At the end of December, Jim Henry retired from part-time service with the Mission. We are delighted that he will continue as an Associate worker. We also ‘bid farewell’ to our Office Secretary, Linda Lumley, at the end of 2020. Linda had faithfully served in the office for 19 years and we wish her well in retirement.

At the beginning of January, Steve Cook was appointed as a full-time Evangelist, having completed a period as a Probationary Evangelist. Also, at the start of 2021, we welcomed Stuart Lythgoe as a full-time Evangelist. You can read Stuart’s testimony here.

We praise God for His provision of these brethren and commend them to your prayers.

Coronavirus Update

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced a new level of restrictions to be applied across England from midnight. This followed Scotland’s First Minister announcing similar restrictions for north of the border. With every part of the United Kingdom under what has become known as a ‘lockdown’, non-essential retail outlets have closed and our high streets have fallen silent once again. As a consequence, our normal open-air practice has ceased until further notice. Throughout the Coronavirus situation we have sought to act wisely, protecting our workers, those we come into contact with and our testimony. This curtailment will be kept under review so that open-airs may restart as soon as it is legal and safe to do so.

Thankfully, some open-airs took place in ‘Tier 3’ areas of England yesterday, and we are grateful for those opportunities. How we long and pray for the easing of restrictions so that open-air evangelism may resume. May the Lord grant us different and varied opportunities to communicate the gospel in the coming days.

Although 2021 already has its frustrations, we continue to trust in our Sovereign God and seek His help, encouragement and guidance. As the Sons of Korah knew and could testify, ‘O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You!’ (Psalm 84:12).

 

5th January 2021

Coronavirus Update

As you will appreciate, the Coronavirus situation is ever-changing. Since yesterday’s communication there have been further developments which impact our work as a Mission. As ever, we seek to honour the Lord in our response to tighter restrictions being applied to parts of the UK.

England

The Prime Minister announced today that from midnight on Sunday, 20th ‘Tier 4’ restrictions will be applied to certain areas.

In south-east England, the areas affected are:

  • Greater London (all 32 boroughs and the City of London)
  • Kent
  • Buckinghamshire (including Milton Keynes)
  • Berkshire
  • Surrey (excluding Waverley)
  • Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth
  • Rother and Hastings

In the east of England, the areas affected are:

  • Bedfordshire
  • Hertfordshire
  • Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring)
  • Peterborough

‘Tier 4’ will see the closure of all non-essential retail outlets and a ‘Stay at home’ order is being issued to residents. In the light of this, open-airs in these areas will cease. Staff Evangelists and Associate workers who reside in these affected areas may travel for work purposes (i.e. travel to open-air venues in Tiers 1-3). Registered Supporters who are residents of ‘Tier 4’ areas should not travel to open-airs.

Wales

The First Minister of Wales has brought forward restrictions planned for 28th December and they will be applied from midnight tonight. This level of restrictions will see non-essential retail outlets close and so, sadly, open-airs will cease with immediate effect. Staff living in Wales may travel for work purposes. Associate workers based in Wales may travel to open-airs in England, if they would normally do so.

Scotland

From Boxing Day, 26th December, mainland Scotland will enter into ‘Tier 4’ restrictions with the closure of non-essential retail outlets. Therefore, open-airs will cease in Scotland on 26th December.

Northern Ireland

Tighter restrictions will be applied from Saturday, 26th December and will also see the closure of non-essential retail outlets. Therefore, open-airs will cease in Northern Ireland from Boxing Day, 26th December.

Each devolved administration will review these restrictions at regular intervals. We, as a Mission, will monitor the situation and will resume open-airs in each area when appropriate. Your continued prayer is appreciated. Where open-airs are able to continue in the run-up to Christmas, please pray that the Lord will use greatly use these opportunities for His glory and the furtherance of His Kingdom.

 

19th December 2020

Coronavirus Update

Both the administrations of Northern Ireland and Wales have announced stricter Coronavirus measures. In Northern Ireland, a six-week ‘lockdown’ starting on December 26th will see the closure of all non-essential shops and businesses, with the ‘Stay at Home’ message re-introduced for the first week of restrictions. In Wales, non-essential shops will cease trading at the close of business on Christmas Eve and will not reopen for at least three weeks. Wales will enter its ‘Tier 4’ restrictions on Monday, 28th December with measures being reviewed every three weeks. It is, therefore, with sadness we conclude that open-airs will cease in Northern Ireland and Wales after Christmas Eve.

