An Update On Unlocking

On Sunday evening we had online communion together, followed by some time sharing news and updates. One of the things we talked about was our progress towards starting Sunday meetings in person again. In case you missed it, here are some of the key points.

What are we looking for?

Before we start meetings there are five key factors we are taking into account:

  1. Legality – are we legally allowed to meet?
  2. Safety – can we follow the Covid-19 secure guidelines and make our meetings (reasonably) safe?
  3. Quality – is the sort of meeting we are allowed to hold actually worth holding, and is it at least as good as the online experience?
  4. Children – can we give children an experience they will enjoy?
  5. Worship – can we genuinely worship God together and encounter him?

In addition we want to serve everyone, so this means we need enough capacity for all who want to attend in person, and still be able to serve those who are not able or willing to come to meetings in person yet by continuing online in some way.

We will no doubt hear of some churches starting meetings soon, and I know that Anglican churches are under particular pressure to do this. Churches are bound by many regulations at this time.

Here are some headlines from the guidance

Top of the list: we need to ensure social distancing at 2 meters. This seriously reduces our capacity, and would require us to hold a lot of meetings or for a lot of people to miss out. One church I know whose building has a capacity of 350 people have worked out that they can only fit 30 in under this guidance.

In addition to this: concept-of-covid-19-in-red-background-4031867

  • One-way routes would need to be laid out
  • We would have to ensure people did not interact with each other
  • Meetings would need to be concluded in the shortest reasonable time,
  • We would have to stagger arrivals and departures
  • There would be no food or drink served
  • There would be no singing allowed except by one person from the front, ideally from behind a screen
  • The volume would need to be kept so low that people could talk without raising their voices to avoid droplet spread
  • People would need to stay seated throughout
  • People in at risk groups, including people who are aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions), would advised not to attend
  • Children would have to be fully supervised by their parents
  • Once the meeting was finished people would have to leave promptly and not socialise

Additionally we would need to keep a log of every person who attends and keep it for 3 weeks. It only takes one person to develop a fever or cough following that meeting and everyone present is likely to be locked down at home for 14 days … which makes you think through how much you really want to be there.

For us this isn’t church

hands-with-latex-gloves-holding-a-globe-with-a-face-mask-4167544Church is built around our fellowship with Christ and with one another. The idea that we come alone, register our arrival, follow arrows on the floor to our seat, sit silently at least 2m away from others, hold onto our kids, not interact with others (since raised voices create droplets), listen to someone sing from behind a screen, hear someone else preach from behind a screen and then go home as fast as possible without interacting again … that’s not for us.

In summary, this doesn’t pass our tests.

Moving forwards

We will watch to see how things develop and keep everything under review. For July and August we will stay online, and will review again for September. I want us to be together as soon as possible, and the meetings have to be worthwhile when we are. We’ll also be looking at other ministries to bring them back as soon as we can.

In reality I wonder if we may still be some way off holding Sunday meetings in person, but we will watch closely as things change. In the meantime we haven’t given up meeting together; we’re meeting online and in other ways too. The Holy Spirit is not confused by the internet, even if we are sometimes.

What CAN we do?

Under current guidance six people from different households are allowed to meet up outside, and two households can meet together inside. Let’s make use of that as friends, as Lifegroups and on Sundays; let’s meet together in all the ways we can.

A final thought

The church is the body of Christ. Is it possible that in this time Jesus is developing different parts of it? With our excellent Sunday meetings we could become like a big torso with skinny legs and tiny arms. If so, this time is perhaps strengthening some other parts of the body.

So let’s keep loving one another, let’s keep on listening to God and let’s keep on encouraging one another; this situation won’t last forever.

ALL CHANGE FOR SUNDAY! DON’T MISS IT!

Because we really value community and want to improve how we meet together online each Sunday …

We are launching WelcomeChurch.Online

There will be no more Sunday meetings through Facebook. Instead you need to visit welcomechurch.online

This is a completely new platform for us. As you watch you can comment on the message, you can ask for prayer and more.

