Continuing during COVID

Older lady staring into the distance

Author: Ruth Preston

A blog post by Church Champion, Ruth Ranger.



My work as a Community Engagement Officer for the Christian charity Pilgrims’ Friend Society (PFS) means that I am able to promote Faith In Later Life amongst a large number of churches and other contacts in the Chippenham & North Wiltshire area. The Covid-19 pandemic has raised all kinds of challenges for community work both within the Church and all across Society.



As churches plan their reopening for worship and ministry, all are trying to balance the desire to be available for everyone while adhering to the necessary procedures for social distancing and infection control.



Some churches are taking their time to reopen because their facilities are unsuitable or until more usual forms of interaction (such as singing) are allowed. Other churches are being encouraged to reopen by their denominational or local authority governance, supported by clear guidelines from both. All are continuing proactive pastoral care for their communities which is recognised and appreciated by the Local Authority and Statutory Services.



At the same time as trying to return to pre-covid ministry in ways appropriate to temporary restrictions, churches have been initiating new ways of supporting their local communities eg. practical help for those self-isolating, food and financial support for those in need, spiritual/devotional input and social connection for those without computer access, mental health support for those struggling, and connecting with carers (particularly those caring for someone with dementia). As with all ministry, they are seeing the need around them and trying to respond to God’s call to help.



Our Local Authority is keen to support faith leaders and holds regular video meetings with them to inform and to gauge needs that are being identified at local church level. By keeping in touch with churches, as well as attending Local Authority county & local meetings, I am able to be a conduit of information between everyone about County Covid-19 guidance as well as anything that the churches or other organisations are doing.



Our Public Health LACs (Local Area Co-ordinators) have been very helpful and are keen to support any church by providing personalised guidance to encourage them to continue ministry amongst their local community.



Although many of the church activities listed for our area on the Faith In Later Life activity directory are not yet up and running again, I am still able to promote them. New church contacts that I am making for my PFS role are glad to have time during this ‘quieter’ period to submit their usual activities or to upgrade their websites. I am finding that Local Authority & Statutory Services contacts (as well as those from other charities and organisations) are interested in the activity directory as they can see at a glance the churches across the area, and have the contact details readily available for referring people for practical or pastoral support.



Old people holding handsIf you haven’t yet made contact with your local council Area Board (perhaps a ‘Community Engagement Manager’ or similar job title), your GP surgery’s Care Co-ordinator, or your Public Health LAC, may I recommend considering letting them know what your church is able to do to help. You might also feel able to draw their attention to the Faith In Later Life church activity directory as a useful collection of local church details (even more effective if you can encourage all your local churches to submit their activities).



Thank you for all that you are doing for God’s Kingdom.