Norwich church provides professional deep clean
It seems that God was preparing Norwich pastor Stuart Bailey for the pandemic by providing him a job as an infection control lead. He shares the story of how providence has now given opportunities for his church to serve the local estate.
Back in the spring we at the Open Door Christian Fellowship decided to put our efforts into the local community response to the lockdown as the best way of sharing God’s love. Within a week of this decision a nationwide shielding plan was put in place confining many elderly and vulnerable people to their homes.
We delivered a note to every home on our estate (1,104 houses) saying that we were available to help with shopping, prescriptions, lifts to appointments or simply for a chat. Responses came in quickly and we were soon providing help in all four of these areas.
God’s provision never fails to surprise, and it soon became clear that He had been preparing us for this work for some years. Shortly after launching the church I started part-time work for a Private Ambulance Company. I was soon appointed as the Infection Prevention and Control Lead for the company, overseeing (among other things) the cleaning of the Ambulances.
With the knowledge gained there I was able to deep clean our car to ambulance standards and offer lifts and other help with minimum risk of infection. Also, my employer was very supportive of the voluntary work we were doing and provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our volunteers as well as allowing me to use the fogging machine to help deep clean the car. God is Good!
As the full lockdown started to bite, calls for help increased, and my wife Mandy and I were soon doing up to three supermarket shopping trips per day. Everyone was extremely grateful and generally surprised that didn’t want any money for our fuel or time. We were able to get to know some of our regular callers and build links for the future. We also became regulars at all the local pharmacies – strengthening our presence in the community.
Unable to meet in “The Building” (what we call our meeting place) we turned to Facebook live for our services. As one who is not used to modern Social Media this presented challenges for me, but allowed us to reach more people than we had done prior to lockdown; our first video was viewed by over 300 people. For some of the older members of the Fellowship without internet access we contacted family members to see if they could help, enabling at least one member to watch services on her son’s phone.
We also tried to keep in touch with all members as much as possible with regular phone calls and the occasional socially distanced chat from the end of the garden path. Missing Easter together was a particularly bitter blow which we tried to soften with the delivery of Easter Eggs to our members who were shielding.
Our thoughts have now turned to the tricky matter meeting together in The Building under the Social Distancing legislation. Preparations involved contacting our insurers, the local police, the Trustees and following guidance from all manner of para-Church groups. Risk Assessments were done, daily check-sheets produced, signs printed, hand-sanitiser bought, chairs re-arranged and difficult decisions made about how the service would run and what advice to give to our older members. But on July 5 we met for the first time in fifteen weeks.
For many months we had been praying for more people to join us, but have discovered that being a small congregation with a decent-sized building has been a special gift. We have even welcomed one new person to our congregation who enjoyed the video services so much they have come along to taste the full experience of worshipping with us.
We pray for the day when we can invite the estate, especially those we got to know through the help-out scheme, to a service of thanksgiving and fill the area with the sound of people praising God. In the meantime, we praise Him for keeping all of us in the congregation safe during the pandemic and for keeping us together as the Church family He wants us to be.
Pictured above are Mandy and Stuart Bailey modelling PPE during a shopping trip for the estate (top) and a nonagenarian member of the church enjoying a visit (centre)