The biggest change is this:

Sunday meetings will broadcast LIVE at 9am, 11am and 6pm

Because it’s live you can’t rewind, pause or fast forward, so put the time in your diary!

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If you do miss it, you can watch or listen to the preach from Monday onwards through our church website.

Welcome Kids will be live at WelcomeChurch.Online at 10am each Sunday.

If you miss the kids slot it will be available afterwards through Facebook as before.

Stop Press! Announcing the launch of WelcomeChurch.Online

Because of Coronavirus we’re not permitted to meet together in person as a church right now, and it looks like this situation could last for a while. Because we really value community and want to improve how we meet together on a Sunday …

we are delighted to announce the launch of WelcomeChurch.Online

From this Sunday (5th April) there will be no more Sunday meetings through Facebook. From now on, to join in with our Sunday meetings all you need to do is visit welcomechurch.online

This is a great new platform for us. As you watch you can comment on the message, you can ask for prayer and you can even read the Bible text alongside the preaching. We’re really excited about it.

The biggest change is this:

Our Sunday meetings will be broadcast LIVE at 9am, 11am and the slightly later time of 6pm

This means that if you don’t want to miss out you will need to put one of those times in your diary and log on to welcomechurch.online at the right time. Of course, because it’s live, it means you can’t rewind, pause or fast forward; it’s like meeting in person again!

 

There is so much value in gathering together at the same time, especially in this season of self-isolation, so we really want everyone to prioritise being online for one of those meetings.

Of course if you do miss it, you will be able to watch or listen to Sunday’s message, from Monday onwards, through our church website.

I look forward to connecting with you all this Sunday at WelcomeChurch.Online

What about Welcome Kids?

Welcome Kids will also be using this platform for their meeting. They have been having a great time together each week with fantastic teaching, games, craft and worship.

They will be live at WelcomeChurch.Online at 10am on Sunday.

If you miss the kids slot it will be available afterwards through Facebook as before.

Leading Through This Crisis

Calling all leaders in Welcome Church!

This crisis we are living through is having a huge impact on us all in so many ways: emotional, relational, physical, financial and more.

One of the key areas of impact is actually psychological, but it’s perfectly possible that we can be impacted in significant ways and not even realise it; we can be like fish swimming around in water who don’t even know they are wet!

This Thursday evening (2nd April) we are inviting everyone in Welcome Church who has any level of leadership responsibility to join us for a Zoom seminar and hangout.

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We are going to talk about the impact of this current crisis on both ourselves and the people we’re leading, with a special focus on the psychological impact this is having and how we can respond to that well.

We will talk from a Biblical perspective about how we can first help ourselves, and then help those around us to thrive during this time. You won’t want to miss it!

Join us online from 7.30pm for a catch up time, followed by teaching content from 8pm with Q&A afterwards. We will finish by 9.30pm.

Leaders: please bookmark this time in your diary now and let us know that you would like to be included by emailing info@allwelcome.uk. We will send out the Zoom code by e-mail nearer the time.

If you are part of Welcome Church and not sure if you should be included, count yourself in – we would be glad to have you there.

In case you missed it, here is our latest Daily Encouragement video, starting to talk about Emotional Wellbeing

Covid-19: Facing Our Fear and Our Disappointment

At Welcome Church we’ve just had our first online Sunday. What a different experience it was!

The message I spoke was about handling our fear at this time. I looked at David and Goliath and what we can learn from that story about our need for a saviour to stand in our place.

You can watch it here:

We hosted the video as a watch party on our Facebook page so people could all watch it together at one time. Don’t forget to join us for that at 10am next week on the Facebook page.

Kids

Welcome Kids was also on line. They will go live at 9am again next Sunday. Be online and ready to go if you want to enjoy the full experience.

Here is a link to the talk that formed part of their time together:

And here is the craft they did:

Some Encouragement

Each day at 4pm, Monday to Saturday, we are posting Daily Encouragement videos. You can find all of them by clicking here.

