Our nation is taking measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. For most people this is a frightening experience: we are forced to contemplate our mortality, and face daily challenges in maintaining a degree of normality. Many remain concerned for those who are more vulnerable for a range of health and other reasons. In this time of need the nation is again turning to the members of the Armed Services to help protect and provide for those who need practical help the most.
Three months ago, towards the end of March, the United Kingdom began to introduce measures in an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus. This has been an unexpected and turbulent time for many people, with jobs and family networks turned upside down or lost altogether, some temporarily, some regrettably permanently. Many have lost loved ones, while others have had their lives changed for ever.
Like most other charities, SASRA had to respond to mitigate the risk to our staff, whilst striving to maintain the vital gospel work that our Scripture Readers undertake each day. Around half of both our front-line Scripture Readers and support staff were furloughed. For those who remained at work, they faced the huge challenge of moving as much as possible into the online space.
The month of June has seen our governments signalling a slow return towards normality. The Armed Services have re-opened training establishments, and social distancing restrictions have permitted face-to-face work to resume. The first of our furloughed Scripture Readers has returned to work, with others to follow in the coming weeks.
With church buildings closed and physical meetings not possible, our Area Representatives have also been forced to move online. To maintain communication with our supporters, we have sent email newsletters, produced regular video updates from each of our Scripture Readers and delivered “virtual deputations” into church meetings using Zoom and other such platforms. Work is ongoing to produce a variety of pre-recorded video content, which will be made available to churches from the end of July onwards.
We remain conscious of our responsibility to provide pastoral care to our staff, and of the responsibility we bear to our supporters. Many of us have been blessed by phone conversations with supporters, and we have been tremendously encouraged by the many messages we have received over this time. Our monthly “Virtual Prayer Meeting” for supporters is a blessing both to our staff, and the supporters who can join us to hear updates on the work and to pray one with another.
We are very appreciative of those supporters who recognising the challenges faced by charities at this time have made extra donations to SASRA. Both regular and non-regular giving are up for April and May compared with the past two years. Total income, however, is significantly down on previous years.
Donations from churches have been particularly impacted, as local churches have no doubt faced their own financial challenges and perhaps also as our Area Reps have not been able to meet with them in person.
In light of this, we would ask all our supporters, both individuals and churches, to prayerfully consider the financial needs of the Association.
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 1:2–3 ESV)