Prior to lockdown, Cheltenham Church had been engaging with the needy in the community of Springbank by running a Messy Church programme every two months. This had been enjoying a good degree of success with community engagement of between 20 and 40 people each time.
With the onset of lockdown, we sought to continue that engagement by inviting both community and church families to Messy Church on Zoom. Sabbath 4 July was our second such programme.
Sadly, we have had no community uptake on the Zoom version so far, but our church children (aged from 18 months upwards) and their families, plus a couple of Adventist families from further afield, have thoroughly enjoyed it. Following video songs, they were able to interact using an on-screen poll, to find out what everyone had been doing during the last week. This led to the story (again on video) of Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath for this programme: the theme being that God cares for us and we should also care for others. We then made this theme practical in our creative prayer time, where we shared several different ways in which we can either help or care for others. In addition, we gave thanks for God’s blessings and encouraged everyone to think of ‘5-a-day’ to be thankful for.
The craft demonstration consisted of a 3D picture of the Bible story using a cereal box. This was done to make it easy for each family to find simple resources around the home.We concluded by playing the songs again, during which most of the children were getting on with their crafts. We were able to see some of the completed crafts before the Zoom session finished and all were shared on WhatsApp afterwards.
As facilitators, we have gained a great deal of encouragement and enjoyment from interacting with these children and their families. We got a real buzz from doing it.
Going forward, we hope and pray that, until such time as we can meet face to face again, we will be able to find ways of engaging with our community families, who may find it difficult to access Zoom due to data restrictions. We do know that some really miss the hands-on experience away from home.
We feel a calling to this community, not least because we are one of the very few churches who have been working here, so we pray that God will open more doors for His cause.