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On the end of the line

by Michael Ford last modified 24 Apr, 2020 09:58 PM

While the use of social media by our churches and their ministry teams has seen numbers engaging with worship, reflection and prayer increasing dramatically, for some of our community the internet is not a method of connection but something which other people do, or worse a source of frustration.

On the end of the line

Original photo courtesy wallpaperflare

But this group is not being forgotten, and with churches closed and pastoral visiting not an option due to the social distancing measures, our ministry teams are being inventive.

In Royal Wootton Bassett, they have risen to the challenge and set up Phone Church.

The Revd Oliver Blease, Assistant Curate at St Bartholomew and All Saints Church explains:

"We have developed lots of online resources, however we identified around 100 households in our community who wouldn't have access to web resources or for whom this wouldn't have enabled the best connection to their faith and their church community.

"Often these are the most elderly for whom the telephone is a familiar and friendly piece of kit. It has provided access to family and friends throughout the decades and people with hearing or visual impairment are usually well set up with some form of better telephone access. So - the hardware was already installed, and the training done at the user-end, we just needed to mobilise the ministers!"

Oliver contacted the wider team, and some real collaborative ministry took place:

"We developed a plan for a new 'Phone Church' network. I used our parish records (with appropriate GDPR contact permissions) to divide those we identified as potentially welcoming and benefitting from this ministry into equal sized groups and distributed these details to individual ministers.

"Their experience also means there is no prescribed way in which the short acts of worship must take place, with each minister getting to know their congregation in one-to-one weekly phone calls and deciding what format would be most helpful to that person. Usually these calls are are 10 -15 minutes in length, including general chat and checking the person has everything they need, are feeling ok, etc.

"In this way we have adapted to make sure that no one is left out of our worship.

"I know of at least one household where the couple set up their home prayer space every week in front of the sofa, with a candle and a cross, so that they can worship together with the minister on speaker phone - for them this is their church.

"One parishioner said to me: "I don't feel alone" knowing that we have that phone service in the diary each week.

"So, while it can never be as good as in-person gathered worship, it is really good to know we're rising to the challenge and meeting people where they are."

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