Hope and joy: Bookham and Leatherhead churches work together to make a difference

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present rFor over 10 years, Churches Together in Bookham has worked with the local traders to organise a Late Night Shopping evening, including stalls in the Baptist Church and a display of Christmas trees, decorated by many local organisations, in St Nicolas’ Parish Church. With this format coming to an end, and the onslaught of Covid-19 preventing other events from happening, new ways of sharing the love of Jesus at Christmas had to be found for this year. Having seen it done successfully in other places, the idea of ‘Christmas in a box’ seemed like a good alternative.

Online youth groups, held every week during lockdown, have also been running, including everything from quizzes on women in history to scavenger hunts, offering great opportunities for young people to stay in touch and have a laugh together. One-to-one phone calls, at a set time every week, also enabled youth workers to keep in contact with young people, looking after their pastoral needs.

With the boxes, there are two types of pack, one for families with activities for children and some sweet treats, and another for older people, with quizzes, mini Christmas puddings and brownies. Some of the food items have been sourced locally to support local traders and charities. All the boxes have word games, hot chocolate sachets, coffee sachets, and booklets giving the Good News of Christmas, with details of possible Christmas services in the local churches (Covid-19 guidelines permitting).

Nearly 500 have been distributed through physically distanced delivery, to many different groups. Because of the uncertainty of Christmas services in our churches, this was a way of taking Christmas to people in their homes.

The desire to share joy in these difficult times extends, very much, to Leatherhead Youth Project too, as video calls became prominent, with groups unable to meet physically. 

With the youth groups and calls, one young person said: “They’ve made me happy. And they keep me happy for the rest of the week. I feel I have someone I can talk to if I need to and I don’t have to worry. It helped talking about being anxious.”

One young person, who doesn’t normally participate in many activities, suggested playing Minecraft, an online video game where players can work together (or against each other) to build structures using blocks. The group ended up building their own village in a private online space. In order to ensure fair play, ground rules had to be agreed early on, including the need to share resources and protecting the leaders, who had less experience playing the game and therefore far more likely to be eaten by crocodiles or spiders! As well as being enjoyable for everyone, this was especially helpful for the young man who initially suggested it. It also gave him a space to interact with older boys and our youth leaders, helping to build social skills and keep interactions going.

Youth Worker Jenny Coffin said: “We are so grateful to have been able to keep our youth provision running throughout 2020 and although we’ve met with smaller numbers it has been great to see a positive impact we could have in such a crazy year.”

What have you been doing to keep the joy and hope of Christmas alive this year? Let us know. Email wtw@urc.org.uk

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