Yesterday’s was about dealing with our disappointments. I’ve posted that here in case you missed it:

Finally if you want to know how to stay connected with us throughout this unusual time in our lives, here’s a link that will tell you all that you need to know

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Staying Connected

During this unusual time when we can’t meet together in person, there are a number of ways we plan to stay connected with each other as a church. I want to encourage you to make the most of these opportunities, so no one ends up feeling lonely or cut off. Let’s also be on the front foot to invite other’s to connect with us too.

For some people this may mean learning to use technology that’s completely new to you, but go for it anyway! 🙂

Daily Encouragement

Every day at 4pm (Mon to Sat) we are posting a video to help encourage us all during this crisis. It can be found on our church website, and will also be posted to our Welcome Church Facebook page (not the group!) I may blog some of these posts as well, but it would be best not to rely on that. Please be proactive and look on line at 4pm each day, and do let us know of it’s helpful to you.

Life Groups

Over the next few weeks we were due to refresh our Life Groups, with the chance to start new groups or sign up again for existing ones. In order to provide the best connection and care for us all during this crisis, that process has been postponed and current groups will continue for the time being. We’re encouraging people who are not already in a group to connect to one, and if you need help to do that, please contact Dean Guy.

We’re also encouraging all Life Groups to set up a What’s App group chat so people can easily keep in touch. We know that some groups have also started having virtual meetings using Zoom too – what a great idea (more info on that below).

Welcome Youth

Welcome Youth had their first online experience yesterday evening. Despite one or two technical glitches games were played and encouragement was given. Look out for more on that as the weeks progress.

Alpha

Alpha will be going on line via Zoom. They already had a planning meeting online this week. More details will follow in the days ahead.

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The Alpha Planning Meeting on Zoom

Sundays

Sunday meetings cannot take place in the usual way at the moment. This Sunday at 10am there will be a Sunday preach available on the church website, and also on our Facebook page (not the group!) It will also be available as a podcast.

To make this more interactive I will set up a WATCH PARTY starting a few moments after 10am that anyone can join. To access this on the day, be on the Facebook page and ready to go at 10am! The beauty of a watch party is that people can comment and interact together as we go along. (Can I hear an Amen?) I hope lots of us will join in.

Welcome Kids

This Sunday at 9am our first Welcome Kids online experience will be available on the Welcome Church website for you to enjoy with them at home. They have a great plan including craft, worship, games and teaching. This will also be accessible through the Facebook page.

Prayer

As of Monday morning we will be hosting prayer meetings online through Zoom. The plan is to pray from 7.30am – 8.00am, and then again from 1pm -1.45pm. For each prayer meeting we will post an access code in the Facebook group (not the page!)

Please use these codes to join us and pray. We did one on Friday as an experiment and it went really well.

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Pastoral Care

If you have a pastoral need during this time, please do communicate with your Life Group. We also want to pray for people as a whole church when needs come up, so please use the email care@allwelcome.uk to keep us informed. These needs will be prayed for during the Zoom prayer meetings, so get your requests in.

In terms of practical care for those required to stay at home (shopping, getting a prescription, walking a dog etc) we need to use real wisdom! Life Groups and other contacts across the church can do a certain amount, but as this crisis grows we are unlikely to be able to meet every need. Additionally this is a moment to connect well with our community. On this basis there are some things to consider:

  1. Let’s remember to connect well with our own families and neighbours; they may also need our help.
  2. Let’s get involved with the many local volunteer groups that are springing up. Jo and I are involved with our local one in Send, which is being expertly organised by a woman called Ruth. I am now a ‘volunteer coordinator’, and leaflets are going out across our area today. This creates a great opportunity to meet new people and show them love and care.
  3. Practically speaking, most help given in this season is going to need to be done locally, especially as travel becomes restricted. 

An increasing number of Welcome Church people, of all ages, are being confined at home. We now have confirmed cases of Coronavirus amongst the church, and we have others who have symptoms that are as yet unconfirmed. Our first serious hospitalised case is in a relatively young person with young children and no pre-existing conditions.

