Social Distant Socially Responsible: One Church’s Experience

In light of the current, and preceding lockdowns, ‘church’ at St Gabriel’s, Huyton, has been very different.

Transferring worship services online has allowed our congregation to interact, but the ceasing of public worship has decimated church finances and fees. We cannot let out of our facilities which impacts our ability to reach out to the wider community, and reduces our resources. It also posed a threat to our fellowship’s cohesion and the work we do in the community, including meal services and other community support programmes.

Nonetheless, as a team we responded quickly, ably led by the Vicar, Canon Mal Rogers. We immediately set up telephone contact systems so that our members could be contacted by other members on a regular basis; which was particularly important for those who could not use social media or had the IT to communicate, or join events. We also held fun nights and quizzes and other online meetings and suggested screenings to encourage and entertain those who might feel isolated and in need of nurturing and encouragement.

During the brief lull in infections, we did manage to open the church for a maximum of 30 people for Sunday services. This came with a booking system, PPE, track and trace and social distancing. Singing or social contact was not allowed; but we did manage Communion Services with bread (wafers) only.

With funerals we adopted a new approach, allowing families to choose music to be played at the graveside, and in church. It is fair to say this had some ‘interesting’ outcomes, but by and large, sensitive and moving moments were created from mobile speakers, portable sound systems and even the funeral car CD player on one occasion!

We were also deeply concerned to continue our social outreach with the Apples Trust Nursery supporting local families in need and the One Knowsley initiative. Through Knowsley Kitchen we have continued delivering regular food to families throughout the pandemic, including Christmas Dinners and lunches for children.

As a Church we are also committed to help rebuild after Covid-19 and have applied for grants for the Huyton Deanery area from the Big Lottery and other charitable trusts. We are looking forward to being a strong player in the restoration of services and facilities; new initiatives to help our people rebuild the community. We trust we can start again, and do it better than before!

Rev John Davis is an ISR Visiting Fellow, and Assistant Priest at St Gabriel’s Huyton.

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