We recently asked Church Leader at Oasis Church Bath, Jo Dolby, how things are going in Bath. Below is her encouraging response as well as a video about their Food Parcel Project:
When lockdown first hit, things got weird pretty quickly. The streets were empty, the roads were quiet, some shops and restaurants were even boarded up. I remember hearing a few people comment that it was like being in the middle of one of those apocalyptic movies, minus the Zombies and Aliens!
When we think of the word apocalypse we think of the end of the world, but of course in the Christian tradition it means something very different. Apocalypse comes from two Greek words, ‘apo’ which means off, or away from and ‘kalyptein’ which means cover or conceal. So a better meaning of the word apocalypse is to uncover or reveal something, particularly something that was there all along but just hidden.
I think for Oasis Church Bath, Covid-19 has revealed lots to us all, things that perhaps we had forgotten or been unable to see.
To me, Covid-19 has revealed the resilience and strength in our church community, and our ability to adapt. Like all churches, we went almost instantly from meeting every week in our building to not being allowed to meet at all. Since then we have provided practical help to each other through WhatsApp groups and met weekly with the wider Oasis network for a short online church service called the Global Gathering. More recently we’ve been able to hold monthly ‘hybrid’ services where people can come along to our church building for a short service or watch the same service from home. We also hold informal gatherings on Zoom each Sunday night for people who just want to see a friendly face and have a chat.
Covid-19 has also revealed the inequality in our society. We may have all been in the same storm but we certainly haven’t been in the same boat.
Experiencing lockdown in a high-rise tower block flat is very different compared to experiencing it in a detached house with a big garden. Along with some other great charities in our city, we were able to support those struggling to afford food and worked in partnership with others to start a food parcel project which provided weekly food parcels to around 50 families for five months.
This has now transitioned into our Oasis Pantry, where people sign up to be members for just £2 a week, which gives them access to 10 – 15 items from our well stocked pantry. The pantry is open every Thursday afternoon, and is a fantastic way to help people on low incomes access good quality, affordable food. We have a great team of volunteers who are already building really strong relationships with our members.
Covid-19 has also revealed to me that worship, takes many forms. I remember hearing someone comment to me that they missed worshipping on a Sunday, that it felt strange to be a church without worship. Of course we all miss singing together, but it struck me that as we were reaching out to people in need, as we were feeding hungry families, we were doing some of our best worship!
I was particularly moved by seeing the stage area in our church, which is where our worship band normally play, filled with food ready to be delivered to families in our community. We had never stopped worshipping, it had just taken on new forms and expressions.
For us, we’re still thinking through what the “new normal” might look like, particularly as it seems Covid isn’t going away any time soon. We already know that we’ll need to maintain a more substantial online presence, even without any government restrictions in place. We’ll keep doing all we can to support those in poverty. We’ll think more about how to make our church services more accessible, and flexible.
I don’t think Covid is the end of the world, but let’s hope it’s the start of a much better one!
Jo Dolby, Church Leader, Oasis Church Bath