Lockdown stories: doing it all differently!
To mark the anniversary of Lockdown 1 on 23 March, we invited representatives of all our different BRF ministries to share the ups and downs, the high points and the low points of their year. It’s been a tough year for everyone, and many people experienced heart-breaking loss and great stress. BRF writers and volunteers were not spared these challenges, but amidst it all, they found glimpses of light, comfort and hope. In our first blog of a series of lockdown stories, Sharon Sampson, a Messy Church leader, shares how she's doing it all differently:
A six foot tickle stick, just in case!
What was my low point of the pandemic? It was seeing ‘CLOSED’ on the door of our ancient little church and wondering if that had ever happened before, in its 900 year history.
So, what to do on a Sunday morning? Instead of putting on my smart clothes and walking across the village footpaths to join others in worship, I put on my mud covered old black trousers and tatty red coat and headed out across the fields with my sausages (canine variety). And to my surprise, I found God right there! In the song of the robin who seemed to be singing just for me and in the wildflowers God had sprinkled all around. What a joy to discover that I could worship on my dog walks. ‘But that’s not worship!’ I hear you cry. Yet I would like to argue that it is. For those of you old enough to remember Dr Spock. ‘It’s worship, Jim, but not as we know it.’ I personally have found that it is better!
Instead of listening to someone else’s prayers, I could chat with my father, one to one, pouring out my troubles and thanking him for my many blessings. I now have a much more personal relationship with my loving father than I had in 2019 BC – Before Covid.
Instead of trying to sing an ancient hymn, chosen to fit the lectionary of the day, I could play my favourite Soul Survivor worship songs.
Instead of being limited to one sermon, I could play any number of podcasts from amazing speakers like Charlie Mackesy or Mike Pilavachi.
Then, back home, I could curl up in my favourite armchair with a great book, like God Smuggler which has done more for my faith than 100 sermons put together.
But it was not all robins and roses. My dog walking worship felt quite selfish. What of our great commission: Go and make disciples! I must admit that I didn’t manage to convert any sheep, cows or dogs.
Luckily, I lead a Messy Church so found opportunities there.
We held a few gatherings outdoors, one with families confined to cardboard ‘ships’ – discipleSHIPs, fellowSHIPs, stewardSHIPs and worShips. I love cardboard! It’s environmentally friendly, costs nothing (you just need to raid a few neighbours’ bins) and has endless possibilities. The kids loved decorating their boats and weren’t tempted to break the 6ft rule, though I did have a 6ft ‘tickle stick’ just in case!
When the weather got colder, like the rest of the world, we moved indoors onto Zoom. One time, we focused on the persecuted church. I appeared under a blanket with a torch. ‘Sssh! It’s a secret!’ We had fun pretending to be the police and searching for evidence of Christianity in our houses. What a joy to see them bring back so many crafts from previous Messys that they had kept and treasured!
Christmas is normally a time when half the village turn up at the church doors for the carol service. What to do? We decided to stick a 9 ft glowing star on the tower to pronounce to the world that we were still celebrating! It blessed the whole village, for weeks, far more than one carol service would have done. For our Messy Zoom, we had a scavenger hunt for items that we could use to tell the Nativity story, including a white plate to put above our heads for Angel Gabriel, a cushion to shove up our jumpers for Mary, a pet food bowl for a manger and ‘something smelly’ for frankincense.
Before each zoom, I delivered craft bags to each household, (quarantined for 3 days and delivered using kitchen tongs of course). For Harvest and Christmas, I made extra bags and left them on doorsteps of non-Messy villagers. What a joy it was to hear how these bags had blessed so many people, particularly older villagers home alone with not much to do and not many visitors.
During the pandemic, churches all over the UK have had to find new ways to worship Looking forward, I hope that this pandemic has jolted us out of our ‘we always do it this way' attitude and has unleashed the creativity that I believe is inside all of us. After all we are created in God’s image and he is the ultimate creator!
Sharon Sampson is a photographer, dog walker and mum of three, from a little village in the English countryside. She loves showing all ages that being a Christian can be a fun adventure by running church campouts, Easter Experiences and interactive prayer stations. She has also set up a Messy Church and is enjoying the challenge of keeping it going in lockdown.