Sharing Best Practice

The challenges presented to us by the coronavirus are new, and we need new ways to address them. Of particular concern to Ministers and Pastoral Leaders across the District is how to carry out pastoral work and practical commitments at a time when we are unable to physically interact with people. To address this, the District will be hosting a series of conversations via Zoom, where we hope that all those attending will share their experiences and discuss best practice during this period of lockdown and social distancing.

Each session will be facilitated by Michael Wakelin, and a new theme will be introduced each week. All experiences and thoughts are welcome. Notes and resources gathered from the forums will be collated on this page for use beyond the initial conversation. You can view the notes for each week by clicking on the corresponding forum title below.

 

The Sharing Best Practice Forum is held weekly on Wednesdays from 11am - 12pm. If you would like to attend please contact Michael Wakelin

Forum One: Funerals

 

People shared their experiences, which were often moving and reflected the challenging circumstances in which we offer care at this time. Just some of the examples of good practice offered were:

 

  • Enable people who can't attend to feel a part of the service. For example, let the time of the service be known to the wider church family if appropriate, as well as  friends and relations who can’t be there so that prayers can be said at the same time – make a service sheet available.

  • People might find it helpful if there is the possibility of a memorial service to be conducted at a later date, so that proper tribute and goodbyes can be planned.

  • Prayers from Methodist Church House were cited as being very good - check out the website www.methodist.org.uk

  • Create a WhatsApp group to include friends and family and church members as funeral preparations are made

  • The actual burial itself can be Zoomed to those who can’t be there or filmed and distributed later.

  • Bear in mind the range of levels of competence and confidence that people have in using IT, and remember that some members of communities and congregations don’t use written material very much – so audio recordings might be a helpful way to include people.

  • Proactive communication with funeral directors can help avoid mix ups and remembering that they too are facing challenges and need support.

  • Don't struggle - find people to talk to, colleagues within or beyond your circuit and look for agencies that offer support, for yourself and to which you can signpost others. See list below:

The Methodist Church has provided some 'Prayers For The Dying'.

Church communities and ministers have always been gifted in responding to the needs of the dying and the bereaved. At the moment there can be a sense of being overwhelmed, especially if we tend to 'just get on with it ourselves'. We must, of course, look to each other for support but there are other agencies that also have resources and offer support in bereavement situations. You might want to use these charities for your own support or signpost other people to them. If you are feeling overwhelmed, please do talk to colleagues and lay leaders in your circuits.

And for practical help following a death in hospital, look at the NHS Corona Virus pages:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/bereavement-advice-and-support/

 

Don't forget to regularly look at the Methodist Church Website for updates and information.

https://www.methodist.org.uk

 

Forum Two: Worship in the Lockdown

Our second “best practice” Zoom, conference took place on Wednesday 6th May and revealed that there is lots of excellent work being done around the London District in relation to worship provision during the lockdown. The News reported that something like 25% of the country had turned to online service in recent weeks. Clearly this situation, while tragic and tough for many is proving a valuable opportunity to increase the reach of our worship. 

One encouraging quote, reflecting on the way that more people are tuning in to online worship than normally attend:

 

            “Lockdown really expanded our church walls!”

 

Some of key issues we discussed around best practice were:

  • The importance to check re licensing arrangements if music is being used especially from You Tube.  This website might be useful https://www.rscm.org.uk/live-streaming-of-church-services/ Methodist Central Hall Westminster is well down this road and Tony Miles would be happy to help with any queries in this area.

  • Keeping worship feeling “live” rather than a “performance” was a challenge to some – keeping a sense of the joy of being together – so hard to replicate remotely.

  • Worship does not need to be an hour long (or longer). Short messages with impact (remember, people are one click away from leaving!!). People find it difficult to focus on Zoom or Youtube for two long.

  • It’s not necessary to replicate every aspect of Sunday worship – many services are including no more than two songs/hymns (if any). Using a backing track (recorded on piano) and posting words so people can join in singing is one approach. Trying to get everyone singing on a Zoom call doesn’t work because of the delays.

