Covid and Our Community - One Year On

Covid and our Community – One year on,

from Churches Together in Alsager

 

On the 23rd of March 2020, the UK Government announced a period of national lockdown due to the pandemic which was spreading around the globe. 

We did this to protect ourselves, our families, friends, and loved ones, but in doing so we also protected complete strangers, like our NHS, key workers, and other neighbours both near and far. 

As ministers of our churches together in Alsager, we firmly believe that God has remained faithful over this past 12 months, despite the challenges and hardships we have faced, and we can have hope for the future because of Him. The bible teaches us to love and care for our neighbours as ourselves and during lockdown, knowingly or not, we have shown this care towards those around us. Taking our daily exercise (as we’ve been encouraged to do) such care has been shown via the safe distances we’ve kept whilst passing each other by. Yes, some may claim they did so to protect themselves, but in protecting ourselves we have also protected those around us. Each time we’ve washed or sanitised our hands we’ve protected those around us, and each time we’ve worn a mask we’ve done the same. 

Covid has made us far more aware of those around us and has certainly helped us appreciate those whom we love and care about. Absence (so we are told) makes the heart grow fonder and our inability to visit our loved ones over the past 12 months has heightened that fondness. For many this has led to new ways of keeping in touch, good old-fashioned letters, email, Zoom, WhatsApp. 

As Church Ministers and Priests, we too have adapted accordingly. New skills have been learned, some more successfully than others, as we’ve adapted to these new, challenging, and yet inspiring, ways of keeping in touch with our diverse community. We have been constantly aware of the different ways in which our local families have also needed to adapt to this new-yet temporary way of living. Younger ones adapting to schooling from home, parents and guardians adapting to teaching them. Older ones adapting to shielding, shopping online and being dependent on family, friends, and neighbours.  We have been very much aware of those with loved ones in care homes, adapting to restricted visiting, through windows, doorways, or occasional outdoor visits. And we’ve prayed for those of all ages with loved ones in hospital, for they have known only too well the anguish of being separated, and of only being able to visit during their final days of life.

Through all we’ve faced as a community, we have also witnessed and been blessed to be a part of, so much cause for hope. So many have rallied around to help each other, with many heart-warming stories of new friendships being formed. Local streets, and cul-de-sacs have come together to offer lifelines of support. 

Alsager has always been known as a welcoming and community minded place to live, and now more than ever we are living up to that claim. We recognise a lot of creativity in the types of support being given, and some great opportunities for change have been brought about by the pandemic. Our own Churches together in Alsager, have always worked closely together, and thanks to Zoom we have continued to do so throughout the pandemic. At our monthly lunchtime meetings, we’ve been able to reflect together regarding our hopes, cares, and concerns for our mutual community. United in our service to God and our ministry and mission around Alsager our churches have each played a supportive role in helping people through this difficult time, and we continue to be here for anyone who needs a listening ear or means of support. 

We recognise there have been many strains and stresses over this past 12 months, it’s certainly not been easy for families cooped together under one roof for significant lengths of time. Our churches have continued to pray for and offer support to all our communities’ families through a variety of online resources, worship, and gatherings (which are still available for all). We are certainly thankful for the technology that has enabled our churches to offer such things to an online community, helping to bring people together without leaving their homes. Online, Zoom, YouTube and other forms of recorded worship have been wonderful ways for our wider community to sample what we do, and to see how we worship, whilst not yet joining us face to face (please do contact your local church if you would like to join in with such things).

    As a community we have a great deal to be grateful for, and a whole lot of support to offer. Our foodbank and community support centre are prime examples of this. Alsager and District Foodbank issued an average of 24 Adult and 27 Children food parcels per week during March 20 - March 21 (60% more than the previous 12 months) and provided food for more weeks than in the previous year. Since Covid struck, our Support Centre has been offering shopping, prescriptions delivery and befriending services, as well as assisting the COVID vaccination centre, with some of its volunteers being trained to administer lateral flow tests as part of Cheshire East Council’s scheme. 

We appreciate not everyone has been vaccinated yet, but we celebrate that so many have and that such national vaccinations point us towards a more protected, safer future and a return to a good level of pre-Covid normality. That said, we continue to pray that the fabulous levels of community care which have grown and blossomed because of Covid will continue to flourish. We also pray that the many hundreds of people now accessing worship online will remain connected so that God’s presence will continue to be known, experienced and tangibly felt within our community.

Easter is just around the corner; a time to celebrate Jesus’ triumph over death, and God’s love for the world through the promise of life for all – life in all its fulness and glory. In this knowledge we look forward to the future for our community, a community which we pray will continue to be united, stronger, more caring and compassionate than ever before.

As Pope Francis stated on the 25th of February this year (in an audience with members of the Diplomatic Corps):

“The pandemic shed light on the risks and consequences inherent in a way of life dominated by selfishness and a culture of waste, and it set before us a choice: either to continue on the road we have followed until now, or to set out on a new path”.

Whatever our religious beliefs or religious denominations these are wise words for us all, and we pray that we may all continue on a new path of loving the Lord our God and loving our neighbours as ourselves. 

Yours in Christ from,     

Rev. Murray George – United Reformed Church

Rev. Michelle Goodrich – St. Marys 

Rev. Rob Hilton – Wesley Place Methodist Church

Minister Pete Howard – Alsager Community Church 

Rev. Heather Kemball – Christ Church

Rev. Eddie Miller – St. Gabriel’s RC Church

Rev. Daran Ward – Christ Church