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18 June 2020

Stories from Lockdown - Helen Z

Helen Zealander 2019 Helen Zealander Office Manager (Safeguarding, Giving, Buildings & Events)
Helen Zealander 1

Most of my friends are shocked to discover that our teams are working hard; most think we’d have been furloughed because the building is closed. The building might be closed but I’m not sure I’ve ever been busier!

I’ve had the privilege of working for Above Bar Church for over 10 years. The job I do now is vastly different to the job I first did, the church has grown and the role has evolved as time has gone on, but never as fast as it has since we went into lockdown!

Back when we were in the office (however long ago that is now, when things were ‘normal’) my time was split across a number of responsibilities, things like:

  • Supporting the safeguarding team with administration and DBS checks for all our volunteers, and creating online safeguarding training. Or Completing the safer recruitment process for volunteers working with ex-offenders.
  • Planning events: I co-ordinate the logistics for some of our large whole-church events including Discipleship Day and the Saltmine Christmas pantomime. I also run smaller events such as thanksgiving services and weddings – I hold the very fancy title of ‘Chief Registrar’.
  • Managing the membership database, processing membership applications and working on the annual check.
  • Being part of the buildings team, contributing to some of the bigger projects as well as the annual maintenance programme. I’m able to use my Bench Joiner and carpenter qualifications for this as well as the knowledge I gained working in the maintenance department of a housing association.
  • Housekeeping: I recently completed a Food Hygiene Level 3 for managers and supervisors. This was so I could be more proactive with housekeeping and supporting the volunteer groups using the kitchen; I’m working on an updated version of the food hygiene policy.
  • Pastoral Care Admin: when Sally Campbell went on sabbatical, and Caitlin Wedderell finished her role as Pastoral Care Assistant I increased my hours in order to be able to take on some of the pastoral care administration.

Working in the church reception has lots of unexpected opportunities and challenges too. Sometimes people will come in because they’ve been made homeless, sometimes with children in difficult circumstances like domestic abuse, or just because they’re hungry or vulnerable. Often people who’ve had a difficult or emotional time drop in or call because they want to talk, or share something traumatic. At times I’ve found some of these interactions difficult to deal with and hard to forget – but I’m grateful for God’s support and the team I work with.

My role was full of variety with many different responsibilities and then without warning lockdown happened and everything changed! Like lots on the staff team my role has changed to meet the current needs, and to help the church respond to the pastoral and missional opportunities – and like many others I am now also busily combining my work with home-schooling my 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.

Helen Zealander 3
Helen Zealander 2

During lockdown I’ve been pleased to be able to support the introduction of new elements within pastoral care, such as posting out the daily devotions twice a week. When lockdown hit we set to work through the various lists from the different groups to ensure we weren’t missing anyone; we wanted to make sure that we were caring for the members of our church pastorally. Everyone who is shielding or is on their own in particular should be receiving calls from a friendly person, checking they are ok and praying with them – if you’d like someone to be in touch with you, don’t hesitate to let us know!

We have great people working on our Pastoral Care Team; they’ve been fantastic at in staying in touch with people each week and being available for people to chat to if they have anything on their mind. We’ve also had some people who have sadly died during this time. It’s especially difficult because we can’t have the normal thanksgiving services we usually do to celebrate someone’s life. We don’t know how yet, but we’ll definitely be making up for this when we can! Each week I’ve been calling lots of our church family; It’s great to hear how people are doing and wonderful that as a church family we can share these needs and pray to our Heavenly Father. The updates from these calls often go onto our weekly or monthly prayer lists, to help facilitate the prayer life of the church.

I was thrilled when Ben Thomas asked me to help him oversee the Love Southampton admin team, I love a challenge! However, when I agreed to this, we had no idea the size of what we were taking on. It’s been a rollercoaster journey and a massive learning curve. Working under the Love Southampton umbrella, Ben created the system from scratch and together we put it in place, seeing the needs of people across Southampton being met. It’s required policies to be created, procedures written, payment options researched and safeguarding requirements considered as well as training given to the admin volunteers. All volunteers go through our safer recruitment process and this gargantuan task has largely been completed by Hannah Zealey – thanks Hannah!!

Being part of Love Southampton has been amazing, but it’s meant I, and others in the staff team, have worked far beyond the hours we normally would in a week. At times, especially in the first few weeks this became all-consuming and seemed a daunting task to undertake; especially when we didn’t have many volunteers trained to help. But God heard our prayers and we now have a dedicated, skilled team working each week with Love Southampton – some giving as much as 4 hours a day.

Last week I was speaking to a lady I got to know through Love Southampton who was expressing extreme gratitude to all the volunteers. Sandra’s housebound, finds walking difficult, and had been really worried – ‘I just don’t know how I’ll survive’ – but now she has help with her shopping each week and a befriender. We will never know just how much this has meant to her or the hundreds of others just like Sandra.

At Above Bar Church we believe following Jesus is the best way to live but it doesn’t stop with us. God blessed us through Jesus to make us a blessing to others. He calls us to share this blessing, proclaim the good news of Jesus and demonstrate his love in action. Our Pastoral Team and Love Southampton demonstrate the love of God in really practical ways. We don’t know the future or how it will change when lockdown ends but for now, it is my pleasure to continue to serve in these ways!

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