So far, no further restrictions have been announced for England and so open-airs here may continue (subject to our current measures in place for safe working). Please see previous communications regarding this.

Scotland’s regions that were subject to ‘Tier 4’ restrictions were downgraded on Friday, 11th December which gave the ‘green light’ for open-airs to resume north of the border. While Scottish regions remain at ‘Tier 3’ or below, open-airs may continue.

As the Governments of the United Kingdom alter restrictions in their response to COVID-19, we, as a Mission, will monitor the developing situation and take appropriate action where necessary.

In this advent season, please pray that precious open-air opportunities may be used of the Lord to introduce many to the Saviour, who is Christ Jesus the Lord.

 

18th December 2020

Coronavirus Update

We are grateful to the Lord that despite localised restrictions, open-air evangelism continues in many parts of the United Kingdom. Yesterday, representatives from the Committee and Evangelists met to review the Mission’s current practice and procedures, (which we have committed to doing regularly). One of the challenges we face in such times is to facilitate gospel work within the ‘spirit and letter’ of the law. Whereas open-air work is currently curtailed in Northern Ireland and Tier 4 areas of Scotland, our workers are able to operate in England and Wales.

In England, the application of the ‘tier system’ does not prevent our staff Evangelists, Associate workers and Committee members from leading or attending open-airs. This is because travel for work purposes is permitted. We feel it would not be wise for Registered Supporters to travel between tier categories. Whilst travel between tiers is permitted for reasons like accessing public services or attending a place of worship (where COVID measures are in place), the context of the open-air is different. Therefore, Registered Supporters should not travel to a different ‘tier’ number to their home area.

The UK Government has classed ‘tier 3’ as ‘Very High Alert’ and therefore car sharing should not occur in these areas. Workers and Registered Supporters should, therefore, travel independently.

We acknowledge and respect the fact that some of our workers do not feel comfortable with engaging in open-air work at present. Whilst we believe our measures in place and the open-air setting minimise transmission risk, we continue to urge each worker and Registered Supporter to carefully consider the risks to their health before returning to the streets. There is no shame or embarrassment for those unable to go out at present.

Throughout this process we have sought to operate in a way that does not detract from the good news we proclaim, ensuring our conduct is honouring to the Lord. To that end, we encourage our workers to be vigilant in keeping to OAM’s hygiene, social distancing and operational measures. We seek to be sensitive to those who have serious fears and concerns owing to the Coronavirus and may object to how we operate. ‘Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom’ (James 3:13).

 

8th December 2020

Coronavirus Update

Recent restrictions applied by the different Governments of our nation have seen our Evangelists and Associate workers ‘confined to quarters’ once more. Thankfully, with the end of the ‘firebreak’ in Wales, open-airs resumed on Monday, 9th November and we have seen many encouragements since being back on the streets. As the national restrictions in England expire on Wednesday, 2nd December, a new tier system is being introduced and applied. The essence of these coronavirus restrictions is to ensure households are not mixing. Socialising has been an issue (in pubs, restaurants, homes etc.) resulting in social distancing being contravened.

However, these tiered restrictions do not force the closure of non-essential retail outlets (shops, salons etc.) which have measures in place to ensure social distancing. These are due to reopen once the tier system is brought in. In view of this, we are able to release our Staff Evangelists and Associate workers in England from Wednesday, 2nd December to resume open-airs. These open-airs will operate under the Mission’s existing coronavirus hygiene measures and social distancing procedures.

We are grateful to the Lord that open-airs may resume in England very soon. In the run-up to Christmas, we pray that this will be a wonderful opportunity to point many to the Saviour, who, ‘came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy1:15). Please join us in praying for this. Please also pray that open-airs will be able to restart in Scotland and Northern Ireland soon.

As you are aware, the Mission is committed to keeping the current method of practice under regular review. The next review meeting will, God-willing, take place on Monday, 7th December with representatives from the workers and the Committee. Your prayer for that meeting is also appreciated.

 

27th November 2020

Coronavirus Update

Over the weekend we saw the Prime Minister deliver the news of further, tighter, restrictions which will be applied across England from Thursday, 5th November. Throughout this Coronavirus situation we have sought to act in a way which is both safe and legal, but above all in a way that brings glory to God.

