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Response to Pandemic

Last updated: 8 January, 2021

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:23-25).

The Inspire Movement has been unknowingly prepping for pandemic over many years! Our ecology of practices (missional discipleship, fellowship bands of 3-4 people, and house fellowships of around 12 people) is a way of being community on mission that can adapt to our present circumstances in a variety of ways.

Covenant of Mutual Care

The ethos of Inspire gatherings is one of high commitment and mutual care in fellowship. To this end, we have developed a general Fellowship Covenant which we encourage people to adopt, whether or not there is a pandemic. Click here to see the covenant.

Online Meeting

The most common response to social distancing and isolation during the pandemic is to meet online using video-conferencing technologies like Zoom and other social media. Inspire has used online bands for years (click here for more), along with video-conferencing for missioner hangouts and learning communities in our School of Discipleship. Generally speaking, house fellowships are not intended to meet online, but might have members join occasionally by video-conference if they are sick or away from home.

It is possible for an entire house fellowship to meet by video-conference, and it is better to do this than cease to meet at all. The reason house fellowship has the potential to function online is because it can be an extension of the embodied fellowship they ordinarily share. The general ethos of the Inspire Movement is to promote embodied fellowship, believing that it may be supplemented but not substituted by online means (see articles on mission and discipleship in a digital culture, referenced below). During the pandemic, we encourage people to consider whether and how they might continue to meet face to face, in a safe way, and where it is legally permissible.

Embodied Fellowship

As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are not afraid of the virus or of one another. We have a God who heals the sick and raises the dead. But fearlessness should not be equated with irresponsibility. We are also susceptible to infection and should be concerned to preserve life. As citizens of earth, we must also submit to the governing authorities under which we live. We have a God who also works through scientific research and social policy.

Our present challenge is how to live in compliance with government advice and regulations while being creative about how we visibly embody the truth of the gospel. This posture should make the church stand out in the world, especially in times such as this. Where permissible, meeting in person as small groups can be a way to defeat the spirit of fear that seeks to reign over us, and contribute to our distinctive witness in the world. We believe it is a matter of Christian social responsibility to share fellowship in person, to hold one another accountable for how we live among others, and to remain active in engaging God’s mission among our neighbors.

Refer to our Fellowship Covenant for guidance on mutual care.

The following points of practical wisdom are not a prescription, but guidelines for consideration as we reflect on our particular contexts around the world. They provide guidance about how to meet, where it is lawful. But it is important to comply with governing authorities in your own local context, as they issue updates. We should be vigilant to live as good citizens of earth as well as the Kingdom of God.

  • The general recommendation globally is to limit any kind of gathering in public spaces and to exercise the practices of social distancing. The CDC has advised that all mass gatherings should be cancelled and small gatherings should be limited to groups of ten, employing social distancing measures.
  • Inspire fellowship bands are only ever 3 or 4 people, and house fellowships can easily be limited to 10 people, dividing up if needed. None of our Inspire fellowships are open meetings, in the sense that anyone just drops in. They have the strong bonds of extended family, meeting in private homes. New people are included only if they are known well and if the whole community agrees. Restricting ourselves to such gathering can be a way of maintaining human contact while also preventing the spread of the virus.
  • Because of their inherent ethos, Inspire fellowships can meet face to face and embrace social distancing measures while doing so. They should find spaces where they can approximate the six foot / two metre rule. Where necessary face masks may be worn. Remember that any kind of gathering in person carries the risk of asymptomatic transmission, which everyone should discuss and weigh carefully for themselves.
  • When gathered in person, members should be vigilant to maintain personal hygiene and work together to ensure the homes in which they meet are kept scrupulously clean before, during and after meeting. It is recommended that fellowship bands and house fellowships consider meeting outside in the open air where possible.
  • Members should not meet in person if they are vulnerable, sick themselves, or have been around sick people. If people must self-isolate, or choose to do so for reasons of conscience, then fellowships might consider whether and how to facilitate them joining by video-conference. Either way, members of the fellowship should discern how best to care for each other, prayerfully and practically, when they are unable to meet in person.

Engaging Mission

Sharing fellowship of any kind should never be an end in itself, but overflow in mission to our neighbors. One of the dangers of fellowship is turning inward to satisfy our thirst for individual piety, and forgetting that fulness of life only comes as we give it away.

This pandemic presents a unique opportunity for mission in a time when people are immersed in a spirit of fear and death. We may leverage the opportunities provided by online meeting, but embodied fellowship is a unique witness to the gospel in a culture of fearful isolation. Our witness to fearless love is made tangible through safe and creative forms of embodied outreach in everyday life. See our weekly Beacon of Hope for ideas and stories.

It is important to remember that the power of the gospel can be embodied in apparently small things, such as offering to pray, fetch groceries, or drop off a cooked meal, even on the doorstep or the end of a driveway. When serving others at some point of need, members should also maintain appropriate social distancing. Pastoral care by phone or social media is good, but not enough. Being really present to people and seeing others face to face, even from a safe distance, could save the lives of lost and lonely people. Inspire fellowships should neither cease to meet in some form, nor forget to provoke one another towards love and good works.

If you need suggestions for how to share in embodied fellowship and mission, even under the conditions of enforced confinement, please sign up for our Beacon of Hope newsletter here.

Practical Experience to Date

Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, Inspire fellowships have been meeting in person, under our guidelines, wherever it has been legally permitted. During this time, we have seen a lot of adaptation and multiplication in both fellowship bands, house fellowships and learning community. To the best of our knowledge, and by God’s grace, no-one has been infected through gathering in one of our fellowships.

It seems that one sign of the times is many people asking deep questions about the nature of church, real fellowship and authentic discipleship. Inspire has made its own contribution to what the Spirit is saying the churches at this time. Please read our Newsletters, or consider participating in online courses through our School of Discipleship.

Mission and Discipleship in Digital Culture

Below are a couple of scholarly articles written by the International Director.

  • On the question of online church, see Philip Meadows, “Mission and Discipleship in a Digital Culture”, Mission Studies, 29 (2012).
  • For a discussion on the relationship between virtual and embodied means of discipleship, see Philip Meadows, “Mission-Shaped Discipleship in a Virtual World”, Wesleyan Theological Journal 49:2 (Fall, 2014). 

Practical Information on COVID-19

The following information is from the Centre for Disease Control in the USA, but is also available in reliable national and international sources. See below for links.

How do I know if I was exposed?

You generally need to be in close contact with a sick person to get infected. Close contact includes:

  • Living in the same household as a sick person with COVID-19
  • Caring for a sick person with COVID-19
  • Being within 6 feet of a sick person with COVID-19 for about 10 minutes, OR
  • Being in direct contact with secretions from a sick person with COVID-19 (e.g., being coughed on, kissing, sharing utensils, etc.)

What should I do if I am a close contact to someone with COVID-19 but am not sick?

  • You should monitor your health for fever, cough and difficulty breathing during the 14 days after the last day you were in close contact with the sick person with COVID-19. You should not go to work or school and should avoid public places for 14 days.

Mild Symptoms:

  • If you’re at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider early, even if your illness is mild. Your healthcare provider will evaluate your health and decide whether you need to be tested.
  • If you’re NOT at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19, you should stay home away from others. Follow your local government advice for contacting health-care providers. (See links below.)

Severe Symptoms:

  • If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. 
  • Emergency warning signs include:
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion or difficulty waking up
    • Bluish lips or face

Questions

If you have any questions or feedback for Inspire, please send us an email at: contact@inspiremovement.org

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