Questionnaire Responses & Team Update

We've heard from you...

Thank you all so much for taking the time to fill out our questionnaire on emerging from lockdown. We have been hugely encouraged by the general themes that have come from your thoughtful input and are grateful for the depth and detail with which you have shared.
Although we cannot cover every point that was brought up in the written sections of the form, be assured that every entry has been read and thought through.  In some cases the suggestions made have already been prayerfully acted upon, and in others, time, discernment and guidance from the government and Church of England are still required before we can make any further decisions.
There are many things that the questionnaire makes very clear. The first is that the St Mary of Bethany family would like to continue with our pattern of two services on a Sunday, with an additional 8am Holy Communion once a month. This is certainly a pattern we want to get back to, but it will take time. The questionnaire does suggest that for us to get back to a more normal level of attendance in the church building, all restrictions will need to have been lifted and singing permitted. Once that happens, we will need to secure enough volunteers to make our services both viable and safe. Not everyone who was serving eighteen months ago, feels safe or called to continue as they were. Half of our volunteers are looking forward to getting back to what they were doing pre pandemic, but many are not sure they want to go back to what they were doing previously, conversely, some, who weren’t volunteering before, want to start now. Hopefully as our small groups offer the Shape Course over the next year, some of us will discover new ways to use our gifts!
Many of us are very content in our small groups, and feel they have been a significant support to us during the pandemic.  Others are not finding their small group helpful, and still others are not yet part of a small group.  Please get in touch with us if you would like to join a small group, or want to consider joining a different one.  There are so many benefits to being part of a small community, we even have a thriving permanently online one as a result of the pandemic.
Many of you enjoyed meeting centrally on Zoom for teaching; Home Group Central and the ‘Living His Story’ lent course were both well attended and well received. The questionnaire strongly suggests that these kind of courses would be more widely attended if they were held online as opposed to in person, we will take this, and those who prefer in person, into account when planning future teaching and courses. A few of you are regular attendees at Morning prayer which is held each morning on zoom, the vast majority of you are unable attend, but some of you have shown an interest in attending in the future. Please join us online here Monday to Friday at 9am.
Most of us want to get back to in person worship, but not all in the same time frame; many are back already, but some won’t return until all the restrictions are removed, and we can sing. All children’s group members including youth, wish to get back to in person either as soon as possible, or when all restrictions have been removed, again we will need to recruit more volunteers before this can happen fully. There is a significant number who intend to continue attending church online regularly and almost all said they would access online church in the event of not being able to make it to church physically. Online church is, as we have stated from the beginning of the pandemic, here to stay, one service will be broadcast each week, which service is broadcast and how often, is yet to be decided.
The majority of us are feeling positive as we come out of the pandemic, but some still feel anxious. We recognise that each one of us approaches the ‘new normal’ with different expectations and concerns. Some are keen to mix, give and receive hugs, others are less keen - we need to respect each other and give ourselves time and space to adjust to what is a very new reality.
We thank God for sustaining us through this period of exile from each other. Many of us have found ourselves attending church as much or more than we did pre pandemic, with only a few saying their attendance had dropped.
Please continue to pray and seek God as we navigate this coming season together.   

And we thought you might like to hear from us...

From Jess & Sharon, our Office Manager & Office Administrator:

Sharon has been at the Church building to welcome people, in the week; to answer any queries as we get busier for things such as room hire; supporting ministries; sending paper copies of our blog and notices to those who cannot access the website; working alongside our wardens to keep the Church Covid safe and other general admin duties.

Jess has been dealing with queries around marriages and the reading of Banns, keeping our social medias and weekly notices on the website up to date; putting together rotas; general support of staff and ministry meetings; safer recruiting duties and supporting the Lay Chair of the PCC with essential PCC secretary duties.

From Tina, our Young Families' Minister:

Sunday School - We are sending emails out every week to our families, with activity sheets which allow the family to look together at the theme and with colouring, puzzles etc. Often, we send extra resources that we think the children may enjoy. These are produced by Together at Home Church Resources and have been very enjoyable. Tina, Kate and Joel make a video each week to support the theme and this is available on the St Mary of Bethany YouTube channel if you would like to see what we are up to! We are currently running a series about David.

Bethany Babes – Under the current guidelines we have been able to reopen a small pre booked group called Bethany Babes Out and In on both Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. We are basing our activities mainly outside in the garden, with sit and rides in the halls. We met for the first time on the 1st and 2nd of June and it was a bit emotional as the families were so glad to be back and we were so happy to see them. Please pray for continued good weather so that we can make the most of the space.

From Kate, our Children's Minister:

In Fun Club at Barnsbury School we have just finished teaching Year’s 3 and 5 outside with outside fitness sessions and this next term we will be teaching Years 4 and 6. The children love keeping fit outside and it has been such a pleasure getting to know them and inviting them even to our events like the Alice Trail.

FNC has started up this term every Friday and the children are loving playing outside with football and games and our pool / table tennis and table football is still very popular. The God Slot with tuck is still a wonderful way of bringing the children together and thinking about important questions. We do all these activities in a very covid safe way and the children are loving being together again.

From Dave, our Youth Minister:

Awaiting new guidance 14th/21st June.
Pathfinders is back on Sunday mornings 10.30am – 11.30 am in Youth room. Cell groups are still going.
Schools work is still slow going but I will be going in to Christ’s College to lead a few Alpha sessions as part of the RE curriculum in June, and into Hoe Valley School for detached work with Year 7’s.
RAFAC – have 25 new recruits and I will be doing my first sessions with them over this next month as well as meeting with the other 30 plus cadets.
Thinking of running a Youth Alpha in September/October 2021.
Shortage of volunteers, even if there is new guidance we cannot open everything up to young people.

From Joel, our New Wine Discipleship Year Intern:

The past few weeks I have been working with Kate, Tina and Dave as we start up our weekly groups in person again such as Bethany Babes, Fun Club at Barnsbury and meeting face to face for our weekly Cell and Sunday morning youth groups! Alongside this I've been working with Engage again recording and editing material and content for their summer assembly which will go live in the next week.

From Sarah, our Curate:

The last few weeks I have been focused on The Living in Love and Faith course. I am currently leading the pilot course on a Tuesday evening and doing it with the online small group on a Wednesday. Please get in touch with me if you would like to go on the list for the next available course.

As I approach the end of my second year of curacy, I have my ongoing study portfolio to put together and complete; this involves reflecting on all the different areas of ministry that I have been involved in during my time at St Mary of Bethany, some of which have been completely unexpected as a result of the pandemic! I continue to oversee our pastoral team, lead worship and preach, and although I miss him, I am really enjoying assisting Bekah as she leads us through Mark’s EMDL.

And from Bekah, our Associate Vicar:

I am enjoying being able to meet and get to know more of the St Mary of Bethany church family and also getting more connected locally and within the diocese. I am working with the team as we continue to navigate this recovery season, listening to God, our church community and the wider community.

After a great Alpha Course in the spring, we're currently running The Bible Course for our Alpha guests and I continue to prioritise helping us to think about mission and evangelism. I meet regularly with the Woking Evangelists' Network for encouragement, equipping and joint working in evangelism and am currently involved in a number of different conversations reflecting on what it means for mission and evangelism not just to be something we do, but to be at the heart of who we are as a community, and what it means to be a church where everyone belongs.