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Baptists in the pandemic
 

Baptists have impacted their local communities in numerous ways during the pandemic. Here are the stories shared at the October 2021 meeting of Baptist Union Council



"A food distribution hub here in Chester that we are lead partner"
From Andy Glover, minister of HBC Chester (formerly Hoole Baptist Church): "We as a church have produced this six minute video telling the story of Crossroads Community Hub – this is a food distribution hub here in Chester that we are lead partner and began at the beginning of the pandemic."



 


Mitcham Lane Baptist Church - vaccination centre
'While the seats in our sanctuary have been a little quieter in 2021, the rest of our building tells a different story.'
Between 25000 and 27000 people vaccinated in the church building, and Covid booster jabs underway. 



 


'We created a community allotment' - Devonport Baptist Church, Plymouth 
There are no local allotments in the Devonport area, we have very small gardens and people are very unlikely to be able to grow their own vegetables. The intention is to give local people access to grow their own but also for people to take fresh food home with them. We are all people of faith, but our intention is to grow into a very mixed group of people of faith, people interested in faith and those of no faith. Read more.
 
 


Our activities in the pandemic - Ludlow Baptist Church 
During the lockdown we were and continue to be deeply concerned for the local community in Ludlow.
Our foodbank was extremely busy and many families and individuals were  blessed through it. Many local people came forward to volunteer in the foodbank during the lockdown and have continued to do so.

About four of us in the church are volunteers for the Compassionate Communities Project run locally by one of the local GP surgeries. During  the lockdown we have been able to befriend those who felt lonely and abandoned with weekly visits, offering a listening ear and friendship and emotional support.

We are also involved in a local initiative called the Good Grief Cafe, a meeting place for those in the town who have been bereaved. During lockdown we were able to continue meeting these people online through zoom meetings, although now, we are meeting up in a local cafe once  again. We tend to get around 15-20 people who have been bereaved and 
offer them friendship and support during their time of difficulty.

We have also befriended a young man who is homeless and came to the foodbank for food. A few of us have got alongside him and he now attends church every week!

We are also in discussion with a local charity for people with learning disabilities about setting up a weekly community lunch here at the community centre where the lonely and marginalised can gather together to have a meal. Hopefully a few of the church members will commit and join the mealtime, offering friendship and someone to talk to


Simon Lambourne, minister Ludlow Baptist Church 
 


'The whole church was given over to the foodbank' - Catshill Baptist Church 

At Catshill Baptist Church our foodbank lost nearly its whole team when the first lockdown was announced. This was due to the need to isolate vulnerable people but some of the core team, supported by some new volunteers from within the church and some from the community, were able to ensure the work went on. It was reorganised to try to keep everyone safe and for a long time food was delivered to people's homes rather than have people coming into church. 

The numbers of people requiring help quadrupled almost overnight and, with the lockdown affecting all other activities, the whole church was given over to the foodbank. Local supermarkets were approached and many people supported the effort and the demand was met throughout. As we get back to normal the demand has now reduced but the work is still going on and good partnerships have been formed with local schools to provide help where it's still needed. Amongst it all there has been so much to thank God for.

Andy Treweeks, Catshill Baptist Church, Church Secretary
 


The limitations of lockdown has unleashed creativity - Barton Community Church, Oxford
Our church (Barton Community Church) is a small church on a council estate. We've found the limitations of lockdown have unleashed creativity. We ran a crowdfunder to provide 150 arts and crafts packs for our community, started a listening service, continued our foodbank, and piloted a self esteem course for teenage girls.
 
We had good fun on Zoom with a 10 year celebration party and Facebook live Christmas service.
 
We lost our minister and have failed to recruit, but we did manage to raise £0.5m in a week to buy a manse (crazy story) which actually ended up being 850k to set up a charity and buy two houses, one for homeless men and one for the church. We got funding for a worker for 1.5 days a week and we're also in the process of supporting the set up of another charity to provide community projects for the estate. 
 
