Sunday, 29 March 2020

What a difference a month can make

For my day job, I work as the building and bookings administrator for my local church.

Four Sundays ago, about 160 members of our church met together as usual in our building on the main road of our town for worship and kids groups followed by a chat over a cup of tea. I visited the church every day, both to give access to the various community groups that use the building and to work in the office.

Three Sundays ago, we had a big squirty box of hand-sanitiser on the door, a couple of members who'd just come back from trips to Asia stayed at home, but it was more or less business as usual. A couple of my co-workers attended our weekly staff meeting by Skype, but I was still around and letting people in and out of the building. Most of the people I talked too couldn't find toilet paper anywhere, but were just trying to get on with life as usual.

Two Sundays ago, we asked people who had someone unwell in their house, who were in a vulnerable group or who didn't feel comfortable coming to church to stay at home. We had about 70 people there and struggled to get enough adults to care for the various kids groups during the service, shared communion handed out by tongs, and tea and coffee after the service was carefully doled out by someone in kitchen gloves. We cancelled all large gatherings in the building, but some community services judged essential continued, perhaps not as usual, but at least they happened.

Last Sunday, the church building was closed on a Sunday morning, and people gathered around laptop screens around the city at 10:30am to watch a service that had been prerecorded by the musicians and speakers in the church building over the course of the week. At tea and coffee time we met together in small groups via Zoom or by phone from our respective lounge rooms. The building closed entirely, and I set up the table downstairs as my office desk, even though it's not exactly clear what my job is these days when we the building doesn't really need a lot of administering.

This Sunday, the YouTube service was spliced together out of bits and pieces recorded in different members homes. Some members contributed songs, others prayers, others preached or led communion made of whatever bread and liquids members had in their houses (our consisted of pepper crackers and apple cider). It has been a rollercoaster of change, but I've been greatly encouraged by how well people have been adapting to some significant changes, especially by how well some of the elderly and more technologically challenged have leapt right in. It might no look that much like church looked just a month ago, but it still looks a lot like church, and in a time of upheaval and uncertainty, that's a pretty big deal.

Let's wait and see what the next month throws at us.

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