It is hard to encompass how much the world, and our church, has changed in the space of a few short weeks: closure of all church buildings for worship and pastoral offices, severe restrictions on travel outside the home, uncertainty about food and other essential supplies, social distancing, and all as we travel through the highpoint of the Christian calendar – the Easter experience.
At St. Paul’s we have taken three immediate actions: the first is to divide up everybody in our database of parishioners (around 100 people) into fellowship groups with a designated leader who has volunteered to telephone each group member at least once a week, reporting back any concerns to me. The second is to compile a list of volunteers who will be in a position to collect shopping or prescriptions (or other essential items) and deliver them to households where there are housebound or vulnerable people present. The third is to become a ‘digital church’ providing the opportunity to worship using materials provided online. There are different models for this – live-streaming via Facebook or Google; multi-access platforms such as Zoom; or pre-recorded ‘programmes’. Each have advantages depending on the skillset of individual church leaders.
As a former media producer my particular skills lend themselves most obviously to pre-recording and I will therefore continue to produce an act of worship each week with contributions provided by as many members of the congregation (and others) as possible. I’m sure the model will evolve during the coming weeks. Please look out for communications inviting you to submit recordings of readings and prayers, and other activities based on a theme for each week. As time goes on I will try to increase the variety and style of resources. I am also giving thought to how those without internet access can be safely involved.
The main thing to keep in mind is that while our church building may be closed, the Church is still alive and God is working in us and through us to find new ways of building His kingdom and reaching those in need of the light and love of Christ. We will all have to find new ways of being and doing church for the foreseeable future – let us continue to pray, to reflect and to do our best to care for others in the knowledge that Christ is alive – Alleluia!