Sharing the gospel and our lives
What a year 2020 was! Whatever else can be said, at the very least it was memorable. We have four children ranging from two to seven years old and live in Monmouth, a beautiful rural area with seemingly unlimited parts of God’s creation to explore so have had a totally different experience to friends who live in a first floor flat in London with no access to a garden. During lockdown we were able to explore our local area and we found many fun things to do. We did more wild swimming in the two rivers that converge in Monmouth than we’d probably done in the previous seven years!
Work was particularly stressful and it was a struggle not to bring the stresses and pressures of work back home. As a vet, I’ve had to adapt my work and wear a visor, mask, apron and gloves at all times throughout the day. Saying this, it’s nothing compared to those who have lost jobs, or been working on the coronavirus wards.
Recently, I read an article which talked about the opportunity that children have had to see their parents worship and pray during church at home, and how they have been able to ask questions throughout the sermon, learning together, rather than be whisked off to Sunday school. I wish I’d read it a year ago – as we let all these opportunities fly by! We were just hoping the kids avoided world war three and didn’t spill the snacks on the sofa. Our kids absolutely love screen time; pop on a movie and they can be transfixed for hours, but somehow that didn’t happen with Zoom or the live church stream. I do wonder if kids get ‘zoomed out’ too.
For us, home church evolved over time. We started by watching it altogether, then letting the kids play quietly during the sermon. My wife and I really enjoyed this as we’d rarely been able to listen to sermons together as we would usually be in crèche or Sunday Club. However, after a while the kids got bored and weren’t looking forward to church so we decided that one of us would take the children into another room during the sermon and do our own Sunday Club at home. Sometimes, we let the children watch a video by Faith in Kids whilst we watched the service.
We were thankful when church was able to open up and we could go in person. Despite a year of practising, I don’t think we really cracked home church, but Jo and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to hear many more sermons this year then we would have done the year before. On balance though the children will have missed out, especially in regard to fellowship as well as teaching.
We have certainly missed singing with others and we have all missed Christian friends in person, our children in particular, but overall, we are hugely thankful. Our favourite thing has been the extra family time and we’ve had many special times and memories. It’s been a privilege to share the gospel with our kids as well as our lives and has encouraged us to do the same with others as lockdown eases.
By Chris Walker.
Looking to the Lord
I am weary, O God; I am weary and worn out, O God. I am too stupid to be human, and I lack common sense (Prov. 30:1-2).
These verses sum up exactly how I felt during the lockdowns and I’m sure many will relate. As a parent who was working from home and trying to educate my children at the same time I felt exactly as the writer of Proverbs describes; weary, stupid and lacking common sense! The relentless cycle of Zoom and Teams calls for myself and my children left me feeling like a headless chicken running from one thing to another – never feeling I could give anything my full attention. I felt guilty the whole time as if I was having to choose between letting my children or my work down. This was an almost entirely self-inflicted problem!
Then there was church! It was a real challenge engaging our children and making them feel part of church. For the first couple of months our church did e-mail church and encouraged us to watch services streamed from a larger church. This worked well as a novelty for a few weeks and we supplemented it with some holiday club style resources on YouTube by The Artless Theatre Company which our girls loved and really engaged with.
Soon our own church was also engaging via Zoom and it was such a blessing to be able to see familiar faces. Initially our children were excited to spot their friends and friendly adults from church and our minister worked hard to provide activities for them to engage with. Our kids did craft, Lego or Minecraft responses to the message or story and for a while that worked really well. However as with so many things in lockdown it often felt we were not able to give our full attention as the children needed support to engage. Our church did some services focused more on the children and delivered goody bags which really helped make the experience feel less remote.
The other thing that kept us going was spending family time regularly together around the Bible and questions from the Scripture Union Rooted cards which focus on faith, well-being and general life questions.
Despite the hard work the children gradually disengaged; digital wasn’t the same as being among real people. Due to the size of our church building we still haven’t been able to return to a normal face to face experience of church, but we have begun to meet socially and have services with limited numbers. We have also begun a monthly ‘Forest Church’ using Go Wild resources from Scripture Union and Worship in the Woods. These have been a great way to bring our children back into some kind of experience of church face to face and they have engaged well.
As I write this, we are thinking that we will be able to have something approaching a normal church experience in September. It will be interesting to see how our children respond to this – they are actually quite nervous! I hope that the face to face experiences they’ve had over the summer will help them reconnect with church and feel a part of it again when we return and I hope that we have learnt some positive things from lockdown.
I want to finish by picking up where the verses we started with end. This is what the writer says next:
I have not mastered human wisdom, nor do I know the Holy One. Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down? Who holds the wind in his fists? Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak? Who has created the whole wide world? What is his name—and his son’s name? Tell me if you know! Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection (Prov. 30:3-5)
Despite all that we have been through, uncertainty, failure and weariness, we know that these words are true. God is still God, still on the throne, still true, still a shield and protection in all we do.
By John Settatree.