From Cornton to Castlemilk: Churches adapting to lockdown part 2

New Skills and Practical Support in Cornton

By Hamish Wishart, Minister at Cornton Baptist Church

Here in Cornton, Stirling we are drawing ever closer to the Lord and leaning on him during this time. We are missing being together but are keeping in touch with video devotionals on Ephesians (Tuesday and Thursday) and Psalms (Sundays – which also includes prayer and several songs). These are published on YouTube and on our Facebook page (new skills being learned by the pastor!). These are being passed on to family and friends and a growing number tune in. Our youth worker is producing resources for our children and young people each Sunday as well. Our prayer meeting is online using Zoom on a Thursday and the attendance has greatly increased, and our women’s ministry “Cultivate” is meeting twice a month using Zoom as well. The church leaders are meeting each week via zoom and praying for the church family and our community.

The church leaflet-dropped the entire Cornton area (1,000 homes) offering support in any way needed: shopping, prescriptions, or simply a phone call. Several people have called and are being supported – two of whom came through referrals from Stirling Council and Stirling Voluntary Enterprise, so we are pleased at the links we have build up over time and the reputation the church has locally. An Easter pack (Easter storybook, Easter activity book, colouring pencils and chocolate eggs) was delivered to all the children who attend our weekly kids club (mainly non-church kids) and after Easter we started “CBC Kids Club @ home” on a Wednesday evening using YouTube. We are also partnering with the local Primary School to identify potential financial and practical needs with vulnerable families where we could step in and support.

Maintaining a Strong Sense of Family

By Mark Pexton, Pastor of Westwood Baptist, East Kilbride

Like every church we are trying to adapt to try and maintain a strong sense of family. We have worked hard at seeking to maintain focal points for the church family to gather around together (albeit remotely):

  • regular video reflections and messages
  • Kids Zone Videos on weekday mornings – a song, activity, and reflection for all the family.
  • regular news updates and devotionals emailed out to our church mailing list.
  • all of the above also put on our open church Facebook page.
  • Home Groups, Youth Club, Church Prayer Meetings continuing on online conferencing platforms
  • an online communion time together on Easter Sunday.
  • trying to maintain a sense of togetherness and socialising through quiz nights, church parties etc. on online conferencing platforms.

However, what has also become clear is that through the online posts and videos the church is currently reaching much wider than we did when we gathered in our building (something for us all, as churches, to be reflecting on when things return to ‘normal’).

Having said all the above – there are people (mainly elderly) who are not online – who must feel most isolated during this period. With them particularly in mind, we have set up a system whereby everyone in the church will be phoned regularly in order to check in on them. That having been said, a really encouraging thing when phoning people is to hear that many in the church have been keeping in touch with them anyway!

Zoom Church in High Blantyre

By Steve Younger, Minister of High Blantyre Baptist Church

Here in High Blantyre we have embraced Zoom Church. Even though not everyone can access it, it has been invaluable in maintaining our sense of fellowship. Through our weekly Zoom midweek and Church service we worship together, study together and pray for one another. We are getting quite creative and had a Church Family Quiz on Easter Saturday that went really well. We are also making good use of the Church’s Facebook page. One of our simplest and most effective witnesses there has been to post a daily prayer extracted from the Carmina Gadelica (the collection of Gaelic prayers and poems translated into English) matched to my photos from the Western and Northern Isles.

We have 19 members but these simple prayer posts are reaching several hundred people each day and leading to some lovely online contacts. And the good old-fashioned ways have come back into their own: a weekly pastoral letter and card sent out to everyone (either online or by post) and a round of regular phone calls. Pastoral visiting is still possible though it takes the form of shouted conversations from garden gate to doorstep. It certainly keeps the neighbours entertained. And we praise God for the Hospital Chaplains who so readily take messages for us to relay to those in Hospital while visiting is restricted.

