Life in Lockdown
Churches and ministry groups have addressed the challenges in different ways, from those groups whose contact records are filed away out of reach in locked church buildings to those who livestream meetings from leaders’ homes and everything in-between. A number of Friends with CEI share their experiences:
- Paula Bell of ‘Open Hands’ at Christ Church in Guildford says, “We all long for the day when we can join together for tea and worship in the church building but, for now, there are just a few small things we can do to keep going”:
- Being consistent: many people struggle with change so we’re keeping to the same dates to put out our video services as if we were meeting in person. We follow the same Bible series we were following before lockdown: “Access to Life in Jesus” – Alpha based. We’re not doing it live on Zoom at a set time as we want to allow as much flexibility as possible to those watching, especially hard-pressed carers/care home staff. Our services go out via an email link to Facebook and are also now on YouTube.
- Being interactive: Open Hands is usually very interactive (within a steady, managed framework). Fresh expressions of worship are encouraged. Example: sometimes we have more people in the band than congregation – and we like that! Now: our video services have song words on the screen for people to sing along to but also, thanks to modern technology, they can follow signing for the songs too.
- Being accessible: some people don’t have access to the internet so we print out our video services and post them to those who wouldn’t otherwise see or hear the service. We print the song words, the Bible talk summary, prayer words, notices and birthday greetings. One person, who’s not on the internet, likes to hear the service so we put the phone next to the computer while the video plays. Not everyone finds it easy to read written words so we make sure members of the team are available for phone chat or prayer. We have sent everybody a pretty “Hello there” handmade card with a personalised greeting and Bible verse inside. Even for those who don’t read, they know someone cares about them enough to send them a card made by a talented team member. That person also sends out handmade birthday cards.
- Helen Davie of Doorway at Grace Community Church in Stevenage says,
“Our aim is to be in supportive contact with everyone. Each team member takes on 2 -3 people and are praying and in regular phone contact. We send everyone colouring /sticking pictures, based on things from the Bible we have studied as a group. Some folk have also been sent Bible study notes (the old Prospects ones) and CDs such as ‘Jesus, the start of it all’ (bought on eBay). One guy particularly wanted photos of his friends in the group.
With four people (increasing to 6) we hold Zoom meetings fortnightly. One is similar to our normal monthly meeting; we’ve worshipped, prayed together, had a bit of teaching (with varied presentation as it’s hard to hold folk’s attention looking at a screen), drama and shared our colouring pictures.
The other meeting is more informal – a couple of songs, sharing something each e.g. something we like doing at home, and praying for someone. These ‘chatty’ meetings are good fun. Perhaps now we will be able to do socially distanced walks with one or two folk.”
- Helen Philip from Shine in Worthing, says:
“Thinking of “what to do” at this time, I think we would want to urge those teams who feel they can do little other than pray, not to feel guilty! We are very much in that position – few of our group read or do puzzles etc, most have phones but don’t use them effectively and don’t always know their own number…. All but one refuse to use the Internet! And a fair proportion of the group live in homes where strict lockdowns were imposed prior to the national one, so aren’t going out. However, where team members are able and willing to go out to walk or shop, we try to say “hi” and “how are you?” to anyone we come across. We also have been kept in the loop by at least one local minister who has reached a couple of folk we were not able to. And we keep in touch with each other too.”
- Myles & Cath Pilling from Shine in Melksham, Wiltshire:
“We have been delivering letters to our Shine coffee morning with the offer of connecting with us on a phone chat or a Zoom call. We knock on the door and have a quick chat through a window or on the doorstep to maintain social distancing. The homes we visit appreciate we take time to care. Also, as they are local it’s a good form of exercise.
