Decluttering in lockdown? When I’ve lost so much already?

How clutter affects your health - ABC News

This guest blog is from Gwen Montgomery

Early in the days of Covid19 lockdown, like others, I had a lot of concerns, particularly as we are away from home on a sabbatical in Vancouver.  The worst times for me were those days when things were changing fast, every three hours it seemed, as decisions to keep ski slopes open or ferries running or borders open with appropriate adjustments, moved swiftly to complete closure.  Once I knew that our planned trips were cancelled and that we were unlikely to see many of the friends we hoped to visit over these months, my anxiety reduced and I arranged Zoom calls or phone conversations with some of them. 

As things settled I thought about my business and how it might look in the months ahead and realised, once again, that there’s never much point worrying about things as most of them never happen!  Paradoxically, few of us EVER thought of worrying about a pandemic!   

I am a self-employed declutterer and organiser.  I go into people’s homes and help them get their stuff, and sometimes their life, in order.  Whether it’s because of illness, bereavement, arrival of children or something else, many clients find they are pushing through a thick mud and making no progress, so they call me in. I’ve heard a number of friends confess to this same problem during lockdown; plans are made and tasks listed but a lack of direction or motivation draws them back to checking more news bulletins or binge watching something mindless – after another visit to the fridge. 

Some people have recognised this as an ‘ideal time’ to do some sorting out, but have admitted that in spite of ALL this time at home they have become ‘stuck’.  While you might expect that spending a lot of time at home would make us WANT to make it more homely, more orderly, more restful, it seems we are unable to make the changes.  That untidy drawer is just too much to face, that stack of paper looks unconquerable.  So maybe I just needed to be still. 

During the process of decluttering, I work with the client encouraging them to let things go. There are so many decisions and most things are tied up emotionally with memories of people or life experiences.  Parting with sentimental items can be so difficult, we want to pass them on to a family member or someone else who will treasure them and give them a good home.  Other things are treasured because they cost a lot of money, but they are no longer needed or liked and yet it seems too difficult to get rid of them. 

An essential part of decluttering, therefore, is re-evaluating.  I have found with all my clients that the choices they make will bring to the surface what they really value. 

What do we place great value on?  Can you imagine selling everything you have to buy something of immense value?  One of the parables Jesus told was about the ‘pearl of great price’ – a beautiful thing beyond description.  The merchant in the story sold all that he had (a massive decluttering!) so that he could have this great treasure.  

In Matthew chapter 6, verse 19, Jesus is teaching his followers about storing up treasures.  He reminds his listeners that things on earth decay or may be stolen by thieves. ‘Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven’ where there is no decay or theft, ‘for where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”   

What have we treasured?  The many things cluttering our home?  The numbers of ‘likes’ on our Instagram feed?  The career that has come to a standstill, the car that sits idle outside the door, the two holidays each year?  All have come to nothing.  That is why we may be stressed, malfunctioning, lacking quality sleep.  Most of all we may find that we are devoid of hope. 

A greater treasure can be ours: an everlasting life, an invitation offered by Jesus to all.  A promise illustrated by the rainbow, signifying God’s faithfulness and constant care; a hope that is not something fluffy or ethereal, but built on a sure faith.  

‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Matthew 11, 28 The Message 

Gwen Montgomery

Gwen lives in County Down, Northern Ireland with her husband Monty and cat Smokey, where their home overlooks the sea and provides refreshment between ministry trips with Monty who serves on the European IFES team.  

With her business Sorted by Gwen she has decluttered and organised domestic clients since 2007 and spoken about clutter from a Christian perspective since 2013 to a variety of audiences.   She is currently in Vancouver with Monty on sabbatical with some excellent hiking trails nearby while everything else is shut down.  Her hobbies include hospitality, gardening, card making and paddling adventures in their Canadian canoe.

 

 

Hope in loneliness

Our guest blog is from Rosamund O’Donnell

I was lonely. I just didn’t realise it.

I was used to moving around. This time, I moved to a completely new city for work. It was a great job, therefore I didn’t mind the unsociable hours. I honestly couldn’t work out what was wrong.

The waves of intense emotional pain were sudden and crippling. I would curl up on the floor and whimper. They were unavoidable and overwhelming.


I had huge misconceptions about loneliness

I once assumed that with good social skills and a lot of effort I would never be lonely again. (Humble – I know). As if I could overcome loneliness with some witty banter and local pals.


Admitting I was lonely to friends felt like I was telling them “you’re not doing enough.” Or worse than that “you are not enough.”


I felt desperate and needy. These are not good traits if you want to build friendships. So I stuffed those feelings way down, thinking it would help me in the long run to ignore them.


In reality, no matter what I did, I couldn’t escape the fact that something inside of me was broken.


The opposite of loneliness is not popularity.


A quick google search will tell you the antonym to ‘lonely’ is ‘popular’. Which is obviously rubbish. Popularity can make people incredibly lonely.