We're a small church plant (there were eight of us at our last "members" meeting last night with lots of vision)

Robin Peake (Leadership team)
 


'Worked with community response teams; strengthened friendships'
Here is a summary of our stories of how we responded to the pandemic both within our church family and also with our response to community needs.

“As with most churches quite a few of our older family don’t have internet access, and some were fairly isolated; we made a list of all these in our care and developed a great team of people who phoned everyone each week rotationally, and others who delivered printed copies of sermons, emails etc to those who couldn’t access live-streamed ones. It has been a great blessing to all involved, and has really deepened friendships and strengthened bonds.
 
With regards to links with our wider community; they were strengthened during the pandemic and we were able to be involved with community response teams which were set up to meet the needs of those who were most at risk of increased vulnerability caused by periods of isolation. One aspect of this included working with partner agencies over the 2020 Christmas period when gift packages were delivered to struggling families, and hot cooked Christmas meals were delivered to over 170 vulnerable and isolated people in need.  

 
Siân Anderson, church administrator, Bromsgrove Baptist Church 
(Contributions from Rose Pauley and the Revd Paul Lewis)

 


'Our charity has grown massively during the pandemic'
Our faith community is called the Crossgates Community. We are a group of around 15 people. Most are new Christians in the last five years and we’ve been gathering for three and a half years. 

Our faith community is linked with Revive Baptist Church who support us (Jonathan & Kären Gray) in our mission to East Leeds.  

We run a charity which works with all local churches and the community called Connecting Crossgates. Both have Facebook pages. Our charity has grown massively during the pandemic. We went from running 4-6 projects before lockdown to now running 12 projects! 

We’ve been using the BigLife model with Peter Dunn since Easter 2020 and it’s transformed our faith community. Last Sunday we had four baptisms.  

As a result we have started meeting with nine seekers in four different homes who are exploring faith. Two of our community are regularly praying with colleagues. 

With thanks to Revive Baptist Church and the Crossgates Community for supporting this work in the community 

Jonathan & Kären Gray, Crossgates Community ... church without walls ... 
 

'People matter'
Phil Jump, Regional Minister Team Leader for the North Western Baptist Association
, reflects on the findings of a survey among churches in the north west. 

 

'Christians being the presence of Christ in our communities'
Stuart Davison, Regional Minister of the South Eastern Baptist Association, explains how churches have responded during Premier's Sunday Night Live in February.


 

Click here to access a summary sheet highlighting some of the activities of churches in the Heart of England Baptist Association (HEBA) during the pandemic.

'For some of these things it may be one church and for other things many have done them,' writes HEBA regional minister team leader Adrian Argile, 'but it does give a flavour of how fellowships have engaged with their communities.'

 

We gathered our Thought for the Day reflections into a book
At Ampthill Baptist Church (part of the CBA), we responded in a wide range of ways including a volunteer scheme to help the vulnerable with shopping or practical tasks, invested in livestreaming and broadened our ministry in many ways online, reshaped our children and youth ministry which has emerged well and differently, and delivered gift/activity bags of goodies to children, families and seniors across our town at Easter, summer and Christmas. God is good!

But one story that is perhaps simpler to summarise and different is that we shared a 'Thought for the Day' from someone in the church twice a week via email and social media. These were short reflections, rooted in the Bible and sharing personal stories, prayers or reflections to inspire and encourage. We gathered these into a book, published it, and all proceeds are being split between Open Doors and MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship). The link to the book is here.

This certainly encouraged the church and gave us a ready means to share our hope in Christ with family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours.

Andrew Goldsmith, senior pastor, Ampthill Baptist Church
 

Tamworth Baptist Church was used by the NHS as a vaccination centre during the pandemic from March 2021 to early September 2021. The church provided volunteers to welcome visitors, give out information and help everyone book in for their vaccination. 

There were more than 32,000 people who received at least one vaccination, many of them returning for a second jab. To celebrate the success of the project, the church held a thanksgiving service and an offering for the BMS vaccination programme was taken up, raising £88.
 

