The new lockdown regulations in Scotland are a huge challenge to the church and indeed to all worshipping communities. For churches, gathering is not just something we do. It’s part of our identity in Christ to be part of the gathered community of believers. We belong together. As one body, saved and called by one Lord, we praise together, seek God together and are used by Him through the Holy Spirit to speak into each other’s lives. Scripture reminds us to gather together, and since its birth a mark of the church has been its gathering.

Our gathering demonstrates our love for one another and opens a window on the new reality of the kingdom of God. We pray and share sacraments together and we remember the Lord together.

The gathering of believers is not just about the growth of our faith but also about spiritual and emotional wellbeing as we unite with friends and come together in a commonality of life and belief. It is family and it is where many people feel recognised and affirmed.

For all these reasons and many more the closure of churches is not just about halting and event or stopping a service. It is far more central than that; it is about corporate life and faith and flourishing.


However, the dilemma for us is that in this moment we also want to be good citizens. We understand the risks that every community face and we don’t want to do anything to allow the threat of the virus to grow. We want to demonstrate love by not thinking first of ourselves but of others.

So what can we do practically?

As Evangelical Alliance we are representing our members to the Scottish Government. This week we have met (alongside other faith leaders) with Jason Leitch, the Scottish Government’s national clinical director. We are also writing to Aileen Campbell, the cabinet secretary for communities, to highlight our concerns about church closures. 

We do think it is a mistake and an overreach to mandate church closures even while we practically advise our members to follow the law and minimise in-person contact – even within those limited exemptions that are still allowed (such as recording services, pastoral visiting and essential recovery support). There is a subtle but important difference between voluntarily choosing to restrict ourselves in gathering and being mandated to do so by the state. 

Having said that, we do not believe we are being treated in a discriminatory fashion or that the Government is motivated by any sense of anti-Christian bias, so it is important we abide by both the Spirit and the letter of the law as we seek to love our neighbour. We recognise the almost impossibly difficult decisions government has to make just now, and we as the church in Scotland must continue to lift our leaders up in prayer at this time. 

We can also urge that restrictions on churches are lifted as soon as possible, and this will be our focus over the coming days. In level 4, church gatherings could remain open with up to 20 people, and we will be urging for consideration of reintroducing that as soon as possible. We have already received assurances that churches will be among the first places to reopen, and we will look to ensure this remains the case.

As local churches there are also important things we can be doing. We are all tired and we need to pray for our church leaders as they lead us through this again. Can we find the energy and creativity to keep engaging with each other and our community? Can we meet in twos and walk and pray? Can we send more emails and prayers to others? Can we set up prayer chains and phone one another?

As we saw with the release of Stories of Hope in December, during the first lockdown churches were at forefront of serving our communities with lives utterly transformed as a result. We are in a tougher season now, in winter, and there is less goodwill, community spirit and energy around. But could we again be the people of God who look outwards, serve our local communities and shine the light of Christ in what continues to be a dark winter for our nation? 

Even as we look forward in faith to the eventual end of this season with the good news of vaccines, can we use this moment to remind ourselves and speak to our nation that our ultimate hope is not the impact on arms but the impact on hearts, because yesterday, today and forever, thankfully, hope has a name. 

At the Evangelical Alliance we are with you and for you. If you need any advice, prayer or support please don’t hesitate to get in touch.