  • Some suggested open mic zoom chats before or after services which were being streamed live -  to have that sense of informality and “chatting over coffee”

  • Many reported large increases in the numbers of people worshipping together. In some cases online congregations had doubled or more, often reaching beyond church members who attended infrequently to people with no connection with the church. 

  • One problem was reaching out to those not confident with technology, or without access to smart phones and computers. Printed materials can be used but are not always helpful to some. It was pointed out that it is also possible to phone in from a regular phone to zoom calls. 

  • Using this technology also means that worship can happen all through the week with several ministers offering daily prayers and setting up phone prayers that people can ring into for free.
    Check out the Methodist Church ‘Dial a Prayer’ resources: https://www.methodist.org.uk/about-us/coronavirus/prayers-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/dial-a-prayer/

  • Thoughts about the foreground and backdrop to worship setting were shared. One church had used blockposters.com to create a backdrop of their church sanctuary which looked effective on screen. Think about what is behind you and the placement of the camera. Try to have the camera higher than the person speaking (avoids too many nostril shots!). Can images of candles or a cross be used during recorded prayers? Can some of the service be recorded in a garden or in a park during daily exercise – moving away from all being led from one room?

  • Consider sending orders of service to local care homes, particularly ones with which you already have a relationship.

 

Some other useful resources:

 

Forum Three: Day to day ministry and obstacles raised by the lockdown

In our third Best Practice zoom call we discussed our day to day ministry and the obstacles raised by the lockdown. How do we care practically for our congregations and members while also not forgetting to look after our own wellbeing and spiritual practice?

 

Inevitably many of us are finding this emotionally draining and at times depressing, trying tom offer pastoral care to our congregations and communities. And this was an opportunity to share ideas of best practice in these circumstances and offer support to one another.

 

Some practical issue and ideas emerged including moving some of our groups to online forums – including young adults and bible studies. However in some areas there is real digital poverty which makes this online activity impossible.

 

People spoke of resisting the ‘need to be needed’, often a natural instinct in minsters (and others), and the need to be kind to oneself and not compare to what others are posting online about how much they are doing and how successful they are being. Love and care of self is very important, giving yourself space and time and more realistic expectations.

 

Informal church WhatsApp groups had raised some issues when inappropriate content was shared which does not reflect Methodist polices or practices. 

 

The URC has published a booklet 'Ready for the new "normal": A discussion paper for a pandemic recovery and resumption plan', which will help to carry us past the lockdown and into a healthy future.

Other useful links and materials:

Resources to support mental health and well-being, April 2020

 

Forum Four: Property

There were many questions raised in this forum, the vast majority of which were addressed by Kathleen Henriques-Brown (District Property Development Officer).

Much of the information needed in regards to property is available on the Methodist Church website pages related to COVID-19 and Property. If your situation is unique and you are not able to locate the answer there then please contact Kathleen Henriques-Brown or the Property Team at the Methodist Church in Britain.

If you need support in convincing lettees, tenants or church members about your church needing to abide with the guidance, then please contact the relevant Chair of District.

 

Forum Five: 'Keeping whole and holy'

Within this Zoom session we discussed the importance of entertainment during lockdown, and shared news of how we are each keeping ourselves and others entertained during lockdown.

  • We discussed the importance of intentional play, activity in garden or walking and the need to maintain body care and mental awareness 

  • Keeping connection with colleagues is important, especially when supernumerary and feeling out of the loop

  • Yielding to own creative side e.g. creating music. Some reported singing and dance classes continuing online – and book reading. It is also a good time to maybe learn or brush up on a language. Duolingo has proved a useful app to download which is warmly recommended.

  • For some it has been a real opportunity to get to know the neighbours  

  • Sharing quizzes (Try using these two free apps Kahoot! or Psych! which work through normal zoom technology once downloaded). Where there are technical issues some have distributed printed copies.  

  • It may be significant to mark endings/beginnings under lockdown.

