For the first time this weekend, churches across the Diocese of Winchester did not hold their traditional Mothering Sunday services.
All churches are following guidance to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, which means church meetings and services cannot go ahead in the normal way. Instead, churches are coming up with new ways to reach their congregations, with many streaming services directly into people’s homes via a live link so that people can continue to worship and feel connected despite having to stay at home.
In Odiham, All Saints Church held its Mothering Sunday service via Facebook’s live streaming platform instead, ensuring people could continue to worship from the safety of their homes. The church was able to deliver an online service which included hymns, songs, Bible readings, short reflections and times of prayer.
St Mary’s in Basingstoke, Christ Church, Chineham and the Winklebury and Worting parish are similarly using live streaming platforms to deliver their services and daily prayers. St Mary’s have also produced a children’s teaching package following the closure of schools. Winklebury and Worting are additionally setting up a community outreach programme, all of which is aimed to maintain cohesion and communication as a church. Additionally, Christ Church has been using songs, Bible teachings and fun to encourage and give families something to do together by live streaming their ‘Worship for Everyone’ sessions.
Following the morning services, the Church of England called on everyone to take part in a National Day of Prayer. At 7pm on Sunday evening Christians across the Diocese and the country lit a candle, as a sign of solidarity and hope, and joined together in prayer and reflection for those effected by COVID-19.
Rector of North Hampshire Downs Churches, Simon Butler said: “In changing times we come into the presence of our unchanging God, and this Mothering Sunday we gave thanks for all who take care of us. Helping our neighbours is an integral part of loving and following God faithfully. With more people being forced to stay at home, it is crucial that we continue to find new ways to reduce isolation and help people feel part of their community. We are delighted to be able to offer that through live streaming and we will continue to think of ways to not only keep people worshipping but keep them safe.”
Bishop David Williams of Basingstoke said:
“This is a unique challenge for us to tackle, and it is encouraging us to discover new ways of communicating the hope that lies at the heart of our faith. I am amazed at the stories of resilience I have heard, and at how faith in Jesus Christ is being expressed in new ways and through caring for our neighbours.”
In addition to finding new methods of worship, churches have also been coordinating with local community groups to check on those around them and offer assistance to those who may be more vulnerable or are self-isolating. Christians across the diocese are volunteering with community groups that provide both practical help and emotional support, with many offering food deliveries and transport.