You may well be aware of the work of Renew Wellbeing, or you may even have attended a webinar with Ruth Rice, founder of Renew Wellbeing, but I want to introduce you to the work of Renew Wellbeing in the webnet region. I have recently been appointed the Renew Wellbeing Coordinator for the West of England. I am in my final year of training for Baptist ministry, and I’m based just outside of Bristol. In my role as student minister I host Renew Nailsea, along with an amazing team, and I am now also partnering with the Chew and Yeo Baptist Network.
Renew Wellbeing spaces are built on three core principles, Presence, Prayer and Partnership. Presence involves just being in a space, bringing along your hobby and sharing ideas and conversation with others. It is simple and is a way for hosts to also have space for their own wellbeing whilst creating opportunity for others to do likewise. Simple, regular habits of prayer are also offered, ensuring that individuals can choose whether or not to join in, creating space for individuals to meet with God for themselves. Having prayer as a core value and habit makes the whole space a prayerful, peaceful space, even for those who choose not to join in the actual act of praying. The final core value, partnership, involves being aware of what is being offered in the wider community that can provide support and help to those in our communities, building relationships with these agencies, and networking together whilst maintaining our Christian distinctiveness.
There are several centres in the webnet region which opened up before lockdown and it’s been really good to hear how they are keeping in touch with their regulars. Some have been creating and delivering craft packs. Some have developed an online presence, using social media or Zoom. Some are now opening, either through using outdoor space or by opening their buildings for safe, socially distanced conversation. Exciting networks are developing between the existing, and new, centres enabling mutual support and a flow of ideas.
Renew Nailsea had been open for a year before lockdown and in that time we had built relationships with local mental health key workers, a counselling service, the town and county councils and our local Social Prescriber. A few of our regulars had been signposted to us but others had come through our existing relationships with the community. One of the greatest blessings had been to see people from different backgrounds and walks of life playing a game of dominoes together or chatting life issues over a cup of something warm. The pattern of prayer is simple and accessible, and it was encouraging to notice a few of our newer guests either listening to our time of prayer, or even joining us in the corner where we pray.
During lockdown, as well as meeting on Zoom, Renew Nailsea has been building a relationship with a nature reserve very close to our building, enabling access to a quiet, safe natural space for people to come for a short wander, with the opportunity to enjoy a guided prayerful walk.
Renew Wellbeing is a way to build community that is open to those already in your churches but also a way of creating a safe space in which to welcome those who are in the wider community. The focus of the space is on wellbeing, so there is an intentional effort to create spaces that are safe for even the most vulnerable. This does not require a great effort, or another demanding rota to fill, but just two or more people happy to turn up and sit together to share their hobbies for a couple of hours each week, pausing for a simple pattern of prayer which anyone can join. Wellbeing is at the heart of a Renew Centre, and that includes everybody, encouraging our churches to develop good wellbeing habits, particularly through a regular rhythm of prayer, and to enjoy time and hobbies together.
I am longing for the days when we can open normally again, sharing a jigsaw or a game of dominos together, for laughter and a great cup of hot chocolate, but until then there are other ways to build community. It may involve connecting with a small number of potential hosts, meeting virtually or in person, to begin building community together, to develop something ready to welcome people into when conditions improve. Or it may be safely opening your building to provide a socially distanced drop-in space for an hour or so each week, offering perhaps 5 minutes for a simple habit of prayer from the Renew pattern, creating a space for those who may not see anyone from one week to the next the chance to connect. Or it may be that you commit this to prayer over the coming months, seeking God’s will for your community, perhaps ready to explore this further in times to come.
Renew hosts have been able to meet weekly with Ruth Rice and the wider Renew Wellbeing family to discuss the particular challenges raised by Covid, and to find safe ways to open and maintain contact with our regulars.
You can visit our website renewwellbeing.org.uk to find more resources and information and Ruth has an e-book available on Amazon for £1.99:
Margaret Blakey, Renew Wellbeing