It's Sunday 'service' - but with a difference
Sunday Morning 'service' looks a bit different at the moment, but it's brilliant and God is in it.
-welcome, meals & conversations through the Sunday Lunch Project;
-welcome, prayer & conversations through people coming into the open church for private prayer;
-welcome, worship & conversations through people gathering on Zoom & watching our YouTube Simple Service
To find out more read Sera’s snapshot of her Sunday morning experience on Sunday 28th Feb
(and picture it all happening with masks, social distancing and hand sanitiser being fully utilised)
Arrived on my bike at church about 9.00am. Said hi to 'E', and the two early arrivals for the Sunday Lunch Project (meals for those who need it - many homeless or vulnerably housed). Got into conversation with one about his brother who died last Thursday. He hopes to get to the funeral. Four siblings now gone, just him and his brother left.
Quick hello to Sue in the main church. She’s stewarding today, she’s already sorted the heating, lights and candles and is available to welcome anyone who pops in. We’d normally pause to pray, but we agree to do it later in the morning.
Then ‘hellos’ to the Sunday Lunch Project team working in Centre. There’s about 8 volunteers on site today, sorting the food donations, cooking, bagging up the take-way meals, and (most importantly for the early arrivals) getting the urn on for the hot drinks. They serve 20 meals today (The numbers have been at 12 or above throughout the Covid year, and apart from in the first lockdown, meals have been served every week. At times, inside. But for the moment, service is outside).
Time to touch base with Sue, she’s chatting with 'E', and getting herself logged into the WI-FI (hooray for the new Wi-Fi connectivity in main church that was sorted in the summer) ready to join in with our Simple Service on YouTube, and then onward I go to the Church Office to join the virtual church for a while.
Conversations are already flowing as I join the pre-service Zoom chat, and more people join over the next few minutes. I’m hosting the chat on the church Zoom account and am late to the conversation (But happily had it set up and ready to go early so folks can start without me.) We talk river swimming, nicknames, and the joys of spring. And then the countdown begins on YouTube. It’s my turn to do ‘screen-sharing’ today and I still haven’t quite mastered the smooth move from conversation to countdown, but people are gracious. There’s about 10-14 watching together. Others watch in their own time at home.
The service begins, Phil is leading, he’s recorded his contribution from the classroom where he teaches, and interweaves rocky road chocolate, spring blossom, thoughts on nicknames and images of a highway with prayers and the Bible reading. Then it’s me preaching - I’m still not used to the strange phenomenon of watching a pre-recording version of myself in the company of others on Zoom. We’re looking at Mark 8:31-38 and I use the image of a ‘road map of transformation’ to explore authority, suffering and following. We flow into a song of response (thanks Sam for the singing to enhance the instrumental) and Phil leads us in prayers of intercession. And then to finish, he offers a really practical action for people to do: make a donation to ‘twin your jab’ initiative linked with Unicef which some Christians have set up via GoFundMe. (I later go to the page and discover the initiators aimed to raise £1500. They have already reached £51,000).
The Simple Service is over but the Zoom chat continues. People reflect on the idea of God’s roadmap, share thoughts on embrace not avoiding the route, and there’s encouragement from people on their journeys through Lent. There’s also news that at least one person is looking forward to a barbeque this afternoon - hooray for the spring.
Conversations then move from online to in-the-car-park. I join the folks waiting for the takeaway lunches, most are familiar faces now and I know a number by name. They greet me with ‘hey, it’s the vicar!’ and we laugh. Over the next twenty minutes I have different conversations with about 4 or 5 of them, it’s good not to have to rush on. Today’s topics seem to be family, Covid, school and work. Lots of reflections about what the future will hold. It’s good to listen. To gain new insights.
Back into church and I find Sue, who’s been holding the fort. We pray together.
Over the next 2 hours different people come and go: ‘E’ pops back in, 3 folk come in from the Sunday Lunch Project and we chat (about food, rolling pins and jungles amongst other things); Sam comes to do some organ practice (and shows me shows me how to link a phone to the church's updated sound system and play online music - we fill the church with a couple of worship songs -loudly. Hooray for the updated sound system and Wi-Fi); 3 folk from the congregation pop in on their different daily dog walks (which means we also have 2 dogs pop in). And then the final pop-in of the morning: a woman recently moved from Hong Kong brings her 2 children in to pray. They pray, then we talk, the children explore and then they go on their way with Bibles and story books.
I cycle away from church at 12.50. Tired but positive. Sunday service looks a bit different at the moment. And God is in it. I find myself wondering, as I regularly do, what Sunday service will look like beyond lockdown.