Blaby Baptist Church: sharing their struggles and joys through Covid
The last 18 months of the pandemic have seen us back on our knees praying and earnestly seeking God for his will for his church here in Blaby, Leicestershire. Our last worship service before lockdown saw 50 people in church with a very powerful presence of the Holy Spirit and we wondered whether we would ever return to this.
We, like so many others, have certainly had some tough times. Sadly, while I was in hospital having my second hip replacement, our treasurer, following a difference of opinion with others, resigned and left the church. My secretary (and great friend/support), two former deacons and a member of the congregation sadly died - not of Covid - and then 4 months ago Nev, my tech guy/guitarist/deacon died of cancer. His wife is our worship leader so we have had lots to work through. And not being able to visit people in hospital simply felt cruel.
However, amongst all of this turmoil, it has also been exciting to see God at work when we have no resources of our own! He immediately gave us a new treasurer who is brilliant and a good team player. Although I only have one other deacon, we have formed a strong co-operative team who are well supported by a growing congregation.
With lockdown, we took the decision that communication and keeping the congregation together was the most important thing that we could do. We could not livestream as we did not have the expertise. So, we sent out a daily e-mail message which had a great variety - from an in-depth bible study to Michael’s musings and a Saturday smile. It opened up opportunities for people to grow as they wrote their messages. Most had never done anything like this before and it continues. Lois, now just 17 years old started a year ago and has now gone on to preach on a Sunday morning. It has also meant that people still felt involved. Karen, a member who has moved to Ibiza, writes one message each week - and is able to join us on Zoom for the weekly coffee chat and prayer meeting. We do have a pastoral team and each week the group leaders would phone members of their group to see that they were okay. I think that our phone bills were astronomical!
Except for the period when we legally had to close the building, we kept open on a Sunday morning for worship. Initially we worshipped on the car park - just 5 of us. But that rapidly grew to 25 and was a great way of meeting the locals who were often out dog walking. We did give-aways including doggy treats. Our Harvest festival was held on the carpark and many locals contributed food for our collection for the foodbank. We are going to do the same this year. We also help our carols outside. All this was appreciated by people passing by. I don’t think that we have ever talked to so many people as during that time. And so we are trying to continue to be outside once a month.
For the remainder of the time, we are now back inside the building and are in the process of having a new audio/visual system. I met a couple called Rob and Silmara Gayle who were from an AOG church and we have established a good relationship - sharing walks, meals, coffee and dreams. I then discovered that he owned a Christian tech company and as we had already raised the money for a new system (Covid had stopped us going ahead with it), I asked for his help. To cut a long story short, he is putting in the system - and not charging us for labour, saving us about £9000. His wife is going to help run our toddler group.
The other great thing is that people have come back more caring, compassionate and wanting to get involved, 'doing jobs' that help to make the place run smoothly. Our groups are all running again, we have a new home group, a new bible study group and a new special needs social group starting this week. We are also exploring the possibility of partnering with a charity who supports the homeless and people in need.
And we have had 12 new people joining the congregation since Easter - and another 3 exploring! Next Sunday we have 2 baptisms - and another in December!
My sense is that all this has happened because we simply continue to pray, listen and be obedient to God - and he has honoured us. I admit that on three occasions, I have come home on a Sunday and cried because God has been so good. We regularly experience a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we knew before lockdown.
However, we are not trying to go back to the life we knew before the pandemic. We believe that God is calling us to concentrate on developing small groups for discipleship and not spend time on the big events. And we continue to make prayer a priority.
Pauline Wills is the pastor of Blaby Baptist Church in Leicestershire