From Harlesden, with Love!
Nicole, a member at All Souls Church, Harlesden explains how their parish has been reaching out to congregation members who do not use the internet.
Reaching out in non-digital ways
When the Government announced a lockdown back in March, I think it is fair to say that it took us all by surprise! Although, we were aware of the spread of Covid-19 in other countries, we never thought at first that it would come to a lockdown in the UK. All Souls Church was no different and we pretty much went into full lockdown overnight. This did not give us much opportunity to communicate with our congregation.
The Church promptly utilised our website to publish weekly readings and sermons and we encouraged our members to follow the weekly online streaming of services by our friends at St Joseph the Worker in Northolt.
However, we were faced with the challenge that many in our congregation do not use the internet. We needed a solution that could be accessed by everyone. FLR Spectron (an integrated office solutions provider) suggested that we use their HD Conference bridge. This has worked very well for us. We used it for a PCC meeting, and we are now running weekly prayers and reading sessions through the conference call service. As it can be accessed on any landline or mobile phone, it means that all our members can dial in, even those without Internet connection. It is really reassuring to hear the voices of our Church family every Sunday, especially those in their sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties! It is great to hear that all is well and safe with them.
Our next challenge was to communicate to the whole congregation that we are reaching out to them and inviting them for weekly prayer despite the Church buildings having to remain closed. The simplest way for this was to write a good old-fashioned card and a newsletter. It was sent out to everyone on our electoral role. We kept it very fresh and light yet also very informative. We were able to include information about our weekly services, an update on how to be kept informed about the Church, news from our parish, how to continue to contribute to the Church through lockdown. We mentioned the help available for our more vulnerable members and our youth group. Very importantly we also consulted all our members on our Mission Action Plan for the next five years.
Overall, the newsletter was very well received, and we had many positive comments from our members. They were delighted by the personal touch of receiving a card and news from the Church. We will be sending a new letter out soon when the Church is ready to re-open its doors for public worship. All in all, I feel that this was a good way to reach out to all and I think our approach might inspire other Churches to do the same. Whilst the era of the internet is really great and allows us to be in touch so much easier, it is important to remember that especially within Churches there are still many vulnerable people who do not have access or the confidence to use online services. And isn’t it always nice to receive a card in the post…?