Ed Sheeran’s song Eraser is more than great track. He says “I used to think that nothing could be better than touring the world with my songs. I chased the picture-perfect life. I think they painted it wrong. I think that money is the root of all evil and fame is hell…. Ain’t nobody wanna see you down in the dumps. Because you’re livin’ your dream man that s*** should be fun.”


The opposite of loneliness is belonging.


The problem is in our culture you have to earn your sense of belonging. You have to build a reputation. You want to be popular? Show us on Instagram that you are worth following. You want to show you are capable? Get the top job. You want us to be impressed? Do something exciting.


When we’re flying high – it can feel exhilarating. But when it falls apart. Or we grow weary. The loneliness inside us aches. I suppose you might think the answer is authenticity. If everyone was real with one another, we think, then we wouldn’t have this problem.


Yet we know this has limits. We only show people elements of who we really are. There are always details of a story which we hold back for fear of people seeing what we really think. Because we know people would reject us if they knew the whole truth. We long for someone love us truly. For who we are with the masks off.


Yet who could possibly love us as who we really are?


Fully-known AND fully-loved


6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the
ungodly.7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person
someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8


The gospel message starts with telling you straight: You suck. No really. You’re a terrible
person. A terrible person who has been impacted by other terrible people. You need help.


It tells a story about the God who made the universe. The God who made you. He came up with the idea of you. (Indeed, he was having a great day when he came up with that idea!)


He decided to enter into this mess of a world. Live as a human being. Die the most painful death to repair that relationship. For no other obvious reason other than love.
There is a God who knows everything about you.


The God who knows the very worst about us, loves us. The God who knows the very worst about you, loves you.


Have you ever known love like it? I haven’t.

Rosamund O’Donnell

Rosie lives in Norwich. Her new routine involves exercising with Joe Wicks on a Monday morning. Outside of lockdown you would be most likely to see her at local open mics.

Finding Freedom: Domestic violence

This blog post has been written by a guest contributor who has elected to remain anonymous.

Trigger Warning: Alcoholism and domestic abuse

To all the men, woman and children in domestic abuse settings during lockdown searching for hope.

Dad* was drinking again.

As per normal, he went to my sister’s room to verbally berate her. The speech contained threats, ‘advice,’ and warnings. Normally she would put up with it. But this time she snapped back at him. Told him to leave her alone.

Dad walked away downstairs for some more wine. Then we heard the roar.

“I’M GOING TO KILL HER!”

The fear for her life was a legitimate one. I helped her to run to another part of the house for a hiding place. We heard a crack on the landing. Suddenly everything went dark.

He’d punched the light switch so hard the plastic casing snapped.

He ran to my sisters’ room and began tearing things apart trying to find her.

He moved systematically around the house and looking in every possible hiding place. Lifted the lid of a wooden laundry basket in the spare room. He brought it down so hard it shattered.

He eventually found her. She was on the way to the garage.

I could hear the screaming.

Looking for freedom

I thought I already had hope.

My sister and I hoped that 18 was this magical age where freedom would come to us. We could earn our own money and walk away.

We were going to rescue ourselves.

We had good reasons to believe nothing was going to change the situation.

It was unlikely our wider family would believe us.

Dad didn’t fit the stereotype of an abuser. In films abusive men wore white tank tops. They lived in a caravan and wiped their nose with the backs of their hands.

But dad worked in an office. He wore clean pressed blue shirts. We were financially secure. Dad was well liked. He went to dinner parties and told funny stories.

Besides – unbeknown to us we didn’t have the language to describe what was happening as abuse. I only had the words dad used. Like ‘playfighting.’ Or ‘playing a game.’

No child should have to make their own rescue plan. Yet here we were.

Road to freedom

Surprisingly, a friend and I had been allowed to go on a church retreat. The big draw was having a whole week away from home. I couldn’t be more excited.

I knew some things about Christianity but not much. God seemed as distant and unavailable as any other adult. I intended to show Him some respect, give Him space and I hoped He would leave me alone.

What I learnt turned my tiny insular world upside down. Not only did the adults at the retreat have more love and compassion than anyone I had ever met. But God was nothing like I’d expected.

The great rescue

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world … In love, he predestined (meaning pre-determined) us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ… in accordance with his pleasure and will.” (Ephesians 1)

Father. I learnt that was one of the many names God gives himself.

I heard about a God who, before the beginning of time, set in motion a rescue plan for humanity. To save us from a messed-up world (and family) and to restore messed-up people.

Part of this plan was to build me into a wider family. A new family.

There not a single part of my life which has been left unchanged by this truth.

If you were here right now, face-to-face outside of lockdown world, I would tell you story after story. Of security outside of physical constraints. Of a hope which was beyond just turning 18. And church has made up for what I lack in family in extraordinary ways.

We eventually did leave at 18. Of course, we should have been out much earlier. There were many failures at different levels which led to that.

But I cannot deny: the truth about Jesus liberated me long before I left home.

I don’t know where you are at in your story right now. In what ways you are trapped.

If you feel alone and without hope. My prayer is that you will personally know the weight of these words: Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)

For those effected by the content of this article: Help can be obtained via 24/7 domestic helpline on 0808 2000 247 or via their website https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/ 

*some small details have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.

