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by Michael Ford last modified 06 Nov, 2020 11:29 PM

While communal worship inside our church buildings is paused for the next month due to the lockdown restrictions, our parishes have continued with whatever has increased attendance for broadcast services and reach via internet, phone and email, and some are continuing with their 'new normal' of innovation.

The buzzword in at least one Weymouth church is “omnibenevolence”, offered as a comfort to communities facing fresh social isolation and especially loneliness.

The Revd Jo Haine, Vicar of St Mary’s and Emmanuel, assured her congregations and the public at large: “You are never alone. God is always with you”, providing great comfort and mental strength in the most difficult times.

Neil Biles, Town Centre Chaplain at St Mary’s, introduced the word to the congregation attending Sunday morning worship and those watching via Zoom, in the context of the continuing series of weekly talks on the “Fruit of the Spirit” [Galatians 5:22-23] now in its 6th week with the focus on “Goodness”.

An Internet search reveals the word omnibenevolence comes from the Latin 'omni-' (all), 'bene-' (good), and 'volens' (willing). The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as "unlimited or infinite benevolence".

Neil says: "It has great relevance during the latest lockdown.

"As the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 31:2 says in reference to God’s word: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness". And this should also be expressed in the way His people conduct themselves in carrying out His work today.

"Goodness shows itself in your life if you give it time and focus and allow your heart to be filled with the goodness of God.
Goodness shows generosity towards others.
Goodness shows itself in integrity, in the way we conduct our lives.
Goodness does the right thing even when things or people aren’t right towards us.
Goodness shows courage in the things we do for the good that God has done for us.
Goodness overcomes evil, overcomes the bad things that happen to us by others, we show good despite what people say or do.

"Never has there been a more important moment to display God’s omnibenevolence. And this is highlighted by the arrangements being made to ensure a closed church door is no hindrance to continuing God’s work of love, benevolence, kindness and comfort.

"Churches in the Diocese gained much experience during the first lockdown, and this will be applied during the second, with technology playing a key role. That means virtual services continuing via Zoom, YouTube and Facebook links. People without an internet link are being encouraged to use the 'Dial a Sermon' phone service."

As Jo Haine stressed, church members are making great efforts to ensure as many people as possible are reached with the comforting message: “God is with you and is watching over you.

"Even if you live alone you don’t have to face this alone, the church community is there to support each other."

"And that," says Neil, "should inspire our own efforts to spread the message."

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