  • Worries were expressed about coming out of lockdown – and how for some this is not going to be a joyous process. Maybe this could be a subject for a later zoom best practice.

  • Praise was given to the Methodist Prayer Handbook.

 

Forum Six: Safeguarding

Becky will be running 'Brunch with Becky' every Thursday morning at 10am starting from 11th June. It will be a drop in session for anyone with a safeguarding role/interest for Q&A and to share issues/concerns about matters arising, processes, guidance etc. and can act as a way of her feeding back to the Connexion the work and concerns that really happen on the ground.

 

Becky has also set up a Microsoft Teams group; this is open to anyone who has a safeguarding interest. She has been posting updates in here around guidance, training, both from inside and outside the Methodist Church. If anyone would like to join please email Becky and she will send you an invite to join.

 

We are able to check DBS documents online, i.e. via Zoom. It is recommended that a list of all those checked in this method is kept and when we are able to return to face to face checking we then re-check the documents. DDC are still working and processing DBS checks so this will help ease any delays in recruitment/DBS checks. Read more here: DDC response to COVID-19.  

 

Zoom worship sessions: 

Becky would like to remind everyone not to publicly share zoom links making it a 'free for all'. There are safeguarding issues around 'zoom bombing'.

Online working:

Connexional guidance surrounding online working can be found here.

The District's guidance to working online can be found on the Safeguarding Policy page. It collates much of the Connexional information, but also offers further detail. 

 

Safer recruitment:

The ​Connexion are in the process of updating the Recruitment guidance, which awaits finalisation and approval. It is anticipated there will be further updates to audits and retention periods for records as well as SO updates.

 

IICSA: 

Hearings took place 11th-21st May. So far the Methodist Church has stayed out of the limelight. There are further dates anticipated 10th-14th August where we may come under heavier scrutiny. Becky thanks every circuit for their hard work last summer in providing all the feedback they supplied. 

 

 

Training:

The District has offered 'Working Safely Online' and 'Foundation Level Facilitator Training' (Train the Trainer) over the past two months. Connexion have stipulated that, at present, the Foundation and Advanced Level Creating Safer Space modules, cannot be offered online. They are researching and tailoring training to try to ensure participant engagement and quality assurance.

A a District we are keen to pilot any ideas, and have requested to be involved in any such pilor programmes. We are also keen to begin Foundation and Advanced Module training again; however, this has not currently been agreed.

Connexion have currently granted a 6 month extension for those who are due for renewal. As a District we have requested that this 6 month time frame is extended further, but we await updates.

 

Question and Answer Session

Some specific questions were raised during the best practice zoom call – here they are in writing with Becky’s replies:

 

  • Q - Some churches (without employed cleaners) still have members who before the lockdown would come together on a Saturday for the church cleaning. Considering our restrictions at present time, when lockdown is eased and we are able to access the church building again, what would be the safeguarding guidelines for members who do the church cleaning

 

  • Q - As churches reopen will face-to-face training continue? If yes, what guidelines will there be for managing this safely in a social-distancing world? If no, what other means of training delivery to applicable church members will be available, keeping in mind that not everyone has access to computers and Zoom.

  • A - We are hoping to be given the green light for online (as above). Face to face training will be able to resume when restrictions are lifted but churches and circuits will have to risk assess and ensure all of the guidelines are being met, i.e. distancing, cleaning, record keeping etc. Anticipate guidance will come from Connexion however it is likely to be broad to accommodate all variances in districts/circuits/churches, hence each church/circuit will have to risk assess for their own context (much like the church re-opening assessment & checklist and other activity RAs).

 

  • Q - The issue of mental health being is increasingly being linked to the safeguarding agenda.  How can the church help strengthen understanding and response to concerns in a practical and meaningful way when individuals and families are in crises?

  • A - We need to open these discussions up, show people it is OK not to be OK and talk about it, and remove the stigma (much like many other presenting issues over recent years). The more we speak and create safe environments for people to open up the more people will be able to access the support they need.

