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ss CMF news - Spring 2020,  Where do we stand – on rock or sand?

Where do we stand – on rock or sand?

Mark Pickering addresses the challenges and opportunities of the current global situation
It's hard to predict what shape the world will be in by the time CMF News hits your doormats. As I write in late March, schools and restaurants are closed, supermarkets are rationing to limit panic buying, and those over 70 are self-isolating for three months. Borders are closing around the world as deaths from coronavirus continue to rocket in Italy and Spain. The UK health service is creaking under the strain, and we are all bracing ourselves as we wonder how bad things will get before we see any improvement. Fear and anxiety are gripping many, and the very foundations of modern western civilisation have been shaken to the core. Such restrictions on daily life have not been seen since World War 2. This all drives us back to ask what our own foundations are as Christians. Jesus told the parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7:24-27. When the storm battered the house, it was the foundations that made all the difference. The house on sand collapsed, but the house on the rock stood firm. Jesus compares these builders with two kinds of people, both of whom heard his words; the crucial difference was whether they put them into practice. We know Jesus tells us not to worry (Matthew 7:25); we know he tells us to put our trust in him (John 14:1); we know he tells us not to fear death (Matthew 10:28). These are easy enough to assent to when the supermarkets have bread on the shelves, or when there are enough ventilators in ITU, and we don't have to decide who gets one and who doesn't. But in times like these when a pandemic is sweeping the globe, everything normal is upended, and the rubber really hits the road. Do we really trust him? Are we really confident in the face of our own mortality? We all need these reminders and never more so than now.

We knew that 2020 would be a challenging year for CMF. We've had to make difficult financial decisions, such as saying goodbye to two staff, and reducing the sessions of others (see finance section for further details). Now, due to coronavirus, the National Conference has been cancelled. Members across the country and beyond are facing challenges like never before. CMF staff are working hard to respond and offer support, even whilst working from home due to the closure of the office. Several members of staff are juggling this challenge with their own increased clinical demands, as colleagues go sick and services struggle to cope. Worries about Brexit seem a fond memory!

Yet we know that times of challenge and crisis can bring great opportunity. How can we best connect with and support our members, especially when so many are under pressure? What resources do they need, and how can we mobilise prayer and pastoral support for them? As the pandemic has forced us to do things differently, so we see the hand of God in what is happening:
  • Our prior decisions to omit the summer publications this year for financial reasons had already led us to plan a re-evaluation of how we engage with members digitally. Now that so many things are also moving to online and digital, our communications team have the space they need to respond to the new landscape in the coming months;
  • During 2019 we laid the groundwork for a new pastoral care and wellbeing ministry. Little did we know just how vital it would be for members in 2020 (see pastoral care section);
  • Regional Catalyst Teams have grown over the last two years. We are already seeing them step up to provide flexible, localised support and community for members in different areas, embedding prayer, pastoral support and fellowship as needs arise;
  • We had already planned to increase engagement with members in areas more distant from London who often find it hard to get to events such as the General Committee (AGM). Now that remote meetings are becoming the norm, we hope to incorporate this in some way into our AGM in June as we plan the next phase of CMF's ministry, into 2021 and beyond.
These are just a few ways in which we sense that God has been preparing us to respond to the current crisis in ways we could never have foreseen. His timing is perfect, and his foundations are sure. In these uncertain times, let's keep our feet firmly fixed on the Rock, and our eyes looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Mark Pickering is CMF Chief Executive
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