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This morning, Stephen talked to us about church… Church life has obviously been hugely affected by the pandemic, since we were not able to meet together in person for so long (we are looking to re-start face-to-face meetings on 2nd August), but even though we have been affected by the pandemic, we are not infected! The only infection we truly long for is to have Christ in our lives.

‘Virtual church’, where we have livestreamed services, has involved looking at a screen and listening via speakers (on phones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers). We’re grateful for such technology, but once we are gathering together again in person, we will have to adapt what our services are like because of government restrictions. No matter what restrictions are in place (social distancing, extra cleaning, using hand sanitisers or masks and not having congregational singing), however, what is inside us – the hope, joy and life of God – needs to be expressed. Luke 19:37-40 reminds us that if we do not praise, the rocks will cry out – and Stephen had a rock to remind us that even inanimate objects can be used as expressions of praise by God if He so desires!

Praising God is not an optional extra; it’s an essential part of our lives as we are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Each one of us needs to express our love, adoration and praise to God, even if we have to find new ways to do this. 1 Pet 2:4-5 reminds us that Jesus is the living stone and we too are like living stones, being built into a spiritual house by God. Unlike the inanimate stone held by Stephen, we are living (or animate) stones – a collection of God’s people known as the church. God gives life to us so that these living stones, animated by Christ’s Spirit in us, can become a reflection of who God is and what He is doing. It may well be a challenge to gather together in the near future, something very different to what we have been used to in the past, but to exalt God is at the heart of church life and this is what we are called to do – whether we’re physically together or apart, whether we face restrictions or not. God is always worthy of our praise – so let’s be creative and inventive in how we praise Him!