The Lockdown in Spain and France
The coronavirus pandemic has particularly affected Spain, causing around 40,000 deaths in two months. Since March 14 the entire country has been confined to their homes, even paralysing for a week all work considered non-essential. Although at first the government said that religious services would be allowed, in the end they have also been totally banned.
The plan to return to normality, which will be following successive phases and will be particular for each territory, envisages that in the most rapid cases normality would be achieved by the end of June – although it is actually going to be extended into the summer. At present most of the country is already in Phase 1, which allows the resumption of public worship, although only at a third of the capacity of the places of worship and under severe health and safety measures. However, neither Madrid, Barcelona nor the region of Castile has agreed to Phase 1. This means for us that the groups from Miranda de Ebro and Rubí will not be able to hold public worship yet. The return to normality seems to be rather slow for us.
Fasting and Prayer
We understand that the pandemic and the resulting confinement is a severe message from the Lord concerning His displeasure with our nations. Likewise, the fact that we cannot gather for public worship grieves us deeply. The congregation in Spain and France had a day of prayer and fasting at the beginning of the confinement in our countries, on March 21, and we also participated in the day of fasting and prayer summoned by the Church in Scotland for March 29. Since then, on the Lord’s Days, those brothers who are inclined to do so can voluntarily participate in a time of fasting and prayer, to continue to cry out to the Lord so that the pandemic will soon pass and we can once again have public worship.
However, the Lord’s protection also has been upon us during all this time. A brother in Miranda de Ebro, Joel Suárez, became ill with the coronavirus. Thanks to the Lord, the last test he had confirms that he is now free of the virus. Likewise, the brethren who were working, especially in Rubí, have also kept their jobs during all this time and there has been no case of need.
During the confinement in homes, we have also seen the wisdom and the faithfulness of the Lord in a special way, in the fact that He has provided the means of the Internet to continue conducting the services with the brethren. These internet services are not a substitute for public worship services, but at least the Lord has provided this way for His people to continue to receive the ministry of the Word and to maintain fellowship. Certainly, this confinement would have been much more detrimental to the church if it had occurred thirty years ago.
On Sabbaths we have worship at the usual time, in the morning and in the evening. We broadcast the services on Facebook Live. Since the broadcasting is done from our house in the country, the internet signal is sometimes not very good, but thanks to the Lord it has always been possible to broadcast. Also, on Thursday afternoons we have a prayer meeting on the Zoom platform. Every week these prayer meetings are joined by brethren from Colombia and Venezuela, led by Rev. Eliseo García. It is truly a time of much blessing to have fellowship in prayer with the brethren in America.
Spread of the Word
Another benefit which we have noticed from the internet services is that the spread of the Word has increased considerably during these weeks, and sometimes the services have been followed by non-believers as well. On Sabbath evening I am preaching on the Gospel in the book of Psalms. Preaching on the Internet is certainly like casting our bread upon the waters (Ecc. 11:1): only the Lord knows what the fruit and outcome of His preached Word will be.
The brethren in Pau (France) have also known the same confinement as in Spain, so they have also held Sabbath services on the Internet (by YouTube Live). However, the confinement has now ended for them; on Lord’s Day, May 17, they once again held public services, thanks to the Lord.
(Dr Ruiz maintains a website in the Spanish language at: www.westminsterhoy.wordpress.com)