Across Aotearoa, many churches will be delighted they can now freely begin to gather again in person. This is a great and welcome start, and we thank God for it (and also for God’s hand in keeping New Zealand relatively safe).
The Spirit of Christ unites all believers, even when we are physically isolated from one another, but believers coming together is a key aspect of what it means to be the church of Jesus. During this Covid crisis on-line church has worked well for quite a lot of New Zealand churches, if not for all, and many churches are likely to retain live streaming as a way of reaching out and of connecting with people who can’t get to church. But nothing beats actually gathering together.
Sure, there are still many challenges. A large number of bigger churches will not yet be able to meet fully. For those churches which do meet, the ongoing need for physical distancing and contact tracing registers may feel a bit awkward, in a fellowship context. On health grounds, some people may feel cautious about returning to church at least until Alert Level One. Some may feel that sitting on the couch and watching an on-line church service requires less time and effort than actually going to church. While many have experienced some spiritual refreshment in this time, others may have drifted.
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). It is very special that the churches in New Zealand will be starting to come back together on the day of Pentecost, the day when we remember the birth of the worldwide church, and outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all believers, to empower us to live for Jesus and to proclaim him in word and action.
As we celebrate Pentecost this year, regardless of whether we are at home or in church buildings, let us all pray for a fresh and powerful outpouring upon the churches of Aotearoa, bringing us into a place of repentance and humility before God, deepening our faith in Christ and our love for God, filling us with his Spirit, and overflowing into a great spiritual transformation in New Zealand society.