From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
The Church Council at my congregation have been doing a whole heap of work so that we can re-open the buildings for worship. The worship services are an important part of the life of our congregation, so I glad we have leaders whose role it is to get us safely back to gathering in the church buildings.
I’m a leader in one of our congregation’s fresh expressions teams. It’s one that is building a new Christian community around basketball. There are other teams like the one based in the environment group and the one based in the Op Shop. My main focus has been on starting to get back into full swing with my basketball community. The players have been staying in touch with each other over snapchat and Instagram, and some of us have met up in groups of two or three to shoot around at the local outdoor courts. But it has not been the same as all playing together at the Uni indoor courts, and we haven’t been meeting up for our dinner nights either.
Now that the Uni courts have reopened, we can start playing there again. It’s going to be different though. We are used to be people just dropping in and joining in our games. That’s how we get to meet new players. We seek to bless them by helping them have a good time on the court and offering them some coaching to improve their technique. If they want to work on skills training, we do that as well.
In these COVID times it is harder for people just to drop in. We’ve got to book the court in advance and register contact details for all the players. We have to pre-read the COVID safety plan for the courts and stick by it (we may even need our own plan if our numbers get above the limit). Then when we turn up on the day, there are health checks as part of the sign in. We can’t greet each other like we used to and we have to keep our distance in the warm ups. When we get into the games that is when it feels most normal. But even then we can’t celebrate good plays like we used to with high fives and pats on the back. Probably one of the most disappointing parts of regathering in this way is that we can’t hang out on the side of the court after our session is finished. This is usually one of the best parts of our time together. It’s when the real conversations happen after we have slogged it out on the court. But now we have to move on straight away for the next hire group to come in.
It is in those conversations that we get to know each other better, particularly new players who join us. In getting to know each other we also find out that some are keen to meet up for the dinner nights. The dinner nights haven’t happened since COVID started. We’d usually meet up at one of the players’ homes for a BBQ, get takeaway and eat it in a park, or eat at a fast food place (most of the players are students and are on a tight budget so restaurants are out of the question). During the dinner nights we get around to each other to hear concerns and those things for which there is thankfulness, and if it seems right, we offer to pray with each other about those things. One of us also tells a story about Jesus – something he did or said, and ask what this tells us about God/Jesus, what this tells us about people, and who else might be helped by hearing this story.
I wonder what the dinner nights will be like when we restart them. They used to be times of getting alongside each other. Now we’ll have to act according the limit of visitors to a house and keep 1.5 metres apart. If we go to a park, we’ll have to stick by the limits for outdoor gatherings. There is so much planning to be done. In fact, I will need to check our plans for doing all this with our church council since they have oversight of the fresh expressions teams.