#streetchurch in Harrow
Revd Malcolm Finlay tells us about the success they have had in Harrow, reaching out to the community with services on the street.
#streetchurch has been for us an evolving idea, but in essence it’s about bringing Church to where people live while we can’t meet in church buildings. We have done #streetchurch four times and to our astonishment we have welcomed nearly 60 of our wonderful neighbours each Sunday. Several people across the churches of One Church Harrow have tried different variations of #streetchurch on their streets. It has always been well received wherever it has been offered. It is simple to do and something that many churches, whether priests or people, could try right across London to serve and love our communities while services in church buildings are not possible.
We were inspired initially by the example of Rev Pat Allerton who has gone to many streets around London leading people in the singing of Amazing Grace and then the Lord’s Prayer. We thought why don’t we give that a go on the street we live on in Harrow, but with a twist of also including a short message of hope from the Bible, an extended time of prayer, and a time for neighbours to wave and say hello to each other (albeit at a social distance).
So on Sunday May 3rd we – Dr Claire Finlay (Ordinand) and Rev Malcolm Finlay (Church Planter, One Church Harrow) – gave it a go! We printed a short flyer explaining what was going to happen, with all the words for Amazing Grace and the Lord’s Prayer, and with the help of a lovely couple from Christ Church Roxeth delivered these to every house on our street in advance of Sunday. Because our road is a Crescent shape we did the service three times so everyone could hear it, each time lasting around 15mins. We also asked our neighbours to remain within the bounds of their property in order to maintain social distancing. We were completely surprised when nearly 60 of our wonderful neighbours came to join us We were greatly touched that it had a genuine community feel, where those who kindly joined us broadly reflected the beautiful cultural, and also religious, diversity of Harrow.
We had planned to do this just once, but over the next couple of weeks several of our neighbours asked could we do it again. So we chatted and Claire had the brilliant idea – why don’t we offer #streetchurch every Sunday during the rest of May & June? So for the last three Sundays we have done it with almost 60 of our lovely neighbours coming to join us. This last Sunday Claire invited our entire street to online Alpha when she led #streetchurch, and also delivered Alpha invitations to every house. We don’t know what the future of #streetchurch is beyond June but we look forward to seeing what God has in store for our wonderful street.
Why is it been well received?
We don’t have the entire answer to this but some things have become clear:
- People are longing for local community: during the Lockdown we have witnessed that people across London and the UK have had an increased desire for local community, especially on the roads and flat blocks where they live. This is has been evident through the Thursday 8pm Clap for the NHS & Keyworkers, and also VE Day celebrations. #streetchurch provides a great opportunity to do something together and build local community, something we all have needed during lockdown.
- People are longing for a message of hope: COVID19 has caused a great deal of anxiety, fear and grief. We were initially nervous about how a short message of hope from the Bible might be received, lest anyone think that we were trying to ram things down people’s throats. To our surprise many people have said that they have really appreciated the message of hope from the Bible.
- People know that we and the church care: we moved only comparatively recently to Harrow, August 2019, but prior to the Lockdown we had put on a couple of parties in our house for the road because we wanted to get to know everyone on our street. Just as we were entering Lockdown we also gave out flyers to everyone on our street from One Church Harrow offering to help people during the Lockdown. We think these have helped people on our street know that we and the church genuinely care for them, we love our neighbours and we feel very blessed to live on this street.
- Is it easy to do: so far we have spent no money on new or expensive equipment. We pre-record the service onto an iPhone and then play service and the hymn for that week from the iPhone through the sound system of the car. Very kindly Rev Simon Johnson, curate of St Paul’s Harrow, has lent us a portable speaker to boost the volume in addition to the car sound system. Most cars, even ours at nearly a decade old, have an AUX Input socket or Bluetooth so it is possible for almost anyone to link their phone to their car sound system.
- Give people the words: we found it was helpful for people to have the words so literally everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet! It also helped that we explained who we were, why we were doing #streetchurch and the timings & locations for each of the three services. We have put a service sheet with four hymns & the Lord’s Prayer on a double side of A4 which people use each time.
We love our neighbours and we have found #streetchurch is a wonderful way to love & serve our community during this difficult season of COVID 19. Why not try it in your street or area?
We are happy to share any of the resources we have made. You are even welcome to come and see #streetchurch now that the Lockdown regulations have been partially relaxed. For more info please contact: Malcolm@nullonechurchharrow.org
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