Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Backward

I was given a warm welcome at the sanctuary on Sunday. It was my first time preaching in my home church after six months of rest. I was glad to do so. Sadly, there was no on-site congregation, as the pastoral team had decided that the sustained spike in Covid 19 cases, and the government tightening of rules made it wise for them to return to streaming the worship service without on-site congregation. 

Initially, I was informed to wear a mask while preaching. I tested different masks at home because if the sound was muffled, people will switch off rather quickly. I found a mask of spongy material that did not muffle my voice. However, by Saturday night I was informed that the authorities allowed speaking and singing by two singers without masks on if there is no on-site congregation. I felt such relief, because the mask is a barrier to effective communication.


It still felt awkward preaching to an empty church. Later when I checked out the recording online, I could see that my preaching was smooth and the awkwardness I felt was not disruptive nor disturbed the flow of the delivery. 

I counted five in the worship team and seven in the audio and media team. I felt for them. They have been fantastic in their commitment and stamina. They are so professional in their attitude and spirit even though they are all volunteers. I praise God for them, especially Zephaniah who leads the media team and Ethel who leads the worship ministry. The Lord will not forget the works they have done in his name and for the church. 


I noticed the traffic was lighter than usual due to the government’s strict directives to curb the spread of covid 19, especially the rule of no dine-in and social groups limited to only two. Human traffic at malls and restaurants would be affected too. A lot of businesses would be affected besides malls and F&B and entertainment establishments. I feel for the business owners. 

This setback is three steps forward and two steps backward. Before I retired, the church was streaming services with no on-site congregation. Then things improved and the church returned to on-site worship of our three congregations of 50 to 100, office staff meetings and prayer meetings and even prayer retreats. It was two steps forward and I even solemnised a wedding with a hundred guests in attendance. Then suddenly this frustrating announcement of a pull back to stricter Phase 2 precautions. Of all days, on a Friday. Which meant the stressed pastoral staff had to make a judgment call, and implement and communicate all the changes in 48 hours. They cancelled the on-site congregation worship on Sunday. I feel for the pastoral team. It can be draining, discouraging and frustrating to rapidly respond to all these sudden changes. Two steps backward. 

I also feel for those who had already planned wedding receptions and dinners on Sunday, two days before the announcements. The ups and downs, and back and forth, that wedding couples face will make what is meant to be one of their happiest memories, a nightmare, and their honeymoon a pity-party. Lord, have mercy and brighten these couples with a quiet peace and joy to sustain them in the midst of discouragement and helplessness.


Regardless of how we feel, we have to believe in the face of all this mess that “the Lord sits enthroned over the flood” (Psalm 29:10). Floods can be chaotic and disruptive and destructive but the Psalmist saw God as Sovereign over uncontrollable forces. We are still one step ahed from where we were during the circuit breaker lock-down. We have much to give thanks for compared to other countries struggling with larger populations and lesser resources and weaker governance. Therefore, stay calm and keep praying and walking in the Spirit. Rejoice in the Lord, and not in the sad situation we find ourselves in. Rejoice that He sits enthroned over the flood. 

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