During the Covid pandemic lockdown, like many other parishes and benefices in the diocese, the Benefice of Cheddar, Draycott and Rodney Stoke has been using Zoom to engage with their parishioners. They have been connecting with parishioners seven days a week which, according to the Rector of the benefice, the Revd Stuart Burns, was only possible thanks to the support of their Lay Worship Assistants (LWAs).
He says, “The benefice has a strong history of lay ministry and when I joined four years ago we had six Lay Worship Assistants. Unfortunately, three of them passed away in the course of a year between 2018 and 2019, which affected the churches deeply. Thankfully, and reflecting the generous spirit of self-giving in these churches, we were able to discern, train and commission four new LWAs at the end of last year. I am very thankful that we entered lockdown with a ministry team that included seven LWAs, one of whom will be ordained as a deacon in September, along with two Readers and two retired clergy. Between us all we have been able to offer prayers via Zoom every day of the week.”
“Without such a dedicated team of Lay Worship Assistants I am sure that we would not have been able to offer that service which many parishioners have seen as a lifeline during this period of isolation. Evening Prayer then chat online every night before bed has been vital to many of our people. We also would not have been able to open the doors to all three of our churches for services at the same time, from Sunday 12 July, alongside our continued on-line service.”
In addition to ensuring the daily Zoom offering, particular LWAs with IT skills were able to help the congregation with the technology to access the service, either by offering guidance on tablets and downloading Zoom, or for those who didn’t have or want the technology, how to access the service via the phone.
The new LWAs were identified by Stuart and his leadership team, which includes two retired clergy who also provide invaluable support, Revd Judith Rose and Revd Hilary Thomas. Stuart says, “We carefully considered what skills would be helpful in an LWA and who may have those skills in our benefice. It was not necessarily the first people you think of, but often those who would never have put themselves forward.”
Stuart concludes, “Our whole team has gone above and beyond during the pandemic but I do feel that it has been invaluable having the LWAs commissioned and in place, and that it is a good lesson for all of us. If we don’t encourage everyone to discover their ministry and become confident enough to share that, then the church will fail to thrive.”
Joining details for the live Cheddar, Draycott and Rodney Stoke Sunday online services can be obtained from Stuart or contact the benefice office. Recordings are available each Sunday on the benefice’s YouTube channel.
The Vocations team and Jill Perrett, Lay Ministries Developer would love to have conversations with people who have recognised new giftings/ callings, or who would like someone to help them discover their gifts with a Chaplain for Discerning Calling. Email Jill or call her on 01749 588909.
Visit the Lay Worship Assistant page to find out more about the role.
On Saturday, 12 July, the diocese held its annual celebratory service for all forms of lay ministry on line. You can watch the service below.