22 July 2020
The Church without walls – how Methodists have responded in love and service during coronavirus
In the first in a series of stories from around the Connexion we look at how churches in South West Wales have responded during the coronavirus pandemic.
Online worship goes through the roof
South West Wales Circuit covers Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, a mainly rural and seaside area. As with many churches, online worship has been very popular, with a huge increase in engagement with daily reflections offered on social media.
Daily reflections and spiritual exercises are also posted by pioneer Deacon, Jon Miller on the new bilingual church plant facebook page, Yr Eglwys heb furiau / The Church without walls Facebook page.
On Sunday morning Albany Church, Haverfordwest does online Zoom worship with an average of 30-40 attending (this is about double the number that they would usually get in church) and in the evening Yr Eglwys heb furiau / The Church without walls does online Zoom worship with an average attendance of 60-70.
In both these services there’s a mixture of those attending online and by phone.
The Revd Flis Randall, Superintendent Minister, said, “We’ve been amazed with who has been able to get Zoom set up online and we have people of all ages joining in. We have folks with us on Zoom who through ill health couldn’t usually get to a physical church. The evening service is also live streamed on Facebook and we have about another 150 views in a week for this, and these are often our younger members who prefer the choice of when to worship and we guess those just having a look (who maybe aren’t regular church members).”
Yr Eglwys heb furiau / The Church without walls will continue with Sunday evening Zoom worship/ live streaming after the Covid crisis.
Ministers have created phone hubs where members were given a list of 3 or 4 people to ring regularly.
Flis Randall, said, “Everyone was included and these calls have proved to be so important with friendships having been made and relationships deepened. People have commented how much they’ve appreciated being able to talk for longer with church folks (as opposed to just a few minutes after church).”
There have been a number of Zoom Coffee mornings held in different churches. Hall Street Church, Llanelli, recently put on a socially distanced tea party where cakes were delivered to the housebound and those without an online presence. Everyone else joined together on Zoom; this way everyone is included.
There is a weekly Circuit wide Zoom bible study which has been growing and growing. Says Flis Randall, “People like Zoom down here because it so much easier than driving the long distances needed to get from A to B!”
In all the churches the most vulnerable people were identified early on and extra support (pastoral and practical) was put into place. Ministers have made regular phone calls to members to support them. In addition, every member in the circuit receives a weekly service sheet.
Mental health of young people
Momentwm (Methodist Youth Wales), the body which oversees youth work in the Synod recently set up a Zoom meeting for youth workers to consider things like change management and lament, and to have a good chat with each other about what Covid has meant for them and their youth. A new blog with original content as well as links to other useful sources of information helps to support young people.
Hall Street, Llanelli is doing Zoom Sunday club for the children and their parents and running their fortnightly club for youth and young adults over Zoom. There is also a parents’ Facebook page for the youth club (ages 5-11) which includes games, activities and challenges to share with their children.
Plans for reopening of church
All the risk assessments are in place or on their way but the churches will not reopen until at least September. Yr Eglwys heb furiau / The Church without Walls has begun to engage again in the local area as town chaplaincy, maintaining social distancing but visiting local people and businesses where possible.