What does a priest look like? What kinds of things do they do and say in lockdown? What does the church do when large gatherings are prohibited? Is Zoom the only way?
I used to work for a charity going door-to-door. It can be tough. Lockdown has changed that. It’s fun timing how long it takes for people to answer the door, they’re so desperate for a chat! Abnormal times.
In Southfields, we have a large council estate, with Ackroydon Community Church at the heart of it. We are so aware of huge need hidden behind the doors. Large families in small spaces. GIG economy workers financially stranded. Children bored. Cupboards bare. No wifi.
How can the church make a difference? We wanted a simple concept. We offer food, kids activity packs and signposting to long term help. I’ve written a prayer for the community on the flyer so people can turn to God for comfort and strength.
We are in the process of delivering flyers and snacks (so people notice the flyer and it’s not consigned to junk!) to 1,000 homes in the community. We knock on each door. Many are opened.
Not your average junk mail. Reaching out to unearth those in need.
The estate is a diverse place. There are young professionals working from home keen to connect. Others have little English but are grateful for a smile. Others are financially desperate. Some are hungry. Some are positive. Most are fearful, weary and putting a brave face on things.
One lady said we were a godsend. An hour before we met, she was in tears. Her 16-year-old daughter has shut herself into her room and won’t talk. Her mum was desperate so went for a walk to process it all. As she returns we’ve left some snacks at her door and we meet in the corridor. Kindness opens up a conversation. She’s been going to AA for 16 years and we talk about to how she might make the ‘higher power’ more personal. She wonders how she will ever forgive herself for some of the life she’s given her daughter through her addiction. She’s living with so much guilt and shame. I’m able to talk to her about beginning by receiving forgiveness from God to release her to be more herself. She longs for that freedom, so we pray together.
This simply is what the church does writ large across Southwark Diocese, the UK and the world. We communicate and contextualise the phenomenal news of forgiveness and restoration found in Jesus Christ. We find a way to be Christ’s hands and feet, even though our physical doors are closed. We offer whatever we can, wherever we find ourselves.
It is real hope in despair. Comfort in isolation. True, gritty love amid grief.
This is a time of opportunity. Recent statistics suggest there is a spiritual hunger. People are turning towards God. Usual support mechanisms aren’t there. There is huge fear for the future. Self-determinism is no longer a safety net. Death is a nearer danger than ever.
As the church we have something to say. We must be known by our incarnational love. Love in action. Love in word. Love in prayer. Love in kindness. Love in sacrifice. Jesus can use us to reach out to a hurting world.
Huge thanks to our partners:
Learn to Love to Read, a local literacy charity providing books and simple craft parcels for families unable to connect to online school or with few resources to occupy their children. https://www.learn2love2read.org.uk/
Dons Local Action Group – a group of Wimbledon AFC fans who have gathered over 500 volunteers in Wimbledon, Merton and Wandsworth to give out emergency food parcels. They are using our new church hall as their Wandsworth base.
City Harvest – putting surplus food from supermarkets to good use in a sustainable way. They provided all the snacks for the flyer delivery.