I'm the leader at Arun Church, we are around 400 people of all ages and backgrounds and normally we meet in our local school, the Littlehampton Academy. We also have a community centre in Littlehampton, we partner with West Sussex County Council, to bring life to our community with nurseries, a coffee shop, and children and youth work - just for starters! We love God and love our community.
So its been a big change for us, as with everyone, in responding to the challenge of Covid-19. I'm a leader who has never led through a pandemic and so want to do the best job I can, and I have an amazing team who are brilliant at covering the things I’m not good at.
The first challenge has been about making decisions about furloughing staff. We have 75 staff, so these decisions have been hard and also have been needed to be made quickly. Currently the majority of our amazing staff have been furloughed, but we are praying for them and supporting them the best that we can through this time.
There’s also the challenge of moving church online…I’m hopeless at tech which isn’t good right now! But I have great people around me who are brilliant at this. Our Sunday morning meeting is now a lot shorter, and uploaded onto our church youtube channel. This is pre-recorded and edited in the week, bringing together worship, a craft activity, a short talk and prayer and messages sent in from people of all different life stages and ages from within our congregation. It's been great to see many people in our community 'come to church' for the first time! We are getting double the amount of views than would normally be in attendance at church which is so encouraging - what an opportunity to show the love of God and what church is like.
Social media of course is an amazing thing at this time. We have a new and specific church Facebook group (as well as our usual church page) set up just for us as a church congregation to pray, share stories and also laugh together. It's been an essential way of connecting. We have been asking various people to post 'thoughts for the day' and other specific content, as well as it being a free space for people to share and communicate with each other. Our lifepods (home groups), leaders meetings and board meetings are all also online now. Communication is so vital, so we try and use every way we can in this physically limited time; email, written cards, phone calls, FaceTime , Zoom, Instagram , Facebook. It’s a way I’m not used to working, but we are adapting and I am sure that good is coming from this. This week we think about Jesus dying for us on the cross; the cross points upwards and outwards. We want to keep our focus upwards towards God through our worship and prayer, and we also want to focus outwards on our wonderful community who need Jesus more than ever.