Churches in Lockdown – Alive, Active, and Here for You

Meeting people on daily walks is a lovely part of being in lockdown. A smile, a wave, or a little conversation all brighten the day and keep us connected. One cheery walker waved at me the other day and asked, ’How are you enjoying all these Sundays off?’ They assumed that because the church building is closed we had all packed up and gone on holiday. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Yes, every church building in the land – just like every mosque, temple, and synagogue – is shut. But we have adapted to the needs of these strange times and are still very much alive, active and here for you. We always say ‘the church is the people and not the building’; now we have had the chance to prove it. We have embraced technology and a variety of communications.

In many ways going digital has made us much more inclusive – you can tune in whenever you want, there is no worry about doing the ‘wrong’ thing during the service, you can be entirely anonymous if you like, or visit several churches a day if you feel like it. And for those of us who usually find it very hard to get to church at a certain time of day, or even at all (people with mobility, health and mental issues, carers, shift workers, parents of young children…) a whole host of new opportunities is on offer. As a result of this, lots of churches report very large numbers of people joining their online worship. According to a survey by Savanta ComRes for Tearfund, 24% of British adults say they have watched or listened to a religious service since the lockdown began. This is four times as many as would normally attend a church service. And 5% of those had never been to church!

If you have access to the internet you can find our usual services, and more, either on Facebook or on our website (details at the bottom of the article). You can join in live as they are going out, or later at a time that suits you. You can even look back and see every service since lockdown happened! We are praying every day at 10am for 15 minutes and we will pray for you or your friends by name, if you ask us.

Three times a week we hold a coffee and chat session on Zoom, and we are starting a new Bible study group also on Zoom. Do join us if you would like some company – first timers are most welcome (and we will help with the technology if we can.)

You can also receive a daily email with information, what’s on, a prayer and a recorded hymn.

 If you have a phone, we use the phone to keep in contact with those who are self isolating and not going out at all. You can also use your phone to dial in to the national Anglican church daily prayer and hymn line, or the weekly Oxford Diocese Eucharist with our bishops and senior staff (details below).

 If you do not have email or the internet we are sending a fortnightly mailing with service sheets, sermons and talks, resources for praying at home, and general information.

In this time of crisis when we face challenges like never before, it is not surprising that so many more people are seeking hope, peace, meaning, and faith in God. And the people who make up the church are very much still here and available. Joining in our online services or Zoom opportunities is one thing, asking us to pray for you and those for whom you care is another, but you might like to contact us for a chat, or just to listen…. As always, we are here for you. We are not on holiday (!) and we are not too busy.

When the immediate crisis ends, as it will, there is so much for us to learn. What should we hold on to from this time? What do we let go of? How have we been changed by the journey? How do think of ‘church’ and ‘ministry’ now? Where is God in all of this change?

Early on the first Easter morning the women went to the tomb expecting to anoint Jesus’ dead body, but he had sprung up to new life and had gone ahead of them. They were looking for Him in the wrong place! He could not be imprisoned by the walls of a tomb; he will not be restricted to a church building; always he is ahead of us and with the people who most need him, wherever they may be. The risen Christ came through a locked door to visit his discombobulated disciples in the Upper Room; and he disappeared through it as well.  If we want to find Christ we must avoid the mistake of the women and must look for him in the right place. In the midst of a pandemic, when His people are afraid, isolated, alone, sick, or dying, Jesus Christ is with his suffering people; a locked church door will not restrict His healing and saving presence with those who need Him most. God is in our homes right now, alive, active, and pouring out his healing Spirit. In these times we are called to leave our buildings alone and follow our Lord into the homes and hearts of all those who seek him.

Spiritual nourishment is especially vital in crisis times, but for now we must find it in places other than the inside of a church building. People have always found God in other places: in nature, through art, in the pages of the Bible, through prayer, through human kindness, in what have been termed ‘thin’ places where the gap between God and humanity seems to be less. And yes, they have found God in the post, on the phone, and on the internet. Jesus drew on everyday life to convey his message – whatever worked, he used – seeds, farmers, merchants, robbers, shepherds travellers, foreigners, bread, fish, water…. He used what was there as a vehicle for God, and we do the same. Telephones, computers, electric cables, tripods, and the post: we will use them all to keep connected and to reach out in support of God’s people.

The Archbishop of York designate, Dr Stephen Cottterell wrote recently:

Of course, we long for our church buildings to reopen. But when they do, it won’t be business as usual, partly because we are discovering new ways of serving our communities. Even when we do return to the sacred, beautiful space of our buildings, with all their vital and much-missed resonances of continuity, I believe the Church of England will emerge from this stronger than it has been for a long while. It is not one thing or the other. It is not in a building or online. We want to do both. When it is safe, we will. But we learned ages ago that the best way to proclaim the gospel is to live it out. Those who see it are those who have eyes to see it. As usual, this is most likely to be the poor, the sick, the isolated and the vulnerable.”

 During this crisis, your churches are alive, active, and here for every local person as always so please do connect with us if you would like to. I have written specifically about the Anglican churches but all the Kidlington churches are here for you. If you would like to be in contact with us see our details below. And may God bless you, give you strength and courage through difficult times, hope for the future, and peace in your heart.

Canon Felicity Scroggie (Team Rector); May 2020

Here are all the different ways you can connect with us:

 You can write, ring, text, or message the clergy on:

Web site: www.parishofkidlington.org.uk

Our web site is up-to-date with information and resources. You can follow all our online services by clicking on them in the home page. We have also put up some reflections, sermons, poems etc to help you through the lockdown period.

We are very active on Facebook at ‘Kidlington Anglican Churches’ and you can join with us live for our Sunday Eucharist at 10am, each day at 10am for a 15 minute ‘Pause for Prayer’, and Tuesdays at 7.30pm for an Iona style Eucharist. (You can access these from the website without having Facebook)

You can “dial-in” to the Diocesan Sunday service and listen to the service with our bishops on your telephone at 10am each Sunday on 01865 920930. Press 0 for the short service and 1 for the full Church at Home service; it takes a few seconds to retrieve the recording, then the service will start.

The Church of England have now launched a daily service over the phone (a freephone number) for people to access who don’t have access to the internet: 0800 804 8044.

We are using ‘Zoom’ calls for Compline every Sunday at 8.45pm, for a weekly Bible study group on Friday afternoons, and for three coffee times each week when we can chat with whoever comes. These are great fun. We can help you connect if you have internet access.

The parish office is shut and so we ask you not to use the office phone number or the parish email (375611 or churchkid@btinternet.com)