Alex.T.Stewart@blueyonder.co.uk

My Dear Friends, 

Speaking with so many of you individually, I would have to say that it is not simply the WORSHIP that people have been missing over these long months of lock down and restriction; we have all missed the FELLOWSHIP on a Sunday. It is a joyful, healing and uplifting experience to come round to the Hall after the Service and have a chat and a cup of tea.

Church halls are very much a feature of the Victorian age. Before there was gas lighting in the streets and in public buildings it simply wasn’t practical or safe to come out at night. Churches didn’t have halls attached to them. The time came, with new technology, that the Church saw a way of providing facilities to enrich and enhance the life of local Communities. Long before the varied and sophisticated attractions of the leisure industry the church built halls in each parish and community. People were at work or school during the day; but now for the first time groups could meet up and socialise after dark. This was revolutionary! Organisations and activities were provided for girls and boys, men and women, the elderly, and so on. In many communities travel was difficult and there was little else for folk to do in their spare time. The Fellowship provided by the church was an immense blessing.

Now, of course, the entertainment and leisure industry has been hard hit by the recent lockdown; and this has greatly affected – not only the economy – but also the mental health and wellbeing of the population as a whole. Fellowship and human interaction is vital.
Perhaps the church needs to rethink its approach to Christian Fellowship in a digital age. I have no brilliant ideas as to how we might go about this; but we have to think about it creatively just as our Victorian predecessors did in a different age with its new and changing challenges. 

My former charge in Edinburgh has attempted to do this in an interesting way. After the on-line live-streaming morning Service there is a break of 15 minutes. During this time people go to their kitchens, make a cup of coffee, and grab a biscuit. Then there is a Congregational Zoom Meeting with everyone drinking coffee and seeing and greeting their friends and neighbours. There is an opportunity to discuss the sermon and to share news before the meeting comes to a close.   

One or two folk have suggested that it would be good to take part in a small discussion group to share our thoughts and opinions on some of the topics mentioned in these recent letters. Please let me hear YOUR views on how the Church is to adapt to a modern digital age.   

Liz joins me in sending our love to you all, 

Alex.