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28 April 2020

Locked out during lockdown?

Gerhild Haitchi 2019 Gerhild Haitchi Head of First Impressions & Office Coordinator (Sunday preparation)
Newcomers image

Ashley & Jo James (Shirley) and Hans Michael and I were due to host the April Newcomers' Group. We had done it together a few times before and were really looking forward to this one. But then Covid-19 changed everything.

Initially we had thought to delay the group until a time when it would be possible for us to meet in a home again. We assumed that meeting over a meal to get to know each other was such an integral part of a Newcomers' Group that there was simply no other way of doing it.

However, we then started to wonder how someone who had been looking forward to meeting people in our church family, to making friends and to finding a place where they belong, would feel at such a time. Would they feel that circumstances had closed this door on them? Would they feel they had been locked out?

They might – and that would be awful!

I got in touch with everyone on the list and had conversations on the phone, via text and on email. It was lovely to make the first contact and I was able to establish that several were happy to be included in a Zoom meeting. So we arranged it although we were a bit nervous as to how it would work. Chris Webb joined us too. We ended up having a fantastic time and found out a lot about each other. The group contains a spread of ages and backgrounds; we heard stories about significant struggles but also had a good laugh together. It felt very authentic!

This is what two of them have said after our Zoom meeting:

 “It has been great to join the Above Bar Church community! Connecting via a Newcomers' Group has made the process really easy, even though I was a bit nervous at first. Meeting the other newcomers was comforting - all being from different walks of life and backgrounds, however sharing the same faith in Jesus. I’m very grateful that these introductions have been made possible, even during the setbacks of this tough period :).” - Shaurya

“It’s very comforting to be part of a church family and helpful to get to talk to other Christians, and share my story and hear other people’s. As I am still working and getting out I’m not really struggling, although I do miss meeting friends and family for coffee.” - David

Now we keep in touch with the help of a WhatsApp group and are planning to do the occasional Zoom meeting. Several of these newcomers have already been connected to groups within the church (home groups, United Parents, students). There are some who are not tech savvy and it is a lot more difficult to help them feel included: please pray for this group of dear people over the coming weeks. By God’s grace you will be able to meet them in person in the not-too-distant future.

Opening our church community to others remains a vital part of who we are at this time. We are still following Jesus’ example by extending God’s generous welcome to all who come knocking on our doors.

That makes me very glad.

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. (John 1:37-39)

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