If you’re helping someone else, or you’re receiving help, please don’t take unnecessary risks or ignore the need for social distancing. To use an  example, this would mean leaving shopping on the door step and not going inside.

Using technology

Technology is a wonderful gift from God. Let’s be grateful for it and embrace it at this time. You may have noticed that there are some specific technologies we are using at this time to help people connect, so please let’s all consider doing the following:

  1. Sign up for our regular emails – you can do that by clicking this link.
  2. Keep an eye on our websiteInformation and updates will be posted there
  3. Install What’s App on your mobile phone. This is a free messaging service that allows you to set up group chats with people. It also allows you to make totally free audio or video calls to friends who have the app, even to people in other nations.
  4. Sign up to Facebook (Yes! Seriously!) Even if you’ve never done this before and swore you never would, now is the time. Once you’ve joined send me a friend request. Also like & follow our Welcome Church page, and join our Welcome Church group. You may have resisted doing this all your life, or you may just prefer Instagram or Twitter or other social media. In simple practical terms, Facebook offers the level of flexibility and interaction that we need right now, so our focus will be there. You can always quit when this crisis is over.
  5. Sign up to Zoom. This is a free app that you install on your laptop, phone or tablet. Sign up for a free account and you can join in everything we do on Zoom. A free account lets you set up meetings of up to 40 minutes length (though you can join ones that last any length of time). If you want to set up long meetings of your own, you can upgrade to a paid account as I’ve done. Zoom offer lots of online videos and tutorials to teach you how to use it, so why not use some of your time to learn? We used it for our elders and admin meetings this week and it was great.
  6. Follow this blog. This is your one stop shop for staying up to date with the church during this crisis. You can click a button to subscribe to it.

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Staying together as a church

Please be encouraged to embrace these specific technologies to help you stay part of the church community during this time. They are a gift from God for us right now and I thank God for them all.

Even if these things are new to you, or you’re someone who thinks “Facebook is so last year”, please join in. Simply put: let’s all be in the same place.

Including everyone

There are always a few people who are unable to connect in the ways I describe above. Perhaps they have no laptop, email or internet (there are a few people in this position), or the internet where they live is just too slow to stream things.

If you have friends in this position, please do phone them and check in with them regularly. In fact, why not do that with lots of people regularly? If we all made just 1 or 2 phone calls a day just to check in with how people are, what a blessing that could be.

 

Covid-19: Getting a shock

Our next Daily Encouragement Video has now been posted to the Welcome Church website and also to our Facebook page. We’re doing these short videos to help us all during this crisis we’re facing as a nation.

I hope you’re doing well and have all you need. If you want to share news about how Coronavirus is affecting you and ask for prayer, please do email us as a church on care@allwelcome.uk It goes straight to our pastoral team. Also do let us know if these videos are helpful or if there is anything you would like to hear about

Lastly, please don’t forget to share this with anyone you feel would benefit. There will be another one out at 4pm tomorrow. Enjoy!

Going Online

We are a church family, whether we can meet together or not! At the moment, in line with government advice, our meetings and ministries are postponed until further notice, but that won’t last forever.

For now the office is closed, but we’re still available

  • The phone is diverted to a mobile, so you can still call it
  • E-mail is still in use, and you can contact the church on info@allwelcome.uk

I thank God for the technology that’s available to us today. Here’s an update on some of the plans for taking Welcome Church online. All the information you need is in this video, and there is a brief summary below as a reminder too.

Please do watch the video through to the end though 😃

A summary of the plans:

First, we’re reshaping the website:

You will see it change a lot over the next 24 hours, with adjustments being made to get us ready to function online.

Second, pastoral care:

We need to pray for one another and care for one another at this time. Life Groups will set up Whats App groups, and to to help people communicate centrally with us as a church, we’ve set up a new email address: care@allwelcome.uk

Please use that address to let us know when Coronavirus is impacting on you and your family. This goes straight to the pastoral team. We can’t fix everything that may happen, but we can pray and get others to pray too.

