Being a church of living hope in Gorleston

St Mary's, the parish church for the Magdalen Estate in Gorleston, known locally as #churchonthemag, has been unswerving in its practical and pastoral support to the local community during the COVID-19 crisis.

On 17 April St Mary’s launched their community help free-phone number. “If you would appreciate someone friendly to chat to, are in need of practical help, or would like us to pray for something – or someone – specific, please do give us a call.” The line is manned by trusted volunteers from the church, every day between 9 am to 5 pm. The number to call is a free phone too – 0800 246 5571.

The Revd Matthew Price explains: ‘We are using Tamar Communications who have been very helpful and it was easy and straightforward to set up!”

Supporting the Great Yarmouth Foodbank Emergency Delivery Service

Anna Heydon of Imagine Norfolk Together in Great Yarmouth (which seeks to coordinate the community provision of churches in the borough) explains,

“We realised early on that our existing system would not adequately meet the needs of the current crisis, especially if people were unable to leave their homes.  So, for people who are forced to self-isolate and are not able to source food in any other way, we are offering a self-referral delivery service.

“People in need of the service call a dedicated phone line, are quickly assessed against our criteria and then receive a delivery of a 7-day emergency food parcel.”

Since the service began on Monday 16 March, a total of 190 deliveries have been made; serving 283 adults and 167 children.

One elderly resident who was self-isolating and received a parcel told the call operator that after the delivery driver had left she had a “little-cry” because she was so overwhelmed by the generosity of the food parcel. The resident said, “it was all more than I would normally buy for myself at Christmas and will last me for a good while. I’ve just enjoyed a ham sandwich!”

Revd Matthew Price, Vicar of St Mary Magdalene, Gorleston which is acting as one of the food depots for the new service said,

“It’s been wonderful to see the community response to the current crisis.  There is now a team of 80 volunteers acting as call handlers, shoppers, food parcel packers and delivery drivers.  We’ve also been really touched by the donations of food, and money, we have received from both individuals and businesses.

“It is often the vulnerable who are hit hardest by a crisis like this and we are delighted to be working in close partnership with both Great Yarmouth Borough Council and the other churches in the borough in seeking to meet some of their most pressing needs.”

Anyone who is self-isolating and unable to get food in any other way can contact the delivery helpline on 07907 616566.

In addition to the emergency delivery service, the usual foodbank distribution times at the Salvation Army, Gorleston Baptist Church and St Mary Magdalene Church are continuing to operate for those with vouchers. Clients are requested to observe strict social distancing measures when they attend.

Worshipping together even though apart

Sunday morning worship has continued online gathering via the Zoom platform. “If you would like to join via your computer, you can download Zoom here. Alternatively, you can join by telephone (mobile or landline) following three easy steps.” (See their Facebook page here ) There’s an order of service for worship that can be downloaded too here. Morning prayer also takes place on Facebook live every weekday morning.

Virtual home groups have been launched and take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2.30 pm. “Keeping connected is so important in a corona world! Our two new virtual home groups, meet via Zoom. Check out all the details here – you can join via a computer or ordinary telephone line.”
And the younger members of the church are being catered for too. Mini Mags Sunday morning group has activities loaded onto the church website to do while the Sunday service takes place and the popular youth group has just launched online today: 24 April.
“In this period of lockdown, our youth club, Mags is going online! Every Friday from six until seven p.m. Mags is for all young people in school year 6 and above. If you would like your young person to join in, you need to complete a Zoom consent form.”
Crafting gifts for local care home
Aware of how much care homes have been in the news the church asked their local Lydia Eva care home what would be helpful. As a result, they’re encouraging their members to show some love through crafting.

“We’re seeking cheerful home-made cards with your own supportive message & home-made tactile gifts for the 83 residents of the Lydia Eva care home.”

They shared ideas and patterns and made careful plans to deliver the gifts hygienically to the care home.