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'Counter fear with practical love and service' – churches urged to challenge the mood

HOPE Together is encouraging churches to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic with offers of help and messages of hope.

Roy Crowne, HOPE’s executive director says, “There is an epidemic of fear spreading through our country. As churches we want to counter fear with practical love and service, and we want to be prepared to give the reason for the hope we have because of our faith in Jesus. Here at HOPE Together we are praying that churches step up to serve local communities with practical action and words of hope.

“Social media can be a useful tool in this crisis, so we are posting a series of ‘Reasons for Hope’ and ideas to ‘Help bring hope’ on our social media channels over the coming weeks. We are encouraging churches and individuals to repost them to help counter fear with offers of help and hope.”

There are lots of examples of people setting up good neighbour schemes. Roy says, “We want to be distinctive in our response, and also to be aware of safeguarding issues.”

HOPE Together is inviting churches to establish local helplines to be staffed by volunteers, perhaps those who might otherwise be serving in chaplaincies or other ministries, but are unable to do so in the current crisis.  HOPE has created a photocopiable sheet of cards churches can deliver home to home throughout neighbourhoods offering help.

United church response

“We are better together than apart,” Roy adds. Here are some of the ways churches are being encouraged to offer practical help and bring hope.

    ▪    Respond as a church or a group of churches in your town, offering help and asking civic leaders for their priorities
    ▪    Set up a prayer relay involving different churches praying for civic leaders, medical staff and people in your area
    ▪    As chaplaincies, visiting schemes and community hubs are suspended or closed, redirect volunteers to Good Neighbour schemes
    ▪    Set up ‘phone a friend’ campaigns to combat the mental health issues that come with enforced isolation
    ▪    Ask local Residential Care Homes how you can provide support for staff and residents with no visitors, perhaps by phone, letter or cards giving encouragement
    ▪    Where schools are closed for holidays or for health reasons, can your church provide DBS-checked volunteers to arrange activities in local parks and recreation grounds?
    ▪    Ask your local foodbank how you can help in the face of shortages especially as families struggle to cope when family-members can’t work. Does your foodbank need help to make deliveries to families who are self-isolating?
    ▪    Contact local Boarding Schools where pupils are unable to go home – ask how you can help.

Creating virtual communities

‘Let’s find creative ways of keeping in touch as virtual communities to encourage one another and people in our communities, while churches services are not being held,” Roy adds.
New ways to stay connected include:

    ✓    Live streaming services on Facebook
    ✓    WhatsApp groups to encourage one another
    ✓    Small groups using video-conferencing via Skype or Zoom
    ✓    Be aware of who has not got internet access or is not confident to use it. Find ways to support and include those who don’t have access to online communities.

The Help and HOPE logos and photocopiable cards can be downloaded from www.hopetogether.org.uk

Prayer 2020 – Friday 20 March

HOPE”s Prayer 2020 initiative continues, encouraging people to pray on the 20th of each month at 20:20 (8.20pm), praying for 20 minutes, asking God to give opportunities to make Jesus known and to bring hope throughout 2020.

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