Resources for the Church in different times…

There is a certain irony to the fact that, having spent much of the last decade thinking about the way church can embrace digital (and vice-versa), I find myself leading a congregation where around 40% of regular worshippers don’t have access to the internet. (It’s a small congregation, with a significant number of elderly people.)

When churches first started closing across the US – a week before the same thing happened in the UK – I realised I needed a plan for how my congregation could continue to worship while in their own homes, because streaming was definitely not the answer. What I have come up with, I’m sharing below, in case it’s helpful to anyone else.

  • A Booklet of prayers & readings to use at home, plus suggestions for where to find worship on radio/TV. Compiling this was my distraction while waiting for the Archbishops to suspend public worship on March 17th. Virtually all the prayers come from the Church of England’s Coronavirus prayers and liturgy webpage. It feels like this has already made its way around half the Church of England, after I offered it up on Twitter! There are highlighted sections that should be amended for your own context…
  • Creating a piece of code that enables people to ring a number (local – you can choose it) and listen to a sermon (or any other mp3 file you’d want to share). I used this brilliant step-by-step guide, and had it up and running for last Sunday. I’d been concerned that some of my non-online people also had poor eyesight, so sending them text documents wasn’t necessarily helpful. An added bonus of this is that I can circulate the dropbox link for the audio around via email and WhatsApp, so everyone gets a sermon!
  • On the ‘Final Sunday’ we created a WhatsApp group for the congregation. I usually wouldn’t go down this route (I have a love/hate relationship with WhatsApp groups at the best of times, and there are potential safeguarding issues) but again, my congregation is small. We worked out who was not on WhatsApp and buddied them up with someone who was – this was pretty organic and there’s already a great pastoral structure that supports the older members. The WhatsApp group is now an easy place to share info and have it disseminated wider. We also get to hear updates on whoever has recently been phoned up – so it very much feels as though the pastoral burden is shared.
  • As my vicarage is connected to the church, I go in on Sunday morning and preside at communion. The congregation know that this is happening – they’re invited to send prayer requests in and we’ve shared the peace via WhatsApp. This week, as part of a Holy Week/Easter mailout, I’ve also shared the Church of England’s guidance on spiritual communion, in case that’s helpful to them. [There is a PDF on the CofE website, but frustratingly it goes onto 3 pages by just 3 lines, so I copied & edited it until I got it down to just two sides of A4!]

My other thought on March 17th, was that this was obviously going to affect Holy Week and Easter. In packs that I sent out yesterday (with palm crosses enclosed), I included two Holy Week/Easter specific things:

  • A booklet of Bible readings & meditations for each day of Holy Week (up to and including Holy Saturday). The meditations all have a sensory element to them – it’s basically a slightly adapted version of something I created for Good Friday two years ago, but I felt like it had the capacity to work in people’s homes too, and felt like it could work for families.
  • A liturgy for Maundy Thursday that could be used around an evening meal. My church was meant to be hosting a Maundy Thursday supper as part of our contribution to our Group Ministry Holy Week. Again, streaming didn’t feel right (although the Group’s Good Friday services will be done online), but I felt like something people could use in their homes would be apt. It’s drawn from a couple of different places and has several Bible readings in it (which could be cut down depending on time/attention spans), and although it mentions bread and wine, is definitely not sacramental!

While some may prefer not to send physical materials to their congregation (it is thought that the virus can live for up to 24 hours on paper), this is really the only way I can get such things to them. I made use of Royal Mail’s Click & Drop service, and the envelopes will have been sealed at least 36 hours before they actually arrive anywhere. I don’t imagine I will do anything quite like this again until we get to Pentecost.

I have quite a bit more to say about the church in its current season, but I’m going to leave that for another day. Certainly we are in unprecedented times, and if I can save someone a bit of time or mental energy with what I’ve managed to get done, I’m glad!

Good Friday Fun

Right, it’s Good Friday, so this is possibly blasphemous, but I couldn’t let the sacred day pass without some comedy reference. I was pondering a few things when, last night, I spotted this video on Facebook, courtesy of a vicar-type friend:

Defying Gravity from Peter Ould on Vimeo.

Yep, that would be right, it’s a combination of scenes from The Passion of the Christ with Defying Gravity (Glee style) in the background. And yes, that’s the very track I was talking about yesterday – spooky! It’s three of my favourite things combined into one short video: Wicked, Glee and Jesus. An unlikely combination, I think you’d agree.

If that doesn’t quite do it for you, here are a few other amusing gems:

  • The difference between nerd, geek & dork explained via a Venn diagram. I am thus able to conclude that I am less of a dweeb and more of a nerdy geek. I’ll sleep easier tonight… 
  • What happens when a small boy discovers that he’s not a single lady. Devastating doesn’t even begin to describe it. 
  • Just in case you missed them, great April Fools round ups courtesy of the Guardian’s live-blog and Gizmodo. My personal favourites were the broadband laying ferrets and xkcd‘s offering – intriguing and diverting. (Read the comments in the Gizmodo article for the full low-down on the xkcd fool, I was entranced.)
And with that, it is Easter – well, it will be on Sunday. Enjoy. Eat chocolate, make sure you’ve tried a MaltEaster bunny before they vanish. Don’t forget to also celebrate the resurrection of the Lord and the disappearance of creme eggs for another 9 months.

Bunny-licious

It’s not often that I blog twice in one day, but this needed immediate attention.

Easter is just around the corner and thus a veritable smorgasbord of chocolate chicks, eggs and bunnies have appeared on shop shelves. There are a few new products around this year, but to be honest, what with the whole eating healthily thing, I tend to avoid those aisles. However, one particular item caught my attention and became me & C’s Monday afternoon pick me up today:

The MaltEaster Bunny [Do you see what they did there?? Genius.]

I love Maltesers, I love bunnies – so what’s not to like about this concept? It’s not simply one large, rabbit shaped malteser, it’s in fact a ‘milk chocolate bunny with a crunchy and creamy Maltesers centre’ and quite honestly, the yummiest piece of Easter tie-in to pass my lips in a long while!

Long ago, I decided Cadbury’s creme eggs were no good thing (incidentally, they are also not something I need to see in the supermarket whilst buying alcohol on New Year’s Eve….wrong, very wrong), but these bunnies can quite happily take their place as the ubiquitous Easter chocolate.

Creme Eggs

The festival of chocolate is officially over, yet today I had my first creme egg of the season. Being a deprived child, I didn’t have any Easter eggs this year (I got a new apron instead – long story) but someone at work brought creme eggs in, so I had one.

By the time I’d finished it I remembered that I don’t really like them. Every year I make this mistake! What’s the point? They’re sweet, sickly and impossible to eat without making a mess. I’m writing this so that next year I remember before I start eating one.
Some creme egg stats to keep you amused till next year:
200 million are sold a year – that’s an average of 3 per person.
It weighs around 39g and contains 176 calories.
If you laid all the eggs made in the Creme Egg plant end to end, they would stretch all the way from the Bournville factory in Birmingham to Sydney in Australia – that’s 12,000 miles.