|‘We just can’t go back to who we were, after [Coronavirus],’ said Ian Savory, leader of Lighthouse Church in Sheringham, North Norfolk, when he was interviewed on the Talking HOPE chat show. ‘We’ve got to look at the challenges that are coming.’
Lighthouse Church, who have a significant history of outreach to their local community, are being proactive in their approach to church life after lockdown. Ian described a sense that socioeconomic deprivation could increase as a result of the pandemic, so the church leaders have scheduled a meeting with the local authority to prepare for ways in which the church could offer support in the coming months.
‘Sometimes…you have to be there…and it’s when things go wrong, it’s how you serve, that opens the door,’ said Ian. He described a time a few years ago where the local police force received some undeserved bad press. In response, he said to the church, ‘Now is the time to bake your socks off!’ and they delivered fresh cakes to the police station every day for two weeks as a way of supporting the staff.
Ian talked about the importance of doing things ‘with’ a local community when you’re seeking to share Jesus with them, rather than simple doing things ‘for’ them. The past few months have given various Lighthouse Church members great opportunities to connect with people locally. For example, the youth worker has been taking walks on the beach every day and connecting with people there. One church member skipped the Easter service in favour of singing Easter hymns with a man on her street who had recently been advised by a speech therapist to sing outside every day; she joined him to offer support and solidarity. Overall, lockdown was a time when church members ‘served their socks off [and] raised the profile of the gospel’.
As part of their preparations for potential future challenges, the church will now ‘shut down’ one Sunday a month, to encourage members to continue to reach out into their communities. Six Sundays a year will focus on larger events, like a sponsored walk along the seafront to raise money for Beirut, and six will be focused on hospitality. ‘I think it’s very easy for the church to be hospitable with our buildings, but never invite our neighbours into our homes,’ said Ian.
Lighthouse Church’s focus on the community has in the past seen them planting bulbs around local schools, organizing a Christmas pantomime and delivering bacon butties to workers in the emergency services. They are embracing this current season as a further opportunity to share the love and hope of Jesus. After all, as Ian says - ‘when [things are] hard, you always remember those that stand with you’.