Boots offers safe space for domestic abuse victims, read more here.

Reach Puppets in lockdown

 

Puppets… aren’t they just for kids? That’s a question that we’ve heard so many times! But we’re convinced that although they may often be aimed at children, the big kids (a.k.a. the adults) love and learn from them too! 

Many different ideas will come into your head when you hear of puppets, whether that’s Punch and Judy, Sooty and Sweep or perhaps the more popular Muppets. This can sometimes be a barrier to using them in church (virtually or for real!). But if you go through these assumptions, we’ve found that puppets that are done well can really help teach the gospel to every age in a way that is fun and exciting. Sometimes with a “normal” talk, the barriers are already up against what is being said and so people do not listen. But with puppets, even those who have never been to church often remove those barriers because they are enjoying being entertained. Then, when the barriers are down, they are open to hear the gospel. 

Although normally we’d be doing the puppets live during our church service, during this time of being online we’ve changed to creating videos of puppet sketches and songs. They work surprisingly well on video! The videos are uploaded to our brand new Reach Puppets YouTube channel so that they can be shared and watched by our church community during the week on social media. The main way they are being used, though, is through our Messy Church. The videos help to explain the story or point being made in a way that really engages the kids. We (or maybe the puppets!) even had some fan mail this week from a child who is excited to watch Messy Church because their favourite puppet characters (Jack and Polly) are going to be there! 

We’re not keeping the videos for ourselves and would love others to use them (either via the YouTube channel or drop us an email for the raw video). It does take time to make the videos so it’d be great to see them used in as many contexts as is helpful. As well as online events like Messy Church and the main Sunday service, we think they will also work posted on social media to encourage and evangelise during the week. Also, if you would like a video on a particular topic then just get in touch and we can do our best to come up with something! 

So what is our motivation in all of this? To reach up to God in praise whilst reaching out to people with the gospel – and online who knows how far the gospel will go! 

Reach Puppets

Josh and Heather Kirby

Josh and Heather Kirby. We’ve lived in the North East of England now for about 10 years and our home church is Christ Church Newcastle. We started doing puppets in church 3 and a half years ago and now they are taking over our house!

Image preview

Contagion phobia or what?

This guest blog is by Steve Sturman a Neurologist specialising in Neurorehabilitation

It used to be just unlucky people caught up in accidents, terrorist attacks or distant wars but things have changed. All the givens have been moved and now life is strange and different. How do we react? What does this all mean for my relationships, my future, well, for everything? 

This pandemic is incomprehensible. There is nowhere to run to and everyone is affected. And we’re all tired. Will somebody please change the music? But they can’t. It’s there, on the one hand weirdly fascinating, on the other, emotionally toxic. 

I must have watched thousands of people grapple with brutal life changing events in my career. This all seems just too familiar, except it is global. I recognise though,some of the reactions of people as we are caught up in this.  

There is subliminal denial. ‘This isn’t really happening, or if it is, we’ll just get on with things’. Until one day in your kitchen something poignant reminds you, that you are lying to yourself. The word ‘liminal’ has to do with thresholds, doorways. Don’t duck it, liminal stress exists. We are all going through change, and we will all be experiencing stress because of this. Denial wont work and will ultimately be damaging. 

Then there is the need to take control and find solutions. This has a more sinister dimension than the ‘let’s hit the rehab button’ that I am used to in clinical practice. ‘Keep your distance’ fuels contagion phobia and xenophobia. An ugly assertion of ‘my need to protect’ can be just under the surface. I’ve watched the fear grow over the last few months, affecting even people I thought were ‘together’ types.  

Maybe, more commonly, contagion phobia results in withdrawal and an agoraphobic response. Our local park seems massive now, having been indoors for six weeks. And do I really want to go back to work or whatever ‘normal’ used to be with the hassle of travelling and interacting with people? Stay safe, stay at home, protect… me. But it wont work, it will only alienate, propagate fear and ultimately damage me and others. 

Many people I have watched over the years professionally however, start to make the journey from ‘restoration’ ie. unrealistic determination to get back to normal, to ‘transformation’, that is, adapting creatively to the new normal. This is more than dull acceptance of the way things are, (which is really more a sullen hankering for ‘the way things were’). These people and their networks often surprisingly discover post-traumatic growth, as the ordinary and the menial become precious and valued. This has to be seen close up to realise it is not just a platitude, a sort of ‘consolation prize’. It is not readily comprehensible in our image obsessed culture. 

But what of faith in Christ? What difference does the gospel make? Jesus tells us that his teaching applied, is like a rock when everything else is liminal, changing (Matthew 7:24). His teaching gives a stable lens through which the complexities and uncertainties can be framed. This changes the narrative. 

And our God is determined to take us through a process of change with a goal that transcends the immediate and now. As we see and trust him in our circumstances then by his Spirit we are transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18). The resurrection is the prototype for transformation and post traumatic growth.  

So I ask myself, not, ‘When will this end, and go back to normal?’, but rather ‘How are you transforming me Lord, to be more like you? Contagion phobia yields to contagion growth, in Christ. 

