Reaching out in lockdown

Every year, around the Saints Day of St Aldhem on 25 May, the congregation of St John’s church in Frome gather for the blessing of St Aldhelm’s spring. With the current restrictions, this traditional gathering was not an option, but the vicar of St John’s, the Revd Colin Alsbury, came up with a solution to mark the occasion slightly differently.

He says, “We encouraged people to put a small display of flowers, or a picture of flowers, by taps in their homes and send in pictures of their decorated tap to be assembled into a large digital collage. We have reason to be thankful that we have clean fresh water in our homes with which we can wash our hands at this time and a celebration of that and reminder that not all in the world have that basic clean water supply we take for granted seemed appropriate.

“It captured the imagination of not just our church community but the wider community which I felt was very important at this time – my particular favourite was a creative Lego display submitted by local children not connected to the church. The new local mayor, who is also not connected with the church also gave her support which was great.”

People embraced the idea and the resulting collage is available to download from the church website. You can get a flavour of the creative ways people rose to the challenge in their video.

Colin adds, “It is somewhat easier to nurture your local congregation, but not quite as easy to engage with the local community and outreach but that is a challenge which we much embrace with imagination while we are unable to have our church doors wide open, as they would normally be.”

Colin’s outreach has extended somewhat further, building on a previous visit from a professor from Georgia Southern University in the United States, who came to review their church archives a few years ago. With the lockdown in place on both sides of the Atlantic, two students from the university have been tasked to transcribing the archives, so Colin spends his free time sending digital pictures of the records over to the students and receiving the transcribed information.

He says, “It has been fascinating to see what insights you can gain from little snippets you can gain from the records and what context you can add. One entry, for example, notes that someone paid for prayers after the Great Storm of 1703 and I was able to share with the students that it was the storm that resulted in the death of the then Bishop of Bath and Wells and his wife after a chimney fell on them.”

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