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Recently, I had the privilege of attending a major international conference in San Francisco. Well, I almost attended it. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, international travel was impossible and California certainly lacked its usual appeal in current circumstances. The whole conference moved online and the 20,000 delegates joined in from their own home locations.
From my home in Fort William I attended conference sessions with people as diverse as Winnie Byanyima, the head of UNAids, Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Dr Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the US President, and any number of scientists, experts, celebrities, and campaigners.
The last running of the conference was two years ago in Amsterdam. While many of the sessions were very interesting and informative, the most useful part was just talking to people working in different settings in a whole range of countries, and hearing their stories.
This time round, the information and the presentations were as impressive as ever, and it was amazing to see how much could be achieved online. However, the one thing missing was all the personal contacts.
Jesus didn’t have much time for the sort of religion that was heavy on rules and ceremony, but didn’t make time for people. Since the whole point of religious faith was to connect people with God, a version of faith which forgot about people wasn’t much use. That’s why he argued with those who thought keeping sabbath rules mattered more than making sick people well.
In recent months churches have been doing their best to stay in touch with people and provide worship resources. Some of them are very helpful and very creative. But there really is no substitute for spending time with people, and most of us are looking forward to that more than anything else as lockdown eases.
Jesus said: ‘The son of man came to seek and save the lost.’ Giving others our time and our attention has never been more important.