When the lockdown was first imposed back in March, I was experiencing the most relentless Lent I had ever lented! Suddenly, all the commitments that filled my diary were scored out in seconds. I felt a bit guilty feeling so relieved, but as a new minister in my first year in a busy Pastorate with 8 churches to look after, time was a commodity I was beginning to feel very short of. Now, suddenly, along with the rest of the world, a pandemic had put a stop to the frenetic pace of life and given many of us a chance to take stock and breathe.
Quite quickly my sense of relief was replaced with more pressure as people in churches of all denominations seemed to almost instantly spring into action on digital platforms, live streaming services, zooming prayer meetings and finding fresh ways to worship beyond the walls of their buildings. I am a child of the 60’s with a reasonable grasp of computers but still feeling a bit of a dinosaur at times in this very digital age. What was I to do?
Thankfully, the Llandinam Area Pastorate is a group of very supportive and engaged Christian fellowships. Being a team player, I called out for help and with the help of Rev
Robert Bebb and his wife Jacqui, we quickly launched a Facebook page for the Pastorate with the logo which we had just agreed upon. It has the strapline ‘Following Christ together” and the names of our 8 churches in a compass with the cross at the centre.
The next challenge was to master the art of filming a podcast and posting it on the page. Many of us have found we have learned new skills during this pandemic. This is one which I have enjoyed working at. The task has been shared with my fellow retired colleagues and the membership of the page has grown to 73 members and the link to the podcast along with a written transcript is emailed out each week to 69 more contacts and shared by the elders on Messenger and the transcript delivered by hand to some of those members not on the internet. One elder commented that the service is getting to more people week by week now than when our chapel doors were open.
I have also found that during lockdown I have had time to phone round members and adherents. It’s given me the chance to get to know them better and hear more of their story. In this rural community so many are related to one another. It has been like the pieces of a jigsaw filling in week by week. Before lockdown I only had the edges but now I can fill in so much more of the pastoral picture of this large group of people in my care.
Recently I did a series of podcasts on Philippians. So much of Paul’s letter struck a chord with our situation. He was writing in prison. For so many Covid-19 has been a kind of prison sentence. Yet Paul says, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil.1:6). Pandemics cannot put a hold on God’s redeeming work in His son Jesus and his plans for our lives as a church and individually.
His creativity in us has come out in so many ways. I met in our garden with Rev Penny Burkill and Rev Jenny Garrard one day. The idea of using the front of the chapels to prayer gardens in Caersws and Trinity, Llanidloes was floated and Penny went off to work on readings, prayers and reflections for it. It has been well received by the community and a journey round the Bible readings, reflections and prayers set to music has just been posted on our Facebook page. We hope to hold an open-air service at both gardens in August.There are seven prayer places on the topics:
1. God with us
2. The Rock
3. The Dove
4. The still small voice
5. The Cross
6. Water and pebbles
7. The NHS rainbow
So, through podcasts and prayer gardens, the pandemic has birthed fresh ways of worshipping which I could never have envisaged at my induction as minister of this
pastorate exactly one year ago.
Now we are looking to re-open our churches for worship again in the autumn. We keep the blessing from the prayer garden in mind as we go on from here in the love of the creator God, in the presence of the risen Jesus and with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. We can be sure of Paul’s words to the Philippian Christians, we… “can do all things through him who strengthens us.” (Phil 4:13) And as we trust in his love and mercy, “our God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”(Phil 4:19) We keep going and we keep praying with thanksgiving through this lockdown and on into the future