Steve Sturman

Steve Sturman is a Neurologist specialising in Neurorehabilitation in Birmingham,UK. Steve is the Associate Head of Doctors’ Ministries at Christian Medical Fellowship

Here are some links and information on CMF’s resources and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learning from the experts in the new normal

Can you think of a situation where you’ve tried to learn something new without taking the advice of experts? This is me all over. My lack of patience plays out in many ways. One of these is an unwillingness to read instructions. This has resulted in many failed attempts at new recipes and DIY projects. My latest disaster was a lockdown hair cut for my husband 3 days before he preaches on Zoom. I’d confused number 1 and number 10 on the clippers, leaving an accidental Nike stripe in the back of Jon’s hair. The children were crying and the house was covered in hair. My daughter looked at her father and said Dad are you actually going to leave the house looking like that? At that point we went back to the instructions and started all over again.

We’ve had to think through how we do church and mission in a pandemic for the first time. But now the UK is over its peak. We’re beginning to see other countries coming out of lockdown. Questions are beginning to emerge about church online after lockdown. What has God been saying in this time of intentional interruption? When this is over can we go back to normal? Is there a new normal?

I really want to think about this. Do we even want to return to normal?

We know that the “old normal” is a long way off. Open air cafes might just open in the summer. Schools might open with a staggered approach with the youngest going back in October. Churches in Germany will open soon but they might ban singing. There is a lot of uncertainty. But in this space of uncertainty I’d like to ask a few questions. Do we really want to return to normal? Was normal really that great anyway? Could we even have a new normal that far more reflects the body of Christ than before?

I’ve read many articles about church life after lockdown. In each of them I hear a repeated sentiment that seems to hint that this hasn’t been real, that this hasn’t been church and that this couldn’t be permanent.

Here are some examples of these statements

Billy Kennedy in his excellent post on 3 reasons to stay online says this: “Church is community and community is expressed when people meet together… Sure, we can do some of this online but nothing beats the face to face interaction, the hug, the handshake or the huddle.”

Tim Hughes talks in his interview about The Blessing and online church. He says “If our only interaction is online, that’s not great, because that’s what I’m missing as a pastor. There’s so much nuance you miss. Body language and just being around people. And I miss the joy when you’re in church and hundreds of people are all united singing these songs. That’s powerful and you can’t quite replace that through endless Zooms!”

I agree with so much here. But what about for those for whom this isn’t the new normal, they’ve been doing online church for decades. And for these, after lockdown has finished, they still won’t be able to leave their homes and go to church  because they haven’t yet found a church that is accessible. 20% of the population have disabilities and yet many of our churches are not accessible to this people group. Lausanne tells us the most unreached people group in the world is the disabled community with 94% unreached. 

I think , the established church could learn so much from this community about how to do church online. For this community churchessuch as Disability and Jesus, London Internet Church, Pixel Church and iChurch have been doing this for years.

Here are two questions I’ve been asking as I’ve thought about this:


1. Was normal really that great anyway?

I’m not yearning so much to return to a building more I yearn to return to being together again as a body. But I’ve also seen that maybe the body we had, just really wasn’t that much of a body after all.

One of our church is housebound due to disabilities. This is what her daughter said after our first online church service:

“Bringing the church service to our home has meant that mum has been able to be ‘at church’ for the first time since before Christmas. Wonderful. This is amazing. Thank you. Praise God”.

Initially I thought that was wonderful, a way in which online church was working to improve church. But as I look back I am sad that it took a pandemic to wake me up. When one of our members can’t be part of the body, the church gathered, there is something not right with our body.

Malcolm Duncan, now pastor of Dundonald Elim Church in Belfast, says in a recording made some years ago for an Enabling Church conference: …“A church that doesn’t have disabled people in, is disabling itself”

Emma Major writes about her own experience with church and how she and others have felt: “Many thousands of disabled persons have been excluded from so many churches for so long. We’ve been church online for years. This is because the established church often isn’t a place where disabled people can meet together in person with other Christians”.

2. Could we have a new normal that far more reflects the body of Christ than ever before?

The disabled community are 20% of our population. And yet I wonder if they make up 20% of our churches. I wonder too if our churches and events are accessible, warm and welcoming to all?  Would you join me and listen to Malcolm, Kay, Emma, and others and learn from them at this time about being the body of Christ?

Kay, told me that social media posts about disability are shared 1/3 less than other posts. I asked her what it would look like to listen to the disabled community. She said: “I long for people to have the ears to hear, and by ‘hear’ I don’t mean a nod of agreement. I mean a hearing that leads to action and a church where all can belong.”

Emma Major writes about the irony of lockdown and the churches response. She says “The fact that physical churches are now exploring how to find relationships online without thinking to ask those who’ve done it well for years is intriguing.”

On a similar theme Kay Morgan Gurr says “It’s taken a pandemic for the church world to catch up with this. Yet today I still see ministers and congregants alike saying that online is second best and they look forward to getting back to ‘real’ church.”

The disabled community have been doing this for years and could teach us about church online, if only we would listen.

