As we come towards the end of this quite unprecedented year, we’d like to say thank you for your faithfulness in praying for and giving to our Home Mission churches, our emerging expressions of church, and towards resourcing others in the mission of God.
We’d also like to share with you and celebrate some of the things God has been doing among us:
Chew & Yeo Baptist Network
Connecting with our community: We have a large number of families (40-50 each week) who normally attend our Acorns Toddler Group. This has obviously had to stop during the Covid-19 crisis. During lockdown we moved our toddler group on-line using zoom to stay in touch with our regular families. We had around a dozen families joining us each week for 30 minutes of storytelling and singing.
When lockdown conditions allowed (September) we reverted to a physical meeting, but with Covid compliant restrictions in place. We introduced a booking system because our facilities can only accommodate 8 families (when socially distanced). We were full every week and have only just stopped meeting for the November lockdown. We hope to resume meeting in person in December and (regulations permitting) plan to hold Socially distanced Christingle events on the two weekends before Christmas.
We have been able to maintain contact with the primary schools in the Chew and Yeo Valley – providing virtual Open the Book Assemblies, a harvest service and on-line philosophy sessions. We are pleased that all the schools in the area have accepted the offer of a gift of the Bible Society Christmas booklet “It begins in Bethlehem” – and this great poetic version of the nativity story will be given to over 1200 primary school children in a couple of weeks time.
Christ Church, Nailsworth
Covid-19 has presented a time of connecting through new ventures. Moving a group to church premises and re-launching as ‘Meeting Place’ has been a great success, offering Christian support to many who are lonely and in need of support; indeed, we have plans to open another space to cope with numbers.
Umbrella Coffee Club uses a café table to have coffee and chat outside in the town square: anyone is welcome to join in and we are slowly developing a little community – already one person has come to church on Wednesday for quiet prayer.
Meanwhile, Sunday Service on Zoom, plus some (as possible) in church, has a congregation larger than before March.
Eric Aidoo (Jr)
Eric is doing a ministerial training placement in a secondary school and is supported by an HM grant.
Eric writes, ‘This year God has enabled me to see the impossible in a time when many things felt impossible. My role comes with a mandate to reach youth outside of our (church) walls for Jesus. I was able to reconnect with a younger lad who I went to secondary school with. He’d been caught up in street crime for some years, but had an encounter with Jesus which completely turned his life around. I’d been able to stay in contact with him, discipling and mentoring him as the spirit led me. When the first lockdown lifted, the spirit led me to baptise him (my first ever baptism) in his bathtub.
This was a very powerful experience for both he and I. It just goes to show that God is always on the move no matter what – we just have to follow his footsteps and let the rest unfold.’
Bristol University Free Church Chaplaincy
The pandemic has had a potent impact on international students coming to the University of Bristol. Some of them were not able to travel from their home country to Bristol and have had to study from abroad. Others may have got to Bristol for the start of the academic year, but have had little opportunity to get to know this new city, country and culture since arriving. I have been supporting our International Chaplain with a new project that seeks to address this loss. Over a lunchtime each week, we invite students to join an online gathering we call an Intercultural Mingle. Each week, a topic is chosen which enables participants to speak for a few minutes about something significant from their own country (e.g. national foods, dress, landmarks). In recent weeks, our conversations have turned to religious topics. These gatherings have enabled a group of recent and experienced students to build new relationships around a weekly talking point, even though they are unable to meet in person. It has also allowed us to help new international students learn more about British culture and become more familiar with Bristol.
Cheddar Baptist Church
‘The Friendship Group has been running weekly for many years in different guises. Three years ago we were invited to meet in Cheddar Library so the name was changed to the Friendship Café. The initial remit was to support those with dementia and their carers with the support of the charity Dementia Friends. It quickly became clear that recent bereavements or seeking company was a motivation to come along and so we welcomed anyone of all ages. Sometimes Mums with small children coming to change books would join us for refreshments!