Whilst we could argue that for ‘charitable services’ and ‘work purposes’ (which cannot be undertaken at home) we should continue, that would be neither wise nor practical. In a watching world, we would not want to bring the gospel we proclaim into disrepute.

It is, therefore, with sadness that we announce all open-air work in England will cease from Thursday, 5th November and will remain suspended for the duration of these restrictions. As with our existing measures, this will be kept under review. We pray that open-air work will be able to resume in early December.

During this time our office will remain open and we will continue to fully employ our staff Evangelists. We will seek to use this time wisely, developing our online evangelistic videos coupled with increased time for study, prayer and preparation. With exercise from one’s home permitted, we would, once again, encourage the use of literature boxes placed on garden walls etc.

The scene across the UK varies from region to region. During Northern Ireland’s ‘Circuit breaker’ restrictions have not required the closure of non-essential retail and so open-airs may continue as normal. In Scotland, areas not covered by ‘Tier 4’ can see open-air work continue as normal. In Wales, the ‘Firebreak’ restrictions have seen the curtailment
of open-air activities until Monday, 9th November.

The Committee will meet online on Wednesday, 18th November where a review of our current practice procedures will take place. The Committee Members would value your prayers as they further discuss the arrangements in the weeks ahead.

 

2nd November 2020

Coronavirus Update

With increased fear in our nation owing to the Coronavirus situation we take seriously our commitment to regularly reviewing our current measures and procedures. Whilst not wanting to ‘over-react’, neither must we ‘under-react’ to the challenges presented to us. As a Mission, we seek to honour the Lord in a watching world, ensuring that our ‘conduct is worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (Philippians 1:27a).

Thankfully, the introduction of the ‘tier system’ of restrictions in England hasn’t impeded open-air work. Travel restrictions for these affected areas are ‘guidance’ and not ‘law’ and travel for ‘work purposes’ or ‘charitable services’ are permitted. For these reasons also, the ‘rule of six’ does not apply to us. However, with tension abounding, it is incumbent upon us to carefully follow the Mission’s current measures which are designed to protect the testimony of the gospel we share, our workers and those we come into contact with.

In Wales, the situation is slightly different with travel restrictions forming law. This has meant that our Associate workers, and more recently our Field Operations Manager, haven’t been able to enter/leave areas of increased restrictions to lead open-airs. That has meant some open-air venues could not be visited. However, thankfully, the legislation and accompanying guidance do permit open-airs to continue within affected areas (provided the worker and Registered Supporter are residents of that region). However, this has all been superseded by a national ‘lockdown’ in Wales where people are required by law to ‘stay home’ as much as possible and many sectors in society having to close. With the closure of non-essential retail outlets, we are back to the  situation of March and, therefore, sadly, no open-airs may take place in Wales until these restrictions are lifted.

The recent review meeting identified areas where it is safe and legal for us to ease restrictions. The knowledge of how the virus is spread has increased over recent months and the greater risk is from airborne droplets. In the open-air these risks are minimal, especially with social distancing and hygiene measures. Transmission risks from touched surfaces are now known to be less of a risk than previously thought. Having proceeded cautiously hitherto, we know believe it is time to reintroduce active literature distribution.

Those comfortable with doing so may now offer tracts/leaflets to passers by in order to engage with them. These should be offered to those approaching us, thus giving the person the opportunity to decline if they do not want to engage with us or are nervous about receiving something. As per our hygiene procedures, hand sanitiser should be used at regular intervals and you should avoid handling large bundles of leaflets at any one time. Once literature has been handed over, please ensure social distancing is maintained. Risk assessments are being updated to incorporate these changes to demonstrate our diligence in these matters as a society and also to satisfy our insurance liabilities.

We were also able to adjust our stance on car-sharing (giving lifts to the open-air). Government guidance now permits this but only where it cannot be avoided. Therefore, where a Worker/Registered Supporter cannot reasonably make their own way to the open-air, then car sharing is permitted for one additional household as passengers. This is subject to mitigating measures to protect driver and passengers. OAM guidance to this affect has been issued to our all staff and Associate workers.

We appreciate that some of our measures have been frustrating to some but we hope we have demonstrated that our approach has been prayerful and careful in seeking to be safe and legal. We trust that these new measures in place will greatly facilitate the gospel going forth in our land in a way that is honouring to the Lord and is wise and winsome towards those we meet. As the Apostle Paul encouraged the believers at Colosse, ‘Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving’ (Colossians 4:2a).

22nd October 2020