This is not a year I am likely to forget in a hurry! Who would have known that 2020 would have ended up being one of the most unusual, frustrating, and challenging—but also exciting years—in Solas’s history.
It all started so well. 2020 kicked off with one of the busiest few months I can remember, with dozens of events across the country. From helping churches put on small evangelistic events in coffee shops or at curry nights, to fantastic mission weeks at universities; from a packed Confident Christianity conference in Glasgow to speaking everywhere from Inverness to Dumfries to Derbyshire, the first three months flew by in a whirlwind.
And then came the COVID-19, lockdowns, face masks, social distancing, toilet roll hoarding, and general chaos. As I drove home from my final pre-lockdown event in Glasgow, I remember thinking “Well, it’ll be a few weeks of peace and quiet, and then things will open up again”. How I misjudged that one! Six months on and the New Normal is neither new, nor normal. Praise the Lord, however, that the gospel remains unchanged, no matter what the circumstances!
Like many organisations, Solas had to scramble to reinvent much of what we were doing when COVID hit. Thankfully we already had a large digital presence and I was terrifically encouraged to watch how the Solas team I’m privileged to lead, responded with creativity and energy as we moved all our work online. Evangelistic and training events became webinars and we were excited to see Christians, sceptics, and seekers tune in and engage with our live Q&As. With many secular magazines and newspapers reporting that more people than ever before were watching or engaging with religious content as the pandemic raised spiritual questions, we certainly saw that trend at Solas and were delighted to be able to answer people’s questions about the Christian faith and the hope it can uniquely bring in uncertain times. Despite the challenges, 2020 was nevertheless an exciting year for Solas in so many ways, most especially in our hiring our second evangelist and apologist, Gareth Black. Gareth is a very gifted young speaker and writer and is based in Belfast, where he’ll be expanding
Solas’s work across Northern Ireland and beyond. Solas’s new vision and strategic plan, also launched this year, looks to how Solas can develop our work of evangelism and training beyond Scotland and into the other parts of the UK—Northern Ireland, Wales, and the regions of England, and Gareth’s joining us is the first major step on that journey.
As we approach the end of the year, we’re excited, too, that many churches are now beginning to think about small events again and where audience sizes have to be limited due to things like social distancing, Solas is well equipped to be able to serve and resource churches—we’re now travelling frequently to speak to small groups and so if your church would like to put on a small evangelistic event, or a training evening, do reach out to us.
There are challenges ahead too, for which we’d value your prayers. We’ve been terrifically excited to see Solas’s finances improve even in these difficult times and we’re now over three-quarters of the way to being fully funded and sustainable. Unlike some other organisations, which are able to rely on massive funding from overseas, Solas has always aimed to be locally funded and supported, with a mix of major donors but also a massive base of supporters across the country giving a small amount each month. That strong local base has really helped us this year and we’re grateful we haven’t had to furlough staff but have been able to expand our work.
None of this would be possible without your prayers, your encouragement, and your financial support. We don’t take this support for granted— we know in these days that many are facing financial hardship and making the commitment to give to evangelism and mission can be costly. Thank you for standing with us and thank you for helping us reach more people than ever before with the good news of Jesus, the good news that there is hope, even in uncertain times. I pray that whatever the next year brings, you will know God’s peace and provision, and that he provides you with many opportunities to share the good news of Jesus with those he brings across your path.
Dr Andy Bannister