Stories from South Wales

Paul James and Simon Jennings of Eden Church, Penarth, explain how people are making commitments to follow Jesus through Facebook page Why follow Jesus 365.



'It was a story of God's provision'.
An interview with Jon and Emma of Salem Baptist Church, Tonteg, about the impact the foodbank has had on the local community during Covid-19.



 


A food bank delivery service when the local food banks closed - Pollok Baptist Church in Glasgow  
Pre Covid we had already identified that food poverty was an issue. We had built up very good relationships with our local Waitrose and Tesco to receive end of day produce that we could give away free in our free cafe and community fridge. We also identified and launched a cook school that allowed locals to learn how to cook. We believe that education is the best way to challenge and tackle food poverty and to increase community involvement and self-care. 
 
During the initial lockdown of 16 weeks all the local foodbanks closed. People were isolating, vulnerable and alone. We remained open as a food bank delivery service delivering to 100 families every week, some 250000 meals over that period. This also included fresh produce, basic household needs, Easter eggs!! and we phoned all 100 families every week to make sure they were ok. 
 
We stored frozen food, fresh produce, tins and our church building became a massive foodbank. We then maintained this over the next 12 months with a collection service where people came to collect the food instead of it being delivered. 
 
We shared our life moments with these people, hear their stories, fed them, delivered food, helped them seek help from the housing, health board and social work through our links already forged. Now we are back running a free cafe with some of the people coming to engage with us, help serve and are currently making soup for the community over the winter period. 

Dave Murray is the pastor at Pollok Baptist Church in Glasgow 
 


A list of other stories which have appeared on the Baptists Together website 



Practical help
 
Delivering food to the most vulnerable 
A Baptist church in Purley, Croydon has accelerated plans to work alongside the council and FareShare in ensuring the most vulnerable in its community have access to food. Pastor Nick Graves explains more  

The Southend Emergency Fund 
People on the margins in Southend have been supported throughout lockdown by an emergency fund with two Baptist ministers at its heart

'We have facilitated friendship'
Ben Tucker, minister of Seaton Baptist Church in Devon, explains how the vision of the church, released in part by a Home Mission grant at the start of 2020, has led to the explosion of a brand new missional adventure over the weeks of lockdown.

Update:
‘Everybody has a desire to love and care for their neighbour. Tapping into that is powerful.’   
The vision of Seaton Baptist Church, released in part by a Home Mission grant at the start of 2020, led to the explosion of a brand new missional adventure over the weeks of lockdown. What’s happening next? 

Community grocery opens in Baptist church 
More than 100 people signed up to become members of a community grocery when it opened in Emmanuel Baptist Church in Liverpool 

Community fridge opens in Gorse Hill Baptist Church 
A community fridge has opened in Gorse Hill Baptist Church in Swindon – the first such fridge to be opened in the town

But it's much more than a community fridge - See also:
"We have responded to needs that have arisen in the pandemic"
How Gorse Hill Baptist Church in Swindon has moved to meet community needs over the last year. Interview with Heather Prictor.


"A food distribution hub here in Chester that we are lead partner"
From Andy Glover, minister of HBC Chester (formerly Hoole Baptist Church): "We as a church have produced this six minute video telling the story of Crossroads Community Hub – this is a food distribution hub here in Chester that we are lead partner and began at the beginning of the pandemic"
 
https://youtu.be/duY4UzmngCY
 

Deepening relationships in lockdown 
Shirley Warren Action Church has developed deeper community connections by meeting local needs during the coronavirus crisis – and a Baptist Union grant has played a part

'It has been a faith stretching decision' 
Carol Knight explains how and why her Baptist church's community fridge is still running - and how praying each day for daily bread has taken on a new perspective

'Extraordinary acts of kindness' 
Lockdown has seen many extraordinary acts of kindness shown by ordinary people towards others, not least in New Brighton, Wallasey

