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Welcome to our first River Times Online! Like so many things across our River family, it’s evolving to keep up with the challenging times that we’re living in. At the moment, I can’t put a beautifully printed copy into your hands but some wonderfully clever people have worked with me to reinvent it for our website! 
As you’ll see from the articles, God is very much at work in our midst despite the limitations of lockdowns and social distancing. In fact, as we’re being pushed to re-think, innovate, and be creative, we’re finding that more is possible even though we feel limited.
Many of you will be missing in-person church gatherings. Some of you won’t be! You might be finding it more convenient and efficient in a busy life to watch an online service on your own or to attend an online small group gathering. And of course we can plug into the great online offerings of any number of churches across the world from the comfort of our own homes. 
But this thing called church is about so much more than just watching online or even attending gatherings in-person. It’s about being church. We are the church. And there’s quite a bit of difference between the two!
When we simply watch online or attend church, the danger is that we just sit consuming what’s on offer. And the sad thing is that a church full of consumers just doesn’t have the passion, vision, and commitment to love Jesus, one another, or the world very well. 
But being church is about being contributors  - living our lives for Jesus, demonstrating God’s love by serving others, and sharing our faith with people. Jesus taught us that how much we love one other is key. Whether we’re online or in gathering in person, those fundamental things don’t change.
Our church family is here to carry on the mission of Jesus. Through us, God shows His grace and goodness to the world as we love one another well and serve each other with humility. Discipleship isn’t just done on our own online but happens in the messy hurly burly of relationships and human contact. Community is so important for our well-being. We need each other; we really do.
In this season, there are so many opportunities and possibilities for us to be church even though (and maybe because!) we can’t gather in person. As the River People of God, let’s be courageous and keep doing all we can to “Look on the face of Christ, Love everyone we meet, and Live like heaven is near”. As we do that, we’ll bring the life of Jesus and His kingdom wherever we go, lockdown or no lockdown!
When we can all gather freely again, we will do. But my hope and prayer is that it won’t simply be as attenders and consumers doing business as usual. I pray that we will have allowed Holy Spirit to reshape, renew, restore, refresh, reinvigorate, re-envision and re-align us through these difficult times with the glorious mission of Jesus: to BE His church!

Ceri Davies - Senior Leader, River Church

Ceri Davies, 11/11/2020