Right now I want to repent that I was and am so unable to see to an entire people group.

Right now I want to listen. Malcolm Duncan talks about how we’re all broken and marred, that even Jesus himself limited his capacities in becoming human. I want to listen and be taught by those who are the experts in thinking through being the body online.

Right now I want look at accessibility issues in the areas I have responsibility. 

What about you?  What will be your new normal?

Here are a few guides on how to make your church and events more accessible https://www.throughtheroof.org/forchurches/churchresources/

https://www.throughtheroof.org/events-for-all/

Read more here

Emma Major – Church online nothing new

Watch here

Kay Morgan Gurr sharing about offering hope in a Crisis

Zoom for Beginners

Guest blog from Gareth Leaney

What is Zoom?

Zoom is a service that allows lots of people to connect to each other at the same time. It works on a computer, a laptop, a tablet or a phone.

If you have a microphone and a camera, other people can see and hear you too (depending on the settings.

There are lots of other similar websites and apps (such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, Google Hangouts, Houseparty). If you’ve used one of these before, Zoom is very similar. If you have never used one of these before, don’t worry! It is not too difficult to get started.

What do I need to get started with Zoom?

The essentials

You need a desktop computer, a laptop, or a tablet. You can also use a smartphone, but a bigger screen will make it easier to see what is happening on screen.

Speakers so you can hear what’s going on. If you have a laptop or tablet, these will be built in.

An internet connection. If your internet connection is slow, you might have problems joining the meeting.

If you use your mobile phone data to access the internet, remember that our meeting will probably use quite a lot of your data, and it might be expensive.

Helpful, but not essential

Headphones. The sound is often easier to hear if you use headphones.

A microphone so that you can join in the conversation. If you have a tablet or laptop, this will probably be built in, or there may be one attached to your headphones. If you don’t have a microphone, don’t worry – you can still hear what is going on.

A camera connected to your computer (sometimes called a webcam) so we can see you. Most laptops and tablets come with these already built in – look for a black dot or hole near the top or side of the screen.

If you have a desktop computer you might need to connect one.

Step 1: Sign Up

Before you can use Zoom, you have to sign up. Signing up is completely free.

It’s better if you do this ahead of time, as it can take a few minutes to get set up.

If you have a laptop or desktop computer:

  1. Open your internet browser and type zoom.us in the bar at the top. This will take you to the Zoom website.
  1. Click on the orange button at the top, that says “Sign up, it’s free”
  2. Enter your date of birth when asked.
  3. Enter your email address. (It will ask for your work email, but it can be any email address that you have access to).
  4. A box will pop up asking you to confirm you are happy to receive emails from Zoom. If you click Confirm for now, you can change this later.
  5. You will then need to open your emails and find the email from Zoom, with the subject “Please activate your Zoom account.” In the email there will be a blue button with the words “Activate Account”. Click the button.
  6. This will take you back to the Zoom website. You will be asked if you are signing up on behalf of a school. Click on the circle next to the word ‘No,’ and then click ‘Continue’.
  7. Fill in the rest of your details, including a password that you will be able to remember. (Your password needs to have at least 8 characters, and it has to have at least one letter, at least one number, and at least one capital letter). When you have a suitable password, the instructions should turn green.
  8. Once you have filled all the boxes, click the orange “Continue” button.
  9. The next screen will ask if you want to recommend Zoom to your friends. For now, you can just click the grey box that says, “Skip this step”.

Congratulations, you have signed up to Zoom! Now you need to download Zoom…

Step 2: Download Zoom

You don’t have to download Zoom to use it, but it is much easier to use if you do. It will work on most laptops, computers and tablets.

If you have a laptop or desktop computer:

  1. Go to the Zoom website, zoom.us

2. Click on Resources in the top right corner of the page:

3. A menu will appear. Click on the top item, Download Zoom Client

4. On the next screen, the top option should be “Zoom Client for Meetings.” Click on the blue “Download” button to transfer Zoom to your computer.

6. The next part will be slightly different depending on your computer or laptop. But you will need to click on the downloaded file, and then keep clicking continue until the process has finished. By the end, you should have this symbol on your computer

The next step is to join the meeting!

If you have a tablet:

  1. On your tablet, go to the Zoom website, zoom.us
  2. Click on Resources in the top right corner of the page:

3. A menu will appear. Click on the top item, Download Zoom Client.

4. On the next screen, scroll down until you find “Zoom Mobile Apps.

5. If you have an iPad, click the Apple logo on the left. If you have another kind of tablet, click the Google Play button on the right.

6. Follow the instructions to download the app. You should see the Zoom logo on your tablet screen:

The next step is to join the meeting!

Step 3: Join the meeting

Before the meeting, Tom will send an email with an invitation to the meeting. It will say something like this:

Tom Davenport is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Townsend Community Group
Time: Apr 26, 2020 08:00 PM London
Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86768548867?pwd=U2dpQStheDVqU0R0SXQrbWdGTWMrQT
Meeting ID: 123 4567 8900
Password: 123456

You can join the meeting from around 7.45pm on Sunday. If you try to join the meeting before then, it won’t work.

