Pandemic ‘transforms the Church into Netflix’

by the Revd Peter Crumpler, a Church of England priest in St Albans, Herts, and a former communications director for the CofE. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has “propelled the Church into the contemporary world,” says a new report from CPAS, an Anglican evangelical mission agency working with UK and Irish churches. ‘Everyone Welcome Online’ looks at the lockdown’s impact on churches and concludes, “Last month we were the Odeon, today we are Netflix. 

“In the 1950s, the Odeon was okay, but then along came consumer choice, individualism and crowded complex lifestyles. Then came TV film channels, and now Netflix, Prime and others, where you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you are on whatever you’ve got.”

The authors, Bob Jackson and George Fisher, say “The Government has shut our ‘Odeons’ down, so in response we have stumbled into ‘Homespun Netflix’ and it’s looking promising.

“Most churches going online have discovered that far more people are accessing their services than ever came to the building. What seemed initially to be a devastating blow to churches may actually generate growth.”

Bishop of Sheffield Pete Wilcox described the 26-page report as “An astonishingly thorough and perceptive overview of online church.” 

The authors, who devised the popular ‘Everybody Welcome’ course published by Church House Publishing, include feedback from churches experiencing increased numbers of people logging in for online services, both live and recorded. 

One church reported “We’ve had a huge number of hits, many more than the number of people in church on a Sunday, connecting with people who would not come to a regular service.” 

The report analyses who is responding and detects groups ranging from friends and family of church members, to the housebound with links to the church, people linked by christenings, weddings or funerals, people who have moved away, occasional churchgoers and people who have found the church through a denominational or diocesan link.

The authors encourage churches to make contact with people who are ‘dropping in’ to the services, suggesting “Contact as many people as you can to say hello and how nice it was to see them connect with the church, and ask how they are and how the church can help them.”

People are finding it easier to access church online because they can join in the services without feeling concerned about ‘doing the wrong thing’ – like standing or sitting at the ‘wrong’ time – they don’t have to enter a strange building and meet new people and  they can access the services at a time that suits them.

One church reported: “One previously non-churchgoer said that online she felt comfortable, fully part of the service and so more welcomed than if she had been in the building unsure of how to behave.”

The report’s authors are keen to hear from churches about their experiences during lockdown and ask people to contact them at allarewelcome2020@gmail.com

The ‘Everyone Welcome Online’ report can be accessed free at: https://www.cpas.org.uk/church-resources/understanding-christian-leadership/everyone-welcome-online/everybody-welcome-online/#.Xs-E7UBFxPY

Source : Parish Pump

Mary Sumner – founder of the Mothers’ Union (9th August)

Remembered this month is Mary Sumner, founder of the Mothers’ Union.

The Mothers’ Union is now nearly 145 years old. It has accomplished a staggering amount in that time, and nowadays numbers more than four million members, doing good work in 83 countries. That is a far cry from the modest circle of prayer for mothers who cared about family life, which is how it all began with a rector’s wife, Mary Sumner.

Mary was born in late 1828 in Swinton, near Manchester. When she was four, her family moved to Herefordshire. Mary’s father, Thomas Heywood, was a banker and historian. Her mother has been described as a woman of “faith, charm and sympathy” – qualities which Mary certainly inherited. Mrs Heywood also held informal ‘mothers’ meetings’ at her home, to encourage local women. Those meetings may well have inspired Mary’s later work.  

Mary was educated at home, spoke three foreign languages, and sang well. While in her late teens, on a visit to Rome she met George Sumner, a son of the Bishop of Winchester. It was a well-connected family: George’s uncle became Archbishop of Canterbury, and his second cousin was William Wilberforce. Mary and George married in July 1848, soon after his ordination. They moved to Old Alresford in 1851 and had three children: Margaret, Louise and George. Mary dedicated herself to raising her children and supporting her husband’s ministry by providing music and Bible classes.

When in 1876 Mary’s eldest daughter Margaret, gave birth, Mary was reminded how difficult she had found the burden of motherhood. Soon she decided to hold a meeting to which she invited the local women not only of her own class, but also all the village mothers. Her aim was to find out if women could be brought together to offer each other prayer and mutual support in their roles as wives and mothers. That meeting at Old Alresford Rectory was the inaugural meeting of the Mothers’ Union. 

For 11 years, the Mothers’ Union was limited to Old Alresford. Then in 1885 the Bishop of Newcastle invited Mary to address the women churchgoers of the Portsmouth Church Congress, some 20 miles away. Mary gave a passionate speech about the poor state of national morality, and the vital need for women to use their vocation as mothers to change the nation for the better. A number of the women present went back to their parishes to found mothers’ meetings on Sumner’s pattern. Soon, the Mothers’ Union spread to the dioceses of Ely, Exeter, Hereford, Lichfield and Newcastle.  