Back in March the Coronavirus forced the Library to close and the Group could no longer meet, however we continued to keep in touch regularly on the phone and as restrictions lifted met in parks and then back gardens in smaller groups over the summer in the sunshine. It was lovely.
It was a very happy day when, having worked to make the Church building Covid secure, we re-opened Church for Sunday Services and from the beginning of September re-started the Friendship Cafe, meeting once again weekly, altogether in Church, observing safety guidelines. This even led to the group and our long time member Barbara Merrick appearing on Songs of Praise and being interviewed by Aled Jones!
As circumstances change daily due to the ongoing pandemic, the future is uncertain for us all but if we are able to, as and when it is safe to do so, we are committed to continuing the connections with the Group through the winter months.’
Parklands Community Church, Weston-Super-Mare
As Parklands Community Church we usually run a monthly Pop Up community café to provide a space for the local community to connect. Unable to do this during Lockdown, we instead decided to run a weekly Pop Up Pub Quiz via facebook live.
Every Monday evening members of the church and local community logged in for an hour of fun, positivity and some healthy competition! As well as helping us stay connected with our regular café group, we also met some people for the first time. Each week we finished our time together with a prayer of blessing. The quiz ran for 5 months and we’re planning a special Christmas Pop Up Quiz in December too!
Connect, Bussage, Stroud
During the first lock-down we worked in partnership with our local Parish Council Office and others, doing shopping and collecting prescriptions for people at risk in our community. Some set up a WhatsApp group for their particular street – to help communicate needs while self-isolating.
At Easter some delivered Easter biscuits to neighbours and others Palm crosses and cream eggs to all neighbours in their street. One man commented, ‘I was so disappointed not to get to mass this Easter – so this was a timely and appreciated gift.’
The Cairn, Knowle West, Bristol
We were encouraged over the summer months to be able meet in three groups of six in the garden, enabling around 18 to meet here on a Sunday, and up to 12 on a Monday. Around two-thirds of these people were committed Christians, the others exploring faith.
Much of the time was spent discussing issues raised in the Alpha booklet ‘Why Jesus’? Since being unable to meet in the garden, we have significantly updated the website, to reflect a new pattern of life (as far as Government guidelines allow). We are currently looking at Encounters with Jesus, and I have recently attempted my first 10 min video on this: https://thecairninnscourt.weebly.com/encounters.html .
Church @ St Anne’s, West Wick
Here at Church@St Anne’s West Wick we have been working towards ‘Online Church’. Researching and learning how to work with technology to reach the local and international community.
A great book which can help churches develop a fruitful online presence is ‘from social media to social ministry’ by Nona Jones, well worth a read especially in the times we face.
The Stowe, Wichelstowe, Swindon
The Stowe, like many churches, have been helping to feed local families and this year there’s been a rise in the number of families needing either occasional or long-term support. Demand exceeded The Stowe’s supply, and so our two ministers, Ali and Owen, placed shopping crates outside their doors and invited the community to donate to the local ‘foodbank.’ The donations received were like manna, not to be stored up, but to be given away, trusting God that he would provide for the daily needs in this community.
The receiving and giving of food reinforced that we are ‘conduits of blessing.’ The food we deliver is a ‘food hamper’ or ‘shopping,’ the loving of neighbours in this way has been an expression of our worship, of who we are. We don’t have finance to fund food hampers, we rely on God to provide the food, and to show us who needs it. On one occasion Owen had given away nearly all his food when he received a call from someone new who was in urgent need. The promise given was that yes, they would have a food hamper delivered. Owen went on a walk around the community, praying things through, wondering where the food would come from, when a local friend from the community called him over. She had that day received a Foodbank donation from another source, but had been given too much, would he like the rest to help someone else? God’s provision has been like manna; daily, enough, not to be stored up but given away, like his grace. Participating in this with God at the centre has been part of our worship at The Stowe.
Thank you once again for your partnership in the gospel.