Very early in the year, Frances, an artist friend, felt prompted to uproot the hedge in her front garden. It was replaced with a border of lavender and violas, providing a cheerful open aspect to the space.

Then lock-down happened and places of worship were closed.

Now, when God donated talents to Frances, He gave a generous supply of creative energy and enthusiasm along with artistic ability. So, from under the kitchen sink, she extracted a melamine shelf and began to display encouraging messages for passers by, an example being, We may not be OUT but we needn’t be DOWN.

A cross made from branches tied together attracted attention in the garden just before Easter. Frances wondered if she could dare to stand beside it and sing on Good Friday. A dear Catholic friend provided accompaniment with a guitar and the music soon had neighbours joining in with hymn singing. Some sat in gardens, others stood with social distancing in the street. With the approval of the local constabulary, the signs began to circulate on Twitter and Facebook, resulting in several hundred ‘likes’ in 24 hours. Then the local newspaper got involved whilst the number of signs steadily increased beyond 80. There were cartoons too, on weekdays, with Bible texts on Sundays. The weekly sing-along audience continued to increase with the provision of vinyl-covered word sheets, along with Bible readings and shared prayers.

In a time of family bereavement, neighbours from all church denominations (and none) offered support in prayer, bringing love and encouragement to each other. It became like a revisit of the bonds and fellowship of the early church.

Frances declares, “The Lord God is doing mighty things with His church, locked up, and Him free to do what He has waited for years to do with us!”

In the Gospel of John ch20v19, we find the disciples on the evening of the first day of the week, meeting together behind locked doors. Jesus came and stood amongst them and said, “Peace be with you.” The locked doors were no hindrance to the resurrected Son of God. He came amongst the fearful, intimidated disciples to impart an essential message of reassurance, courage and commission for times ahead.

Holman Hunt’s famous painting depicts Jesus standing outside a door, patiently waiting for a willing response. It is in contrast to the appearance of Jesus, coming straight into the locked room, knowing the urgency with which his presence was needed to fortify them for difficult tasks ahead. He would be returning to his heavenly home, assigning the inspirational care of his disciples, present and future, to the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit. God is to be found at work in all situations for good to those who love Him, find Him, trust Him. The doors being shut, Jesus still comes. Churches around our nation have been exploring new ways to operate, to offer support, practical and emotional to many who are distressed by the upheavals that have hit our society. Complacency is being forced into the shadows as fresh vigour and light flourish in unlikely places. The shut doors are no barrier to the Spirit of God.

At a time of tragedy and loss, and a shaking of the nations, we are learning how to do things differently. The doors being locked, Jesus came, bringing peace and purpose. So are we listening?

 Iris Niven

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