By 1892, there were already 60,000 members in 28 dioceses, and by 1900 there were 169,000 members. By the time Mary died in 1921, she had seen MU cross the seas and become an international organisation of prayer and good purpose.

Focus in August

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and uncertainties about when the Methodist Church or Hall will reopen, we’ve opted for a socially-distanced open air icebreaker on Saturday, 19th September.  This will take the form of a walking treasure hunt, of less than two miles around the village, followed by an opportunity for ad hoc refreshments at a central location. 

Please meet in the sensory garden alongside the shopping precinct at 2:30pm on Saturday, 19th September.  You may wish to bring your own pen and clipboard.

Looking forward to seeing you all again after a six-month gap.

Barbara Smith

Focus Secretary

Bell Ringing Limited Return

By now you will, hopefully, have heard some of our bells ringing for the new and revised Sunday morning service.

The nature of ringing, involving close proximity of the ringers to each other and direct hand contact on ropes,  has made the return to ringing quite complicated involving three way discussion between HMG, Church authorities and the national body representing ringers (Central Council of Church Bell Ringers)

A plan has been developed allowing social distancing by halving the number of bells rung and only allowing ringers to ring a designated bell, and also limiting the ringing time to 15 minutes.  No practices of the tradition kind are permitted.

That is why you are hearing only three bells, and only for 15 minutes.

It will also be a novel and strange experience ringing with a mask.

It has been most gratifying to read on Social Media the favourable comments by people who have heard the bells, for the first time since early March. Thank you on behalf of all our ringers.

Mervyn Harrison (Tower Captain)

From the Vicarage August 2020

Dear Friends,

It is hard to take decisions in these strange times, but the PCC has gathered good information from a questionnaire and has made new plans for August.

From early July the government authorities have permitted church services of limited numbers and under strict distancing arrangements.  The church authorities then turned this permission into clearer guidelines, requiring churches to do rigorous risk assessments and saying we should have a regular service from September at the latest.

The PCC and myself agreed to re-open the church for small shorter services in August.  Here are the details of our decision, which I hope will help you to make a decision on when you might join us.

The St Luke’s Questionnaire received over a hundred responses and these were a good mixture of email and telephone answers.  That is an impressive result for any voluntary questionnaire.  And it gave some clear informationand the PCC has acted on it. 

Some of the results can be examined further in Steve’s statistical analysis in this publication, but here are my highlights:

ONE We recognise that our Sunday Zoom service is an important ‘congregation’ for us.  

56 out of 104 respondents had come to Sunday Morning Zoom ‘most weeks’ out of 63 who were able to.   5 more requested help to join in.   This is encouraging as all of these people just could not fit into one service in church.  Sunday Zoom will need to continue into the Autumn, albeit at a new time of 10.25 for 10.30am  (caused by the proximity of the new church service at 9am).

TWO We asked ‘If we were to start Sunday communion at 9am, would you come?’ and 31 out of 104 said ‘most weeks’, 40 said ‘occasionally’ and 6 were uncertain.  Those projected numbers encouraged us to start as soon as possible (Sunday 2nd August at 9am) and see what happens.  The time is 9am to help previous 10 o’clockers as well as previous 8.30ers.

THREE  We asked ‘Would you come to a restricted form of Wednesday communion at 10.30am?’ and 15 said ‘most weeks’, 26 said occasionally, 8 were uncertain.   This, plus a handful of those who didn’t enter a questionnaire, would make a very worthwhile number for our midweek service.  So we shall start up on the first Wednesday of August, after a rehearsal of the new social distancing arrangements the week before. 

Please tell everyone who would like to know.  We are aware it has been very hard to keep in touch with everyone, and we dearly hope that we can resume regular fellowship with many Christian brothers and sisters in Holmes Chapel and a bit beyond.

We do not wish to make things difficult for anybody.  If you wish to continue shielding at home, please do that, and make the most of our Zoom services, Church website/Facebook and phone calls.   To safeguard everyone, we will expect churchgoers to wear a facemask (as we have to in shops), and social distancing will be required. 

Please refer to the Link guidance sheet which will be available in church.  It has a list of the ways in which we are helping one another keep safe, while at the same time finding renewed encouragement and fellowship in church.  

It won’t be church quite like we would love it to be, but it will be church.  We thank Jesus.

And thank you for your commitment to the Lord and his people,

Rob