Belle Vue Baptist Church is a church on the outskirts of Southend town centre in an area called Southchurch. There are about 80 members and a church community of about 140, a fact which minister Andy Goodliff says he only discovered through getting all the names of everyone to go on chairs during the first Sunday of lockdown (see image).
Before COVID-19 the church ran a toddler group, a large Boys’ Brigade company, monthly afternoon tea, art group, weekly bible studies as well as being a key member of Southend Foodbank, which is based at the church premises.
Monthly Messy Church helps to reach a wider community of families.
During lockdown the church has said that worship doesn’t stop, mission isn’t on a break, pastoral care is not on holiday and following Jesus is not set on pause. With imagination the church is looking for and finding opportunities, and is committed to prayer. Andy has been recording a weekly message on video to share and led an Easter dawn service using Facebook live, as well as exploring Zoom. Groups remain in contact and as a church many in the congregation are reading a book called Shattered: God’s View Through Life’s Broken Windows (CWR, 2019), written by Tim and Rachel Wright, two people in the church.
It has been timely in helping the church to reflect on what it’s like in this time, especially those ‘windows’ headed ‘defining moments’, ‘detour’, ‘comparison’, ‘why’, ‘isolation’ and ‘learning to lament.’ Andy says: ‘It’s been encouraging to see the church look out for one another and where possible look out for others. We’ve been praying, especially for our folk working in the NHS.’
• That we grow closer as a congregation, and discover the strength of mutual support.
• That we look back at this time as being a strange gift to us from God