  1. Click the link in the email (the underlined section in blue). This should open up a new window.
  2. If you see a box that says, “Open zoom.us?” click the button that says “Open zoom.us.” It should open up Zoom on your computer or tablet.
  3. If you are asked for your log in details, enter the email address and password you used when
    you signed up.
  4. If you are asked for the meeting ID or password, you can find these in Tom’s welcome email.
  5. If you see a box asking for access to your microphone or camera, click “OK.”
  6. If you see this message, you just need to wait for a few minutes. This is a bit like taking a seat in the waiting room before you are welcomed into the meeting.

Please wait, the meeting will let you in soon

When you join the meeting on a laptop or desktop, you should see a box like this one. Click “Join with Computer Audio.”

On a tablet, you will need to click the “Join audio” symbol, and then select
“Call with Internet Audio.”

Hooray! You are now part of the Zoom meeting!

How to control what other people can see

If you are using a laptop or desktop computer:
You should see controls like this at the bottom of the screen:

You can ignore most of them! The main ones you need to worry about are:
Mute
If you don’t want to be heard by anyone, you can mute your microphone. Just click the
microphone symbol. If your microphone is muted, it will have a red line through it. This means that no-one can hear you.


If you want to be heard, you will need to unmute your microphone. Click the microphone symbol again, and the diagonal line will disappear.


The host can also mute your microphone to make sure everyone can hear OK. If this happens, you will need to wait for them to unmute your microphone before you can speak to the group.


Start Video / Stop Video
This turns your camera on or off. If your camera is off, there will be a red line through the camera symbol. If you want to turn you camera on, click the symbol again. The red line will disappear when your camera is off.


Leave Meeting
If you need to leave the meeting, click “Leave Meeting.” The rest of us will be able to continue the meeting, but we won’t be able to see you any more, and you won’t be able to see us.

If you want to rejoin the meeting, you will have to click the link in Tom’s email again.

If you are using a tablet:
You should see controls like this at the bottom of the screen:

You can ignore most of them! The main ones you need to worry about are:


Audio
If you don’t want to be heard by anyone, you can mute your microphone. Just click the speaker symbol (“Audio”). If your microphone is muted, it will have a red cross next to it through it. This means that no-one can hear you.


If you want to be heard, you will need to unmute your microphone. Click the speaker symbol again, and the cross will disappear.


The host can also mute your microphone to make sure everyone can hear OK. If this happens, you will need to wait for them to unmute your microphone before you can speak to the group.

Start Video / Stop Video
This turns your camera on or off. If your camera is off, there will be a red cross next to the camera symbol. If you want to turn you camera on, click the symbol again. The red cross will disappear when your camera is off.


Leave Meeting
If you need to leave the meeting, click “Leave Meeting” in the top right corner. The rest of us will be able to continue the meeting, but we won’t be able to see you any more, and you won’t be able to see us.


If you want to rejoin the meeting, you will have to click the link in Tom’s email again.

How to control what you can see


There are two main views in Zoom:
Speaker View, where you see a large picture of whoever is speaking.


Gallery View, where you see small pictures of everyone.


You can choose which one of these you prefer. Usually, if you are having a group discussion, it is better to use the Gallery view. If you are listening to one person (e.g. the host of the meeting, or if someone is preaching), it is better to use the Speaker view.


The host of the meeting can choose to Spotlight one person – this will make a large picture of that person appear on your screen, and they will stay there until the host turns off the spotlight.


It is also possible to share your screen – this might happen if someone wants to share a picture or video with everyone.

Switching between Speaker View and Gallery View


If you are using a laptop or desktop computer:
Check the top right corner of your screen.

  • When you are seeing Gallery view, it will say Speaker View in the corner. Click on
    this to switch to Speaker View.
  • When you are seeing Speaker view, it will say Gallery View in the corner. Click on
    this to switch to Speaker View.

If you are using an Android tablet:
If you can only see one speaker, swipe left with your finger to see more speakers.
If you want to go back to speaker view, swipe right until you get back to seeing only
one speaker.

If you are using an iPad
The controls are in the top left of the Zoom window. If you can’t see the controls,
tap your screen to make them appear.

  • If you are in Speaker View, click on Switch to
    Gallery View to see lots of people.
  • If you are in Gallery View, click on Switch to Active
    Speaker to see lots of people.

What if I am nervous about appearing on screen…
The first time you use something like zoom, it does feel a bit strange! But you will get more comfortable very quickly.


When you see lots of faces on screen, it can seem as if everyone is looking at you, but really they can see lots of faces too! It’s more like sitting around a big dining table, rather than standing on a stage in front of everyone!


And you won’t be expected to speak if you don’t want to. And, if it makes you feel more
comfortable, you can turn off your microphone or your camera and just watch and listen.

Top tips for Zoom meetings

  • If there is lots of background noise, everyone will be able to hear it. So try to sit somewhere
    quiet (turn off the radio and TV!). Or turn off your microphone.
  • Try to find a place to sit where light will shine on you from the front or side. If you have a bright light behind you, or no light, we won’t be able to see you!

