Stories from St Columba’s, Bridge of Don
We’ve just run an online/socially distanced holiday club called Spy Academy. Each day started with a video with the main presenters introducing the day, having some fun and sharing the Bible story. There were Zoom groups for discussion and games, craft kits were delivered to the families’ doors and we set up secret missions (scavenger and treasure hunts) around our community for families to take part in. We also set up a closed Facebook group for families to connect together and share photos and videos of their Spy Academy fun.
We had to work out different ways to be a team and work together as well as connecting to the children and their families. We usually have an amazing tearoom for the parents to enjoy so we planned a surprise. Our usual bakers made about 200 pancakes and on the first day of holiday club drove around our community delivering a package of pancakes and chocolate spread to each family. Surprise and delight greeted our delivery drivers at each door. One family reports their 10 year old son who had been reluctant to take part in the online groups was suddenly the most enthusiastic.
Teenagers got out of bed for those pancakes! Families who had stopped engaging with any organised church activities posted photos on social media and reconnected with the church family. As messages of thanks arrived it became clear that those pancakes did something that months of online services and zoom meetings couldn’t do. We knew they’d be appreciated but we didn’t expect them to have the impact they did. Through those pancakes people (children, teenagers and the adults) felt connected, they felt loved, remembered and part of a family, they grieved for what we were missing this year and they felt comfort in the familiar. And I think, maybe, they even felt hope for what we might have again.
It has been wonderful to see families engaging in the variety of activities together – secret missions around our community, sharing photos and videos. We saw them having fun as families, watched with surprise as dads were getting involved, heard the parents discussing the Bible stories with their children and were astounded at the obvious desire for connection and community coming through the Facebook group. None of this would have happened if we had run holiday club the usual way.
As a family, it has not always been easy to engage with online church, but, we have had great conversations about Jesus and our faith, we have danced to worship songs, we have watched lots of Bible cartoons and teaching, we have been delighted when we have spotted friends from church (of all ages!), we have delivered cards and been the delighted recipients of messages and gifts from people in our church family that have arrived on our doorstep. We’ve risen to the challenge of doing ‘faith at home’ and we all have a story to tell of how God has been working.
As a church we are now looking at ‘what next?’ and how to build on the engagements and activities we have shared together during lock down. How can we continue to connect and learn as families? How can we continue to engage with children and young people in our community outside the church building? How can we use the wonderful outdoor green spaces in our community that God has blessed us with?
Stories from Portobello and Joppa Parish Church, Edinburgh
On the last day church met before lockdown, our youth group gathered around the breakfast table to meet. We all realised, this may be the last time in a long time that we would sit together, but then thought perhaps we could still meet online from our home breakfast tables. The breakfast rolls, coffee for the leaders, Bible Study, faith discussion, ice breakers and prayer would all be there, just in a new way. Similarly, I was asked by some parents if I could find a way to share Godly Play stories with the children in the church over lockdown. Both Godly Play and our youth group are rooted in relationship – a relationship with each person around the table or in the circle that centres on each of our relationships with God.
God would be with us wherever we were. We would not need to be in a building to be near Him. However, to be the church and be connected to each other, we needed to find a new way to meet and Zoom provided the technology to make it happen. For each Sunday in lockdown (even school holidays), we have met and checked in on one another. Each week we ask, “What’s your high and low of this week.” We have prayed for each other and shared silly Zoom games which always lighten the mood. We have delved deep into scripture through Bible Study with our youth and our young adults group.
With our children’s ministry, we have wondered and responded to many bible stories through Godly Play full sessions. Since parents aren’t in worship while we are Godly Playing online, they are instead part of our circle – hearing the stories, wondering and responding for themselves as well. Since we are home, there is all the time we need to respond to the stories and families have found wondering and response carrying on throughout the week and not just kept to Sunday. A full Godly Play session mirrors worship and I’ve heard from several of the adults who have taken part, that in this time outside of the church building, Godly Play has been their place of worship.
Our online offering of connection and story has been quite a rich experience in lockdown and has provided space for relationships to flourish, however it isn’t for everyone. For the young people or families who had felt “Zoomed out” by school and after school activities online or for those people who were uncomfortable with being on camera, this way of ministry was not what they wanted and many are waiting for in-person ministry to resume. However, those connections have not been lost – just supported in a different way. I have written cards and emails to families and young people to stay in touch and made a couple phone calls to parents and volunteers as well.