The stats over recent years do not appear to have increased. 1 in 4 people are likely to suffer with mental ill health, however, people's coping methods have changed with increasing numbers turning to self-harm or suicide. 
Urged churches and circuits to engage with their local authorities as many will offer training free for our churches. There is a wealth of topics available to raise awareness. By educating ourselves, we can grow confidence in our volunteers and employees to handle delicate situations. Further guidance can be found on the Methodist Church website

 

  • Q - Many churches have groups and other churches who regularly use their premise.  Some of these groups have more children and young people than the host church (this is very true for London).  Should the Methodist church have more responsibility in safeguarding these children than goes beyond the letting agreement and written policy? 

  • A - As part of any lettings agreement, we need to satisfy ourselves that the group is complying with safeguarding. We need to ensure we are content with the level of their own policy. If we witness safeguarding incidents that gives us cause for concern, we need to feel confident enough in addressing this with the group. Ascertain what action they are taking and again satisfy ourselves with their response. If we were not satisfied then we can raise this further, through their line management or if we are not able to come to a satisfactory outcome, we can still make referrals ourselves (for example). Paperwork and boundaries dictate the responsibility falls to the hiring group, but the church is our building and we have a responsibility to ensure we are content with the safeguarding procedures, policies and actions with these groups in order to allow them to/continue to hire our buildings.

Please also refer to Schedule 14a from the TMCP website

 

  • Q around healing – can we offer healing over zoom/online?

  • A - Advice is not to as it would be very difficult to support/emotionally ‘hold’ someone during this in a virtual format.

 

Becky says: “If anyone has any other questions, please do forward them to me as I am trying to collate FAQs to pop on the District website.”

 

Forum Seven: 'What might ministry and mission look like in the community post-lockdown

To consider the set question, another question ought to be considered before we can take things any further.  That is: Will there be a difference between Mission and Ministry?  If we are trying to get to grips with how things might look in the coming weeks and months, we need look back and remind ourselves where we were prior to lockdown.

In a nutshell, Ministry was usually understood to be about the demands of internalized church.  Whereas Mission was more about how to externalize church.  The lines were blurred, allowing for all sorts of expressions of church to make claims of being the way ahead.  Such expressions, had either a familiar recruiting flavour - as attractional models; or had the less palatable taste of prioritizing being incarnational within community.

If anything, the lockdown has brought the two together, in an alliance that says: Guess what?  Congregations can no longer simply look at communities as recruiting grounds.  Nor can the more fluid form of discipleship look at community as a place for well-meaning Christian excursions.   

The reason is that the future holds up its sign:  Beware, new and unknown horizons.

In any understanding and however we might suggest post lockdown Mission and Ministry will look like; they will probably need to become completely intertwined to be effective.  The main reason is that we have lost a high level of internalization and we have lost opportunity to externalize that which we radicals think are the answers to the church’s problems.  I sense that the future mix of ministry, mission, and community, places us in a newly shaped dynamic.  One that calls us to be active in God’s Mission to a new post lockdown community in which we are all included.  Or, as I was reminded of yesterday, mission and ministry might now have to sail together toward ‘remnant islands’, including our own, and responding to need.  Not portraying ourselves as the answer but offering ourselves as God’s love in action; in that, we must learn how things evolve because of that experience. Meaning that mission and ministry, in post lockdown, might require the church be more of guests in context, instead of being the host.  To qualify that the integrity of the Body of Christ, is the priority of the other and their need.

A final comment:

As we move out of lockdown towards being a physically gathered church again, a Trinity of questions might be the lens we need in order to adapt our vision as we respond to the to the changes that have been thrust in our direction.  We have a great opportunity over the coming weeks to intentionally ask: What questions has this time of lockdown raised for us going forward? What is God saying to us?  How best are we able to respond?

Blessings to one and all,

David.

 

Forum Nine: Infection Control and the appropriate use of PPE

This Sharing Best Practice session took place on Wednesday 24 June, and was led by Sandy Youngson. 

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