'The church is the people, not the building'

25th March 2020

A Way of Witness For Our Time - Rt Rv Dr Alistair Redfern.

The Clewer Initiative

Outside and Inside

Recently there has been a flurry of news about churches being closed and an impressive response through online worship and services. Of course, churches are not closed! We have all been told that the church is the people, not the building.

The amazing privilege of gathering in our wonderful buildings is to be nourished so as to 'Go in peace to serve the Lord '. Inner nourishment, and tasting the practice of forgiving, being forgiven, learning, praying and sharing as one with the church across time and space. This 'inside' activity is to enable our 'outside' expression of discipleship, service and mission.

The Clewer Initiative especially draws on this spiritual blessing and calling, to help discipleship unfold in ways which proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to captives, and freedom for all God's children.

In our present challenging times, we need to make a special witness to show that God's church, His people, are open to serve and witness in whatever ways might reach out to those in need, and maintain a continuing expression of grace and goodness.


Our work to help churches and faith communities to contribute appropriately to the fight against modern slavery, looks especially to reach out to the most vulnerable – to enable rescue and restoration for those being cruelly exploited, and to encourage resilience and safety for those in situations of vulnerability.

But the current challenge of COVID-19 means that each of us has become vulnerable. Suffering restrictions of lifestyle, income, opportunity, free movement, social interaction. As we seek to support each other we need to redouble our efforts to look out for those systematically exploited by criminal operations, and who are often deprived of the key resources we can claim: faith, hope and love. This inside calling and nourishment needs outside expression.

The huge upheaval in work patterns and opportunities may well increase the number of those vulnerable to offers of the kind of fake work which becomes modern slavery.

As we remain vigilant in looking out for those who suffer most, and cooperate with partners and agencies, so as to help make the most effective responses – being the church in action – so we need to reflect, to pray and to plan, about how our calling can be open to further commitments and new challenges in the months ahead.

We will be seeking to collect stories of witness and reflection to help guide us together for this next stage of the journey.

God's churches are open. We must seek guidance as to how best to help this good news be known, especially in the lives of the most vulnerable.

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