Staying Connected at QPBC

By Brodie McGregor, Pastor for Pastoral Care and Small Groups at Queen’s Park Baptist Church

We have looked to respond to the COVID19 crisis by asking three questions: (1) How do we as church stay connected and, in particular, look out for and connect with those who are on their own or are vulnerable within our church, (2) what do we do on a Sunday, and (3) how can we love and serve the wider community?

The response to the first question has been a mix of using old and new technology. Having accurate and GDPR compliant records for those who connect with us at QP has been invaluable, as has having ministry teams. Our response has not fallen on one person but rather has been a case of empowering and redeploying existing teams. Caz and her team have been connecting with our Youth on a Sunday and through the week via Zoom. Mairi has been phoning, emailing, messaging families. Iain and Brodie, along with our pastoral visiting team, have been phoning other people in our congregations, but with a focus on those who are older / alone. We have all found that people in the church are also phoning each other, expressing love and care, as they “look out” for each other. The net result of this is that we are in more regular contact with people than normal.

Early on we recognised that this is be a marathon and not a sprint, so with regards to what we did on a Sunday this, and what equipment we had available, framed our response. We also recognised that the “form” shapes what you do, so doing a church service on the internet needed to be different from in-real-life. This has been a steep learning curve, and we have changed and developed things as we go along. So, a Sunday is a live stream to YouTube we’ve called #QPLive, and is a mixture of bible readings, prayer and reflection on a passage. We’ve now added sung worship prior to QP Live.

How we serve the wider community when we are in lock-down has been vexing. Existing relationships with community groups means we’ve been able to get at least some of a picture of what is happening and where we can help. The church responded fantastically to an appeal to help fund food Glasgow City Mission is distributing and we are currently in conversation with other groups to see what helping and supporting would look like with them.

Connecting Families in Castlemilk

By Eileen Baxendale, Outreach Project Leader, Castlemilk Community Church 

When we went into lockdown at Castlemilk Community Church we didn’t know what to do.  We wanted to keep in touch with and help our volunteers and our asylum seeker young parents.

So, we set up a helpline operated by two staff who are local mums. We publicised our phone numbers and in week one we got three enquiries!

Castlemilk has a brilliant food parcel system in place so we weren’t sure what our role was.  But God had a plan for us.

“How’s Carla** doing?” I asked her Mum, who was on helpline duty with Carla, age 8, at home with her.

“Oh, she’s fine. She’s in her room playing games online with Ashley** (daughter of the other helpline worker) on her Tablet. They’ve set up a chat group with some of their school friends.”

It was a light bulb moment. One concern at lockdown was for Brisa**. After six months as an asylum seeker in Castlemilk she and her four young children had become part of the Church. We rejoiced with her when she got refugee status and prayed for them to stay near us. However, she was moved to a high flat on the other side of Glasgow where they knew nobody, with little chance of getting to know anyone during lockdown.

So, we used our helpline start up grant to help Brisa. Taking expert advice from Carla’s mum, we bought seven Amazon Fire Tablets for Brisa’s four children and their close friends, another African family in Castlemilk. As soon as the gifts were delivered the phone started to ring “the children want to talk to you.  They are so happy”.  Even better was Brisa’s phone call two days later: “the children have all been using the Tablets. They played happily all day yesterday.”

This was definitely a good idea, but rather expensive.  However, God’s timing is perfect. Two Christian funders offered grants specifically for churches reaching out to help people during lockdown. We asked, and they gave.  We got grants for tablet computers and activity packs for asylum seeker/refugee families. Again, the phone rings on a Friday morning with the same message, “The children are very happy”.

We’ve given tablet computers to 21 children and arts and crafts activity packs to many more.  As lock down continues with Carla and Ashley’s mums’ phoning round, a need for food support is emerging from our asylum seeker volunteers and service users. We’ve started to help with this for families living just outside Castlemilk.

We went into this with no idea what we were doing. We’re content that God showed us the way.

** Names have been changed