Carpark harvest produces a bumper crop 
Prevented from holding their traditional Harvest Festival by the Covid pandemic, a north Leeds church decided the next best thing would be to set up a drive through drop off point in their carpark

 
Vaccination centres
 
Baptist church buildings used as vaccination centres 
Several Baptist church buildings have become vaccination centres as the national programme accelerates

Mitcham Lane Baptist Church - vaccination centre
'While the seats in our sanctuary have been a little quieter in 2021, the rest of our building tells a different story.'
Between 25000 and 27000 people have been vaccinated in the church building, and Covid booster jabs are underway. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kByIqpbB3IQ
 

 

 
 
Mental / emotional / spiritual support 
 
'It was so painful' - Baptist minister takes dozens of funerals during the first lockdown
As the minister of Trinity Church in Rawdon, Leeds, Helen Lambert normally conducts around four to five funerals a year. 2020 has proved to be very different 

We are not alone 
Sheena Dykes and Dawn Hazell highlight a resource to help people to understand and share experiences of grief in the midst of Covid-19

Baptist church opens as a 'Hope Space' 
Clevedon Baptist Church opened its building for private prayer and reflection using the Hope Together mission initiative of Hope Spaces 

Becoming a bereavement friendly church
Since 2019, Oundle Baptist Church has been exploring how to become a Bereavement Friendly Church, indeed a bereavement friendly town, to reach out, with the love of Jesus, to all those who face bereavement in the local community. Judith Brashaw shares some of the journey they have been on.

Discovering treasure in life's scars
Kintsugi Hope is a charity based in the UK striving to make a difference to people’s mental wellbeing - and has already partnered with more than 40 Baptist churches. One of them is King Street Baptist Church in Thetford, Norfolk. Minister Sally Sago explains how the partnership is working

Our journey with Kintsugi Hope - Earls Hall Baptist Church
Members of the core team Andy Smith and Sharon Schofield provide an insight into developments so far.

'We’ve been challenged and we’ve changed'  
Interview with Denzil Larbi, associate minister of Selsdon Baptist Church, on how he has adapted - including the encouraging response to launching  a Bible course online  

'We created a community allotment' - Devonport Baptist Church, Plymouth 
There are no local allotments in the Devonport area, we have very small gardens and people are very unlikely to be able to grow their own vegetables. The intention is to give local people access to grow their own but also for people to take fresh food home with them. We are all people of faith, but our intention is to grow into a very mixed group of people of faith, people interested in faith and those of no faith.


 
Parish nurses and chaplains
 
We have to provide hope 
Parish nurses walk alongside those who are struggling in the communities they serve. How has the pandemic impacted their ministry, and what needs do they perceive as we move forward?
Baptists Together Magazine spoke to Ali Cherry and Barbara Griffiths, two parish nurses in Baptist churches.

Healthcare chaplaincy in a pandemic 
In a pandemic, when we have a new disease about which so little is known, we have to be careful, writes Nik Hookey. But we can sit with those who are dying, and they can know that someone who understands their spirituality is there with them

Healthcare chaplaincy in a pandemic 
We invited a number of Baptist healthcare chaplains to share something of their experiences in the Covid-19 pandemic.
This page features reflections from the Revds Sarah Crane, Diana Steadman and Adrian Woodbridge.

Healthcare chaplaincy in a pandemic 
'Most times we do visit. It is so important to the patients. Often we are the only non-medical person to see them for days, if not weeks.' By Mark Burleigh, Head of Chaplaincy & Bereavement Services, University Hospitals of Leicester

Our pastoral response is one of listening 
A reflection by hospital chaplain David Southall 


 
Community events
 
'We couldn't deprive the town of it altogether' 
Wellspring Church found a way of being a welcome presence even though its town's busy May carnival had to be cancelled for the first time since the war
 
Carols by headlights 
Olton Baptist Church, Solihull, organised a drive-in carol service in December. Bernice Lingard reports on what happened - and how it was received (1000 people at a carol service)

 

Baptist Times, 11/10/2021
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