Gareth Leaney


Gareth is a science teacher at a secondary school in Dorset. In a former life he worked with Friends International and UCCF, supporting Christian students and helping the rest to think through big questions about life, the universe and everything.

Little Superheroes in quarantine

Guest blog post by Abi Andrews

Holiday Club blog

Each year, over the Easter Holiday break, our church runs our annual kids holiday club for primary school children to come and have fun while exploring the Bible together. This year was no different as we were excited to launch our week under the theme of Superheroes.

Of course, this was all before the great pandemic descended and everything began to be cancelled. But, in the Lord’s great mercy, COVID 19 only served to produce a greater opportunity for our church holiday club: Superheroes online.

In our initial planning, for the first time, we had chosen to cap our numbers to 80 children and only accept pre bookings to provide the appropriate level of care and attention for the children to engage based on the team we had. These children would have been coming predominantly from within the church and the local area, having spoken to local schools. But, as the Lord told Isaiah, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth”, it seems God’s plans for this particular holiday club were bigger than for St Thomas’ church, Lancaster. By the week of holiday club, we had over 300 children signed up from all over the country and even across the world, stretching as far as France, New Zealand, Switzerland and Pakistan. Children that were now watching and taking part with families, many who would never normally go into church. COVID 19 didn’t tear down holiday club, it just built it in each home.

So how did it work?

Each morning at 11am we went live on Youtube; think an (amateur) combination of Blue Peter, Veggie Tales, Prank Patrol and Cbeebies Storytime, if you will. We had about 40-50 mins of challenges and messy games, action songs, question of the day, our memory verse, a dramatized Bible story, testimonies from the church, an interactive prayer response and of course our annual holiday club would not be complete without gunging our leaders in slime to end. We then had various crafts and activities for each day posted on our website for children and families to do at home throughout the day based around our usual holiday club set up of; ‘explore the story’, ‘create zone’, ‘chill out zone’ and ‘challenge zone’.

I certainly had an awful lot of fun in the lead up to the week writing and filming Bible stories, building blanket forts, making my own Twister game, reflecting in prayer and being gunged in my garden but by far the highlight of each day for me was to see how the children and families were engaging; to see photos, videos and stories sent in each day of how children and their families were taking part, hearing the gospel and bringing the stories and truth of scripture alive in their own homes every day. One family said:

“It was the highlight of our day each day this week to watch it. What a ray of sunshine Holiday Club TV was, coming into our homes each day during the second half of the Easter holidays in lockdown. The wonderful mixture of zany silliness with a deep unshakeable hope in Jesus was so uplifting.”

It certainly wasn’t the Holiday Club we were planning for and expecting but how grateful I am that even when “many are the plan’s in a person’s heart, it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”. I have been so deeply challenged by the truth of this, that even in times of darkness, God is working all things for our good, his plans never fail, and he will bring his gospel to the ends of the Earth.

Abi Andrews

Abi is originally from just outside Southampton but moved to Lancaster as a student in 2014 where she has lived since, now working as a staff worker for UCCF supporting Christian Unions around Lancashire.

Having a go at sharing hope

Our guest blog comes from Tim Dennis. For other blogs in our online evangelism series look here.

The adventure started about 4 weeks ago…

‘I’m stuck at home, and I’m missing people— friends we laugh with as we stand on the sideline, freezing and watching our lads play football; the pals who make me wait till after I’ve normally gone to bed to start eating curry; the mates I go to the pub with once a month to celebrate my wedding anniversary (long story).

I’m not sure how people are feeling. I want to share hope with them, but I don’t know how. Some of them I’ve never spoken with about my faith before. What do I say, and how do I say it?

I’ll make a video.

Turns out it’s way harder than you think. You think you’ve finally nailed the script and set up the shot, and someone starts mowing their lawn. So annoying!

But I did it. It was way too long, and a bit too intense (I need to learn to smile more), but I did it.

Time to sit back and watch the views come in, or not. But then a friend suggested (she might be called Nay), challenged me to invite people to connect—not just to post stuff in the social media ether, but to invite people to chat about it. It made me feel uncomfortable, but we did it. We texted WhatsApp groups and shared the invite with friends. Sadly, for various reasons no one took us up on the offer, but the whole thing got me thinking….

What if there was a way to help other people connect with their friends? What if I could produce something that others could share, to help them share hope

And Lookforhope.org was born.

I’m so grateful for the people who were willing to write blogs for the site when all that I could say was that ‘I’ve had an idea!’ But by God’s grace, just over two and half weeks ago we launched, and nearly 7,000 people have visited the site, with 20,000 page views.

This whole experience has taught me so much, but here are 4 brief lessons that I’ve been reminded of over the last few weeks:

1. Don’t drop and run

It’s easy to share a link and then hope that people see it. It’s like posting a flyer through a letterbox, or putting a poster up, which isn’t a bad thing, but let’s aim for better! Why not tag people or send people a personal message, or host a watch party. It’s all risky and might feel uncomfortable, but if you’ve done the hard work of relationship building, you will win a hearing from some. People are bombarded with stuff online (especially now) so they will easily scroll on if there is not a personal connection.

