Sprowston connects with their community on all frequencies

Like many churches, Sprowston Parish has been making the most of modern technology to keep in contact with their community - even taking to the radio! The Revd Dean Akrill explains.

It seems a long time ago now, but I remember waking up into this strange new locked down world with the feeling that the carpet had been swept away from under our feet, and left wondering “What on earth do we do now?” It was all a bit bewildering considering how big Sprowston parish is; but fortunately, we have a good team on hand.

We realised early on that we needed to stay in contact with everyone; so, a rota was established so that we can regularly phone our parishioners and deliver news sheets– something which has been greatly appreciated. Then we began to address a Sunday service. We began with a pre-recorded service, which allowed our Curate, the Revd Andy Bunter, to create bold experiments in film production. The service still goes out every week via our website and Facebook and has proved popular amongst many who hadn’t previously attended church on any regular basis. Our ‘virtual congregation’ has been swelling!

We realised early on that we needed to engage actively with the wider community here in Sprowston. The starting point being Facebook, and the local ‘Coronavirus Help Group’ which sprang up, helping people with shopping, picking up prescriptions etc. This led to a foodbank being established from St. Cuthbert’s Annexe which helps those most in need.

Another community initiative is the radio station run by the Brickmakers Public House; Revd Simon and I have a regular slot; chatting about local and national issues, as well as matters of faith. Meanwhile, I contribute an alternative Thought for the Day, which has quite a following.

No account of lockdown life would be complete without mention of Zoom; we initially used Zoom for the Daily Office and staff meetings; but we have since established a very popular Sunday Service which allows people to join our worship in real time. Particularly valuable for some of our older people is that they can join in via their landline telephone. Since those early experiments we now run Zoom coffee mornings, small discussion groups and Bible Studies over the phone.

It’s a sign of the times that our initial sense of trepidation about parish life in lockdown is now being replaced with a certain nervousness about how Church will look once we emerge from this current crisis. Whatever happens, we feel sure that some of our virtual services will continue; not only have they helped us to reach out to new people, but they have brought back a number of people for whom social isolation was a fact of life long before anyone had heard of this virus. God has certainly been active.