these have continued throughout the year and remain a fundamental way in which we maintain care and teaching during the week – though since March they have been meeting via TEAMS
- EKC – What a blessing it is to continue having this wonderful choir practicing in our building on a Thursday! It has been tough for them since the Lockdown but they have remained committed to using our church building
- SIGNING GROUP – Alasdair has been able to start yet another successful course on this????????????????????????????????????????
- REVIVAL PRAYER – I remain in awe of the tremendous turn-out week-after-week to this prayer meeting – proof of our belief in the power of prayer to bring revival to this area. This has moved seamlessly to a weekly on-line prayer time
- BIBLE STUDY – Until March this continued to meet in Church House. Then, from the end of March, it became a weekly on-line meeting. For a few weeks in September till the second Lockdown we were meeting at Maureen’s home but are now back on TEAMS again
- U3A – have been singing in our church on a Friday afternoon until the Pandemic caused them to cease
- LADIES’ FELLOWSHIP – well…I can’t say too much about this…as I am not allowed to attend! But, I understand that it continues to be a time of great joy and challenge for our ladies – and has also seamlessly moved to an on=line platform
- PIZZA AND HOT TOPICS – Since March this has moved to being on-line and every week. It is one of my highlights – and takes the regular form of sharing how we are all doing, taking part in a Bible quiz to learn more of the Word and looking at current issues.
- FYN – Sue Parker joined us and was beginning to establish her identity in the group but since March this group has stopped – and we have the opportunity to re-think the whole structure of the group before we re-start it at the earliest opportunity.
2020 – A TIME OF MANY EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES
Now let us go through the year chronologically to remember all the tremendous things that have taken place (I do hope that you forgive me for any omissions from this list – if you let me know what is missing then I will happily – though retrospectively – add them):
01/01/20: NEW YEAR’S DAY WALK AND MEAL AT CLOKE FARM – 31 PEOPLE ATTENDED!
05/01/20: 2020 VISION REVEALED
12/01/20: DEDICATION OF ASER CURT (MIRELLA’S SON)
12/01/20: SUNDAY CLUB PARTY
17/01/20: PANTOMIME FOR “PIZZA AND HOT TOPICS”
19/01/20: MANUELA STARTS IN LEADERSHIP OF SUNDAY CLUB
19/01/20: VINCE PREACHES FOR THE FIRST TIME
19/01/20: CHURCH SAYS “GOODBYE” TO ANN TUTT
21/01/20: BAPTISM CLASS BEGINS (JULIE HORSFORD)
24/01/20: SUE PARKER STARTS ATTENDING FYN
31/01/20: PIZZA AND HOT TOPICS MOVE TO ADELE AND AARON’S HOUSE
02/02/20: NEW ALL-IN SERIES BEGINS – “THE 10 COMMANDMENTS”
02/02/20: FELLOWSHIP MEAL IN THE CHURCH
16/02/20: CHRIS AND HELEN HILL BROUGHT INTO FAMILY OF ACC
16/02/20: CHRIS HILL PREACHES HIS FIRST SERMON AT ACC
16/02/20: “STREET-A-WEEK” INITIATIVE STARTS
22/02/20: DUDLEY PREACHING AT CHURCH
26/02/20: “THE SHACK” SHOWN FOR ACC FILM CLUB
27/02/20: ADELE AND ME TO “FREEDOM IN CHRIST – DISCIPLESHIP CHALLENGE” CONFERENCE
08/03/20: BAPTISM OF JULIE HORSFORD
15/03/20: VINCE PREACHES FOR THE SECOND TIME
18/03/20: DECISION MADE TO SUSPEND CHURCH MEETINGS FOR DURATION CORONAVIRUS
19/03/20: DEVELOPMENT OF CHURCH “LIVELINK” BEGINS (CHRIS AND VINCE)
22/03/20: FIRST LIVE STREAM OF CHURCH SERVICE
25/03/20: FIRST VIIRTUAL HOUSEGROUP MEETING VIA “TEAMS”
29/03/20: DAY OF PRAYER RE THE CORONAVIRUS
03/04/20: FIRST VIRTUAL REVIVAL PRAYER MEETING
05/04/20: FIRST USE OF VIDEO CLIP AND POWERPOINT IN LIVE STREAM
10/04/20: LIVE STREAM GOOD FRIDAY SERVICE
12/04/20: LIVE STREAM EASTER CELEBRATION
19/04/20: FIRST LIVE STREAM ON YOUTUBE
24/04/20: FIRST VIRTUAL PIZZA AND HOT TOPICS
28/04/20: FIRST NEW LOOK NEWSLETTER VIA MAILCHIMP (AFTER 2 MONTHS OF ALMOST DAILY INFORMATION EMAILS)
29/04/20: FIRST “SUPERGROUP WEDNESDAY” – JOINT HOUSEGROUP
14/05/20: FIRST VIRTUAL BIBLE STUDY (“FREEDOM”)
31/05/20: THE “ASHFORD BLESSING” INCLUDES CHRIS AND BRIAN
23/06/20: FIRST OPENING OF CHURCH FOR INDIVIDUAL PRAYER – 3 TIMES A WEEK
29/06/20: INSTALLATION OF VIRGIN MEDIA BROADBAND
05/07/20: TEST LIVESTREAM BROADCAST FROM CHURCH BUILDING
12/07/20: FIRST CELEBRATION SERVICE BACK IN THE CHURCH BUILDING – LIVE STREAM OUT!
02/08/20: SUMMER BREAKING OF BREAD – IN CHURCH (DUDLEY), ON TEAMS (OWEN AND ERNEST)
00/08/20: PAT AND BRIAN RE-TAKE-OVER BIBLE STUDY AT THEIR HOUSE
20/09/20: FIRST JOINT TEAMS SUNDAY SERVICE (NOT YET RETURN TO LIVE STREAM)
28/09/20: GOODBYE TO THE RUSSO’S
27/10/20: MACMILLAN COFFEE EVENTS WEEK
01/11/20: GEOFF GOULD AS VISITING SPEAKER
05/11/20: LOCKDOWN 2 BEGINS – CHURCH CLOSED FOR SERVICES + ACTIVITIES
08/11/20: SERVICE BROADCAST FROM CHURCH FOR SECOND LOCKDOWN
15/11/20: RESUMPTION OF LIVESTREAMING – FROM CHURCH
29/11/20: GEOFF GOULD VISITING SPEAKER
06/12/20: ALISTAIR HORNAL VISITING SPEAKER
16/12/20: CAROL SINGING IN VICTORIA QUARTER
19/12/20: CHRISTMAS TABLEAU OUTSIDE THE CHURCH
20/12/20: ADAPTED CAROL SERVICE IN CHURCH BUILDING
24/12/20: “MIDNIGHT FIRST COMMUNION OF CHRISTMAS” SERVICE
25/12/20: CHRISTMAS MORNING SERVICE – MEDITATING ON THE BIRTH OF CHRIST
25/12/20: BIRTH OF JOSHUA ISAAC HILL