2. Don’t worry if other people are making better online videos

Do I really want to do a video? What if it’s rubbish? Well, my first video wasn’t great, and the 2nd one was only marginally better—at least it was shorter! But, whilst there is a place for wonderful professionally produced videos—they are a great resource for the church, your friends would rather hear from you, not some random they don’t know.

Some people have mentioned they’ve felt overwhelmed by the amount of resources that are available to use or share. But your friends don’t see that—they just see your timeline. So don’t record something if you’ll feel sad if it doesn’t get many likes from Christian friends—just record something for your friends.

3. Say something, not everything

To use Becky Manley-Pippert’s phrase, we need to ‘cultivate curiosity’. Sometimes it feels like the desire to share the ‘whole gospel’ with people in one go (by that I mean the crea-tion, fall/sin, the cross and resurrection) comes more from a desire to ease our con-sciences than a desire to properly connect with people. If we’ve said everything then my job is done. But that’s not how relationships or conversations work. Commit to people for the long haul, trust that God is sovereign, and that if people are interested the Spirit will move them to come back and speak with you more.

4. Engage with the questions people are actually asking

That has been a guiding principle behind the website. Yes, of course people need to know how we can be sure that Jesus is God, but that’s not what people are worried about right now. Aim to connect with people’s anxieties and desires; show them that the Christian faith speaks into their lives, confronting and comforting and pointing them to a certain hope. And you might actually find they want to hear more.

Now I just need to go and ‘practice what I preach.’

Tim Dennis

Tim is currently a Curate in Winklebury & Worting in Basingstoke.  Before training and ordination, Tim worked with UCCF for 10 years.  Tim is passionate about connecting people with Jesus and regularly speaks or leads evangelistic courses.  Tim is currently working on a new evangelistic course called LifeStory, which will hopefully be published soon.

Intentional interruption

Image may contain: ocean, sky, text and water

Our guest blog is from Jonathan Thomas

When lock down started, as a pastor of church with a good number of older folk, I realised that two things were going to be true of them over the coming months: they would be lonely, and they would be desperate for good teaching. So, I decided to start a daily devotion on YouTube. Nothing fancy or in -depth, just a few minutes reflection on the Bible. An encouragement.

Both young and old in the church have valued it. It seems to give us a sense of unity each day. Also, unexpectedly, friends from around the world started listening in too. One of the things about the internet is that distance is no longer a barrier. And so, with the knowledge that more people are watching, I have started to try and think through sound quality, increasing the file size and making the film a bit more interesting than my wonky nose.

But as I realised that this time of isolation was going to be longer than first anticipated, I started to wonder what I should share each day. That is, should we be considering something specific at this time. Or to put it more bluntly, are there particular things that God wants us to think about.

You see, Covid-19 is the biggest and most significant interruption that our generation has ever known.

We’ve all been breathing the air of bigger and better. We are travelling more, working more, and spending time on social media more. Everything is more. Our world has been speeding up to a pace in which many of us could no longer stop and think. The art of meditation and reflection had all but extinguished….unless it was done for an Instagram post.

I wonder, before 2020, had we started to miss true life?

God is going to use this time for our good. He can bring good out of all things, even bad. The question is, how? My greatest fear is that once we find a vaccine life will go back to normal. Like someone who loses weight too quickly, vows they will never eat another kebab, but then is back in the take-away within weeks. Whilst we are all saying the world will be different….will it? The world is simply the result of our actions, and our actions are simply the reflection of our hearts.

Has the coronavirus changed our hearts?

Could it be that God is going to use this time to help us re-set our faith, and therefore our lives?

I feel it is my duty as the pastor of a local church to help my fellow church members start to work that out. I don’t want to look back to 2020 and say, ‘hey, I learnt to make vlogs and make home-made humous’ (I haven’t). I want to look back to this year and say, ‘God completely changed me….from the inside out.’

God wants us to experience a fresh faith in these extraordinary times. The Lord wants us to look out for wondrous things in the lock down. Our Father wants us to ponder His ways in the pandemic. I’ve been reflecting and I think there 13 things that God wants us to perceive anew in this pause. There are probably a lot more. Some of them are obvious like creation and compassion. Others may be a little unexpected, like conviction and crying. Some are welcome like children and comedy (often together).

Over the next 3 weeks I hope to use my little 5 minutes each day to help us pause and ponder. This time has created a window of opportunity to spend time every day with my church. Time that would have been filled with commuting, spending, wasting and whatever else we used to do. But now, for however long it lasts, people are willing to tune in every day.

I pray I don’t waste it.

Listen to the new series 13 things God wants us to ponder in the pandemic. The series will stat Monday 4th May at Cornerstone Chuch Youtube channel.

Jonathan Thomas

Jonathan Thomas is married with 3 children, and is the pastor of Cornerstone Church, Abergavenny. His series ‘Intentional Interruption’ can be found on the church YouTube Channel.