Positives of lockdown
As a city-centre church it has always been something of a challenge for the Ministry Team to run well-attended evening study groups at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich, especially in the winter months.
These had to stop completely in March 2020, with the first lockdown. However, since last September a very successful Zoom study group has been meeting on Thursday evenings using mostly the ‘Pilgrim’ materials, and numbers have grown steadily. This was begun by Ben Almond, who is on a ministry experience year at the church.
Although there are some disadvantages to meeting online, these have been outweighed by the fact that many new people have been able to take part. Some live quite a distance from the church but connecting up using Zoom is easy wherever you are. It’s also meant that parents with young children can participate much more easily, as well as those who don’t find it easy to come out on darker evenings during the winter months.
During Lent 2021 the group used a specially written course that I created called “Face to Face”. It used various stories from the lockdown as a way of reflecting on God’s presence with us. Although I’ve led many courses like this in the past, I was nervous about doing so on Zoom. But, in fact, it worked really well, and the depth of engagement was amazing. People really had to listen carefully, and it was lovely to welcome some who’d never been able to attend our Lent group before. It was also possible to use an image each week, which displayed really well on Zoom.
The church now plans to continue the online study group even when all the lockdown restrictions have ended, while reintroducing “in person” meetings on a Sunday, either before or after services.
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