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A Plan For Sundays

On Sundays we will meet online. This will develop over time, and this Sunday it will work as follows:

  • At 10am a preach will go live on our website (www.allwelcome.uk) for you to watch or listen to, while others do the same at home too. Why not post comments as you listen along?
  • The Welcome Kids team are working on something for the children. Details are still being finalised for that so watch this space
  • Because we’re not able to meet together physically, we’re not in a position to stream worship right now, so on Sunday why not use Spotify or YouTube to find some worship songs you love and get into God’s presence before you watch the preach?
  • Youth are making a plan for Friday evenings too, and they will communicate that directly to our young people

Daily Encouragement

From tomorrow (Thursday 19th March) we plan to post a short daily encouragement video and podcast on our website at about 4pm each day (Mon to Sat).

  • This is intended to serve both us and our town more widely. Please be ready to share it with anyone you think it would help, perhaps by email or on social media.
  • This daily video will appear on the church website, perhaps on this blog, and also on our Facebook Page (NOT THE GROUP – see below for info!)
  • We will also share it on Twitter and hopefully via Instagram, so do follow us

There’s a lot of fear and worry about right now. This is a chance for us to step up and pastor our town; these videos will help with that.

Regular Communications

As time goes by there will be other messages we need to communicate. These will be posted in the Facebook GROUP, and will also come out by email. Please take the time to read and watch them so you know what’s going on.

An encouragement:

1 Peter 5v6-7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

The nations have been humbled at this time by a virus too small to see with the human eye. It didn’t take much for it to happen!

We may have all sorts of anxieties, but we also have a Heavenly Father who loves us and cares for us. He has not forgotten us. He will not abandon us. Let’s submit calmly to His will for our lives in this season, knowing that he loves us and will raise us up again in his own time. And let’s pray for our nation and our government.

And remember: the church was made for a time like this

(** For clarity: we have a FaceBook PAGE and a separate GROUP.

The GROUP has a pink logo and things posted there can only be seen by others in the group; it’s great for internal communication and fun.

The PAGE has a purple logo and can be seen by anyone in the world with access to the internet – it’s great for public communication. If you want to see what’s posted on the page it’s best to go to it and ‘like’ the page.

I know some people have been confused by this in the past! 😃)

Coronavirus and Welcome Church: what happens next?

It’s been a momentous 48 hours!

On Sunday we were together for two encouraging morning meetings. Our Encounter meeting in the evening was superb too. I spoke during the morning about living with Contentment in this time of crisis.

For the first time we videoed the preach, so it’s available to watch. The podcast is also available as usual here, but for those looking for the full experience, here is Welcome Church online (be warned – subtitles are still being worked on and amended – there are some howlers in there right now!)

The situation has changed a lot since Sunday

I said in my preach that it could be the last time we were together for a while; sadly that turned out to be true. On Monday afternoon Boris Johnson briefed the nation on the latest measures the Government would like us to take to help manage the national Coronavirus situation.

Amongst other things it was said, “now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and non-essential travel” and that we should avoid “all social gatherings and social contact”. He has also asked people to work from home wherever possible.

In order to comply with this guidance, with immediate effect Welcome Church has postponed all meetings including Life Groups, Welcome Youth, Welcome Crew, Welcome Tots, Alpha, all courses and prayer meetings, and we’ve closed the office until further notice too.

This does not mean that church life has ceased!

Church is a family, not a meeting, a building or a ministry. Church is us; the people! We are the church!

Over the next couple of days we are looking at how things develop and what it will all mean for us as a church. We are also, right now, developing ways for us to function together as a church using online resources and strategies. I am so grateful to God for the existence of the technology that makes this possible.

Here is the first of our online video updates and encouragements. Please watch and enjoy. More will follow in due course.

This situation is not going away any time soon and it will get worse before it gets better. Let’s all get our hearts right and our expectations right. Let’s not give in to fear, but stand firm in faith.

We are here to be a blessing to our town in this challenging time, whatever may happen. God has a purpose for us in all of this.

And remember: God is never taken by surprise. Let’s not be fearful;  He has us safe in the palm of His hand. Even if we die, we live.

The church is made for a time like this!