Over last few months community trails and activities have been popping up across the UK. These have brought people together and have encouraged a warm community spirit. Running a Nativity trail was straight forward, but Easter feels a little tricky. Due to the current situation, its hard to tell what level of restrictions we’ll have in April. So I wonder if you, like me, feel a little unsure about what to do?
Attempts to celebrate Easter outside the church veer wildly between sombre and superficial. Yet, in this lesser known story of Easter, there is a message of hope and a message that needs to be heard. Sally Lloyd Jones in the Jesus story book Bible writes at the end of the Easter story…
“Was God really making everything sad come untrue? Was he making even death come untrue?”
In a world that is more aware of death and suffering than ever before, this is a message that needs to be heard. Jesus offers forgiveness for the past, new life for the present and hope for the future. As I read Sally’s words it struck me afresh that this message of Easter is essential. For this is a message that changes everything. She writes in her lent guide…
“As we read this Great Rescue Story together, God wants us to remember: however
we are feeling today, wherever we are today, whatever is happening in our lives
today—however it looks, even if it looks like there is no hope at all—spring is
coming. It may look like nothing is happening. It may even look like everything
Spring is coming!
Easter is coming!
Jesus dies —yes, but he comes alive again!
And one day death and sickness and tears—they will be no more. Because God is
making the story end happily for his world—and for his children!”
I hope this introduction shows that this unknown Easter message isn’t just sombre. Its a message of hope and new life, its a message that changes everything. So as you consider Easter, how will you share this message creatively? How will you do this in a way that raises curiosity and leaves friends wanting more?
Here are some ideas…
Run a community Easter trail – running a trail like this is great for building community and getting to know others. Here are some ideas; geocaching, chocolate egg hunt, nature scavenger hunt or QR codes Easter trail. Give out gift bags as prizes for completing the trail.
Easter gift packs – These could be collected at the end of any trail or hunt as the prize. You could fill this with; chocolate, a make your own Easter garden, craft sheets from Pinterest or use these ones from Sally Lloyd Jones.
Easter giveaway from your driveway – print out this poster and fill a box with Easter gift bags (chocolates and colouring activity sets) to give out from your drive or to friends.
Celebrate the resurrection – we’re planning to re-use the angel from our Christmas trail and give away some little gift packs that explain that Jesus is Alive again.
Letterbox gifts – I’ve written these little stories that raise curiosity about Jesus. You could buy some, bake some cakes and give them to friends with a copy of a gospel.
Organise an Easter Experience trail – designed by Jessica – Ann Jenner
40 days of Hope – Jamie Haxby and Hope Church Lancaster are running weekly initiatives to love and serve their community. This will culminate in a series of online talks looking at the theme of Hope. Have a look here.
What are we planning to do as a community?
In our community we have been enjoying running large trails. Our next one is a half term lego challenge with 50 houses on the trail. We’re inviting Lego creators from across Southampton to submit photo’s or video’s. We’ve tended to go for a large trail so that as many as possible can get involved in.
From mid February we’ll be putting up a post on our community Facebook page. We’ll be asking for Easter ideas, then we’ll then take the best idea and start making a team. I’ve been in conversation with three local churches. Together we are creating a gift pack to give to every family in our community. We’ll be including; a variety of Easter craft activities, a make your own Easter garden and colouring sheets. For us this works well, we want to share the message of Easter to as many people as possible. But we also want to involve the community and build a sense of togetherness in these difficult times.
Building community and engagement
Since November with we’ve run 3 trails and various community initiatives. Some have worked and others haven’t. Here are some reflections on how to build community and engagement in a pandemic…
Create community between events – this can be done simply with a whatsapp group or a facebook group. I set up our local community Facebook page in November. Since then its had a reach of 40k people.
Create events that encourage engagement – we ran a Halloween trail which had hundreds of visitors. We also invited everyone to submit a photo of a Halloween carving or colouring onto our page. We had nearly 200 submissions and gave out prizes donated by local businesses. It was a great chance to get to know local businesses and support and promote them at this time.
Grow a team from your community – after the success of our first trail we then put up a post asking for more help, we had over 40 people respond offering all the skills we needed.
Ask for ideas from the community for future trails – in January a mum got in touch and said that she thought a Lego challenge during half-term would be a great idea. Since then we’ve been planning and preparing, the Lego challenge starts on Fri. We have 50 houses on the trail and some of our posts have a reach of 6k. We are also inviting Lego creators across the city to send in a photo or video of their Lego creation.
As a community show love – individuals have set up a local food bank and a gift bag of thanks for local NHS staff. Creating a community like this, means you have plenty of opportunities to love dearly throughout the year.
In a world that is more aware of death and suffering than ever before, this is a message that needs to be heard. Jesus offers forgiveness for the past, new life for the present and hope for the future. How will you do this amongst your friends? I’d love to hear from you.