HOW DID WE MANAGE COVID SINCE MARCH 2020
In March 2020 our normal vibrant, active church community and family suddenly faced lock down. No church services, no activities, just stay at home. Initially we assumed this would be for a few weeks and members pulled together to make sure the most vulnerable were catered for. However, we soon realised this situation had no definite end and very quickly we moved to Zoom services. All of these available on the church’s You tube and website. They were accompanied by weekly worship from home sheets which followed the outline of the Zoom service containing hymns, readings, prayers, reflections and usually pictures and were especially useful for those who were unable to use Zoom.
Along with the worship sheets we developed a weekly newsletter offering church family news, a prayer, “virtual flower pictures” to replace the flowers normally given in church to remember a loved one or special occasion. and the “extra bit” from a member reflecting on life, telling a funny story etc., again accompanied by a photograph. These sheets have also encouraged us to evidence and share individual examples of worship such as our Good Friday and then Easter Sunday crosses. These Worship Sheets and weekly newsletters were either hand delivered or sent by e mail or post to about 200 people a week and by end April 2021 over 60 had been produced.
As weeks passed:
We became aware that some members of the congregation were not easily able to access Zoom . Fortunately we had a superb person with the skills to adapt old lap tops etc. so that with a one button touch the less technically competent could join us. This has proved invaluable as has the training we have been able to offer so that our normal services, before churches started to reopen, had over 80 devices (well over 100 people) join us visually or on the telephone. Since we have been able to have limited numbers in church we still have over 50 devices joining the service. The added bonus has been that family and friends from over the country and those not whose health would preclude regular in person, worship to join us. Our after church coffee and chat and been replaced by virtual coffee and chat. This has offered the opportunity for technical advice but also, because chat rooms are random, people find that they are chatting not only to their friends but to other church members.
Almost from the outset, a weekly prayer video of approx 5 minutes in length has been produced by our minister and this is accessible via the church’s You tube and website. Again these have been shared widely outside the immediate church family. Now we have returned to worship in our building these weekly prayer videos stopped at the end of May 2021.
*Our Monthly church newsletter continued to be produced now on line as well as in it’s usual paper format with copies being posted or collected from the manse.
*Leadership and church meetings moved to Zoom.
But what of our other groups:
* Faith & Fellowship –has held a variety of different four weekly sessions on Zoom
* Our women’s group, Wesley Club, have “met” using monthly virtual meeting newsletters.
* The book club – Cover to Cover – continue to meet monthly on Zoom
*Our Reel to Real film club have viewed films on I player and met on Zoom for discussions.
* Folk dancing – has kept in touch via monthly newsletters.
* The drama group – Madcaps – have met on line and now also recording radio plays for the Talking Magazine for the blind, which also operates from our church.
* Realising members were missed “seeing” one another, we made our Monthly Charity Coffee Mornings weekly zoom coffee mornings with chat rooms again ensuring a random mix of participants.
* Our charity support via both Zoom and the Monthly newsletter has been as amazing as ever, sometimes using themed coffee mornings ( e.g. Macmillan, ) quizzes and a Save the Children tea party.
* Our children and young people – The Adventurers –have kept together via Zoom meetings and monthly newsletters and craft activities.
* Sunbeams, the parent and toddler group have not been able to meet in the building but have been out on walks in the park and had one Zoom meeting
* The Clothing Bank, running in conjunction with Unity in Diversity has continued to operate providing much needed clothing and household items to local refugees and asylum seekers. At Christmas we gave out over 150 bags specially filled with goodies and gifts for individuals and families.
* ECO church has continued and having received bronze and silver awards is now working towards gold. This includes fostering interest and support for tree and wild flower planting and bird feeding.
* It almost goes without saying that over the past year the pastoral work of our church has been more important than ever and pastoral leaders have worked hard to ensure everyone feels cared for. What has also been gratifying is seeing individual church members taking responsibility to care for one another.
So what have we started that is new?
Additional to the developments implicit in the previous paragraphs:
* Outdoor Church – this is not indoor church outside. We meet at one of our many beauty spots and engage alone or with one another in a sort of prayer walk and wander using reflective material to help us encounter God.
* Walking group – has just begun, allowing us to walk with friends, always obeying the rules
* Hybrid Church -On Site and On-line to date we have had an adult baptism and a funeral relayed from church on Zoom. We began morning services in June where we have very restricted numbers so the service is relayed on zoom for those unable to attend. We our planning a monthly communion service on site on a Thursday. We have a wedding planned for July.
Well it’s certainly no resting on our laurels, – it’s on-wards and up wards as we look to the next phase in our church family life.
We move forward with God’s guidance, working together and caring for one another