Prior to Covid-19 one in ten young people aged 16-25 were not in any form of education, employment training. Due to recent events the unemployment rate for young people is expected to rise significantly. What does the future look like for these young people? What barriers are they facing, preventing them from making choices about their future? What disadvantages are they encountering? Where do young people turn if they do not have a supportive home life?
Oftentimes the solution is simple: The local church providing relational, tailored, and holistic mentoring.
In recent years we, as a family of churches, have been building relationships with several churches and Pastors in the nation of Brazil, facilitated by Daniel Lucena, a Brazilian from Crawley Community Church. In March 2020, just before Covid-19 lockdown hit the UK, I was privileged to be able to visit Brazil with a team from New Ground. The headline is that there are churches longing to be part of a church family like ours and it feels like Paul’s vision of the man of Macedonia in Acts 16 saying “Come over here and help us!”
It is difficult to know what to say about the events of the last week. On Monday we saw the story of Amy Cooper go viral, as a young man had the police called on him for being black while birdwatching. The outrage lasted for a day before it was replaced by the far more chilling footage of George Floyd dying of asphyxiation, face down and handcuffed on a city street, after a police officer had kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, for the last two minutes and forty-five seconds of which he was unresponsive. The symbolism, of a white police officer’s knee on the throat of a defenceless black man, was hard to miss; the obvious question – how many people have been killed like this without being caught on film? – has been asked by millions (although many African Americans already knew the answer). It has sparked protests across the world, several of which have led to riots, violence, curfews and heightened tensions. And all this is on top of the Covid-19 tragedy, in which we know that black people are several times more likely to die, and the previous recent tragedies of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. It is hard to know what to say.
We reached out to some of our partners leading smaller congregations through this Coronavirus season for insight into their approach to discipleship and care. We trust you will be encouraged by their wisdom, healthy expectations, simple communication strategies and focus on keeping first things first.
Responses from Ben Franks (Hope Church Rhondda, Wales), Owen Cottom (Grace Cardiff, Wales) and David Varney (Foundation Church, Belfast)
At this time we are regularly hearing encouraging stories of churches adapting existing projects or starting new initiatives to serve vulnerable people. King’s Church London – reacting quickly to the current COVID-19 crisis – has done both; adapting one longstanding project and starting a new work to serve those within and beyond their four local church communities.
I cannot be the only one whose Instagram feed over the past five weeks has been full of sourdough starters, shaved heads and relentless exercise challenges. While this probably reveals a lot about who I follow on social media as a millennial Londoner, it is great to see so many people responding positively during this challenging time. And given social media feeds are our only window into the world outside, it would be easy to believe that banana bread and leisurely daily walks are the majority experience.
Churches in the UK have been responding to the coronavirus outbreak both by sending, serving and supporting key workers and through organising programmes to serve most vulnerable in our communities. In this blog, Charlotte Ward from Kings Church Heathfield in East Sussex shares an initiative they’ve been running in partnership with other local churches to help those struggling at this time:
In recent weeks we have become increasingly familiar with the real impact of the Covid-19 crisis on private businesses, charities and on social enterprises. As workers are being be laid-off and finances threatened, no one can be certain how long this period will last and whether those businesses and charities will actually survive. What is clear is that even some essential services cannot be delivered – or at least not in the way they have been provided up to now.
Although we laugh – and perhaps sigh – at the thought of yet another Zoom call, we are finding our weekly Zoom meetings during this season have been a literal God-send. They have enabled us to connect with a range of people across the country, sharing our ideas and learning from theirs as we strive to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities.
So we have lined up some more for May and the beginning of June. We’d love to see you at one or more of them. They each last 45 minutes, and are limited to 20 participants so that everyone is able to participate. Make sure you book your place in advance so you don’t miss out.