The Dovetailers group has met each Monday via video conferencing, which works well for this small group as they know each well and it has been a necessary tool to enable emotional and social support. Trowbridge Friends Link have been sent monthly newsletters and we have been getting emails and photos back of what people have been doing. Contact and enabling people to do more than they thought they could is key. Progress for someone who has never used an iPad or even an app to be able confidently call up a friend, having learnt about meeting IDs and passwords, is truly inspiring and worthwhile. That was through loaning a device they could borrow.”
- From Chris Mileham of Prospects North Tonbridge:
“We remain in contact with members through phone calls and monthly postal mailings of a newsletter, Bible story, an activity sheet and pictures to colour.”
- From Ed and Marilyn Kerr in March, Cambridgeshire:
Here at Fenland Community Church we have produced two sets of materials.
- The Easter Story– https://www.fcc.uk.net/easter-story We printed out a large number of the items in the pack and distributed them (or posted them) to the various homes we have contact with. This was well received, so …..
- Jesus calms the storm– https://www.fcc.uk.net/jesus-calms-storm A similar idea. We printed out nearly 400 sheets of paper to make up 22 packages that were delivered or posted. Additionally, we created a CD with 30 songs on it that we use in the fellowship, complete with labels, cases and inserts. (Yes, we did get an appropriate Licence!) Here’s a photo of all that we did for this one.
- And finally from Val Pritchard from the St Albans group says,
“We sent: craft resources from Baker Ross, cards delivered by hand and audio messages by email or smart phone.We have had two short zoom meetings which a number of care homes have been able to access using different sorts of technology.We have asked for photos and audio messages from homes that we can pass on to others during meetings.
The key practical things were:
– getting an email address or mobile number for someone in each care home office in addition to a house landline
– investigating a mix of technology to give access to meetings: Zoom, WhatsApp, landline, especially for weekend staff who may have less technology available to them
– having support from our hosting church in conducting meetings
Here’s an idea from Myles and Cath Pilling in Melksham:
CD Loan Bank
Ever thought of asking your church family if they have any unwanted CDs of Christian music? Many people these days use mp3 and online streaming as well as subscriptions to Amazon, or they use an Amazon Echo. This means that there are loads of redundant CDs just waiting to be used.
Christian music is a way of sharing the gospel and worshipping God. While many people with learning disabilities have CD players this could be a useful way to encourage them in their faith. A loan bank of CDs, each labelled with their title and a sticker to identify you (the group or church) as the owner will enable people to borrow CDs on a regular basis, At the monthly Shine group in Melksham we have a table where CDs can be exchanged each time. It’s popular, free and easy to do. We have found members in our congregation only too happy to supply unwanted CD’s as they use other formats now.
Fonts & Symbols
We want to share with you ideas that will help you reach out to people with learning disabilities.
To begin with, having a simple font can help reading. Fonts with rounded letters for a, g etc, such as you would write and not type, can help. Take a look at Century Gothic or Tw Cen MT. Comic Sans fulfills that criteria but is viewed by many as childish. Count Everyone In likes ……
Point size 12 and larger is preferable and it helps to have lines well spaced apart.
When preparing Powerpoint or similar presentations to be projected don’t try to squeeze too many words onto a page/slide. Be sure to have a plain background as it helps those with limited reading skills or poor eyesight. Don’t be persuaded that it looks more attractive to have pictures in the background, especially moving ones! Some colour combinations work better for some people than others but generally yellow letters on a blue background or white on black are good but ask people what is best for them. That is always a good idea!
Count everyone in likes a font called Muli – which is a free download and can be added into your pc under the windows folder and system32 folder and then Fonts. You can download Muli from here
Our friends at Fenland Community Church in March, Cambridgeshire have provided simple instructions on uploading fonts so please take a look. It is good to have people who can explain simply what the rest of us find so complicated! Go to https://www.fcc.uk.net/resources/fonts
If you are a non-text user then you can use symbols of which WidgitOnline provides a way for you to write symbol resource. This is a subscription based software. For a free trial go to WidgitOnline
Watch out for future “ideas” that can help you help people with learning disabilities