How we’re ‘doing church’ now…

Now the government have lifted COVID restrictions, we’re into a new phase of doing life – and church – while the COVID virus is still around. So how are we doing things in Hodge Hill?

Loving God, and loving our neighbours as ourselves

While COVID infection rates remain high, we will continue to love our neighbours (as we ourselves) by placing the highest priority on SAFETY and INCLUSIVITY in all that we do as church (see our ‘guiding principles’ here). As a committed Inclusive Church, we want no one to feel excluded from full participation in our church community here in Hodge Hill, and we reject and seek to dismantle all exclusions and divisions rooted in gender, sexuality, race, class, disability, physical & mental health, and age. We affirm the recent statement written by Naomi Lawson-Jacobs, Emma Major & Katie Tupling, reminding all of us of the vital place of disabled and clinically vulnerable people within the life of the church.

That means that we continue to offer weekly worship packs – either delivered to your doorstep, or shared electronically via email (or our church WhatsApp group). We will also continue to record the readings and reflections for each week, which are available (from every Saturday evening) on our dial-up reflection phone line: 0121 227 5533.

We are also continuing a monthly, outdoors ‘Muddy Church’ gathering, in one of our local green spaces. This is as much ‘church’ as anything else that we do – an opportunity (for all ages) to connect with God, with each other, and with the natural world around us. It includes opportunities to wander and explore, to reflect on your own and with others, to pray, and to share communion together. Each Muddy Church gathering is advertised via our Facebook page.

There are now also weekly ‘Inside Church’ gatherings, at the Hodge Hill Church building (242 Coleshill Road B36 8BG), at 9am and 10.30am on Sunday mornings. To ensure the safety of all who attend, we are continuing to limit numbers (which means you need to book your place), space out the chairs, keep doors open to ventilate the space, and ask you to please wear a face mask (unless you have a physical or psychological condition that means that’s difficult for you). You can book your place at an ‘Inside Church’ service by texting Al on 07738119210 by Thursday evening each week.

At our ‘Inside Church’ services, we serve you the bread and (non-alcoholic) wine of communion in your seats, using individual wafers and cups (in line with normal URC practice). We continue to ensure high levels of hygiene, including sanitising our hands on the way into church – and by those serving communion. Our ministers (those leading the service) are also committed to a weekly pattern of lateral flow tests, within 24 hours of Sunday services – and we encourage other attendees to do likewise, if you’re able. In our church community we love singing together: but for the moment we will do that only for the final part of the service, where we will be outside in the church garden, in the fresh air, safely distanced from one another.

All other activities that take place in the Hodge Hill Church building will continue with similar measures in place: with limited numbers (in line with our building risk assessments), wearing face masks, physical distancing, and sanitising hands.

Re-connecting with each other, with God and with ourselves

The last year has been overwhelming for all of us, we’ve lost beloved members of our church community (among many others in the wider world), and even now, there are many aspects of life that continue to cause stress and anxiety for many of us. Over the next few months, we want to take every possible opportunity…

  • to spend time together relaxing, re-connecting, and having fun together
  • to spend time catching up with each other and sharing our experiences and reflections on the past year, and our hopes and plans for the coming months – paying attention to our own physical and emotional well-being and that of others
  • to offer quiet spaces to reflect and pray – to connect with God, reflecting together on our past, present and future
  • to host some gatherings to bring our griefs and losses to God, remembering loved ones who we have lost in the past year (or longer ago)

All these will be advertised via our church Facebook page – and our weekly news sheet.

If you’d like to receive the news sheet (via email) – or if you have any questions or comments about what we’re doing here at the moment – text or email Al on 07738119210 / hodgehillvicar@hotmail.co.uk.

‘Doing church’ in the post-lockdown ‘transition’ phase

In this time of great change, uncertainty, and ongoing caution about the possible spread of the COVID-19 virus, Hodge Hill Church is alive and kicking, growing loving community, in the love of God, with all our neighbours, across Hodge Hill. Here we outline our current position on how we are ‘doing church’ – in its many different forms – in line with the latest government guidance and our own guiding principles for our life together.

Guiding principles

  • ‘Going forward, not back’: we will learn from, and build on, our experience of ‘being church’ during this time – whatever is ahead will be different to ‘pre-COVID’ life
  • Inclusivity: however we ‘do church’ in this next phase, we want no one to be excluded – whether through health vulnerabilities, lack of internet access, or any other reason – from a ‘core’ part of church life that others are able to enjoy; this includes doing everything we can to ensure that we all stay connected together as one church community
  • Safety: we will prioritise everyone’s health and safety, including minimising the risk of infection, in everything we do
  • Integrity: we will continue to ‘do church’ in ways that are authentic to our ‘DNA’ – the values and ‘ways of being’ that we have learnt and developed here
  • Diversity: there will be no ‘one size fits all’ way of ‘being church’ that will work for everybody – we will need to continue offering diverse opportunities to be part of the life of our church community
  • Capacity: we will need to be realistic about what, between us, we are able to offer, and what we don’t (at least at the moment) have the capacity to do
  • Gift-led: ‘doing church’ is not something that some of us do for others to consume –we will strive to encourage and draw on the gifts of all church members to ‘make church happen’ together
  • Communication: we will continue to communicate, as clearly, frequently and widely as possible, the latest information on what we are doing and why

Ongoing opportunities to engage and stay connected

  • Weekly ‘worship at home’ packs (and ‘Trees of Life’ resources) for worship and prayer, reflection and discussion – delivered to your door, or shared electronically via email and/or social media
  • Dial-in reflection line – to listen to congregation members reading the bible readings and a reflection for the week
  • Pastoral phone network – weekly calls/texts from one of our pastoral care team, to see how you’re doing, and to offer a space to reflect and talk together
  • WhatsApp prayer requests group – including resources for Morning and Evening Prayer each day
  • Daily Prayer on Zoom – (9am for 9.15am start)
  • Sunday morning ‘coffee and chat’ on Zoom (11am – 12 noon)
  • Sunday afternoon Zoom gathering (1.30-2.30pm) for reflection/discussion on the week’s readings and reflections
  • Junior Church gatherings on Zoom – fortnightly (usually on a Sunday afternoon)

New opportunities to connect with others

  • Old Rectory – ‘retreat days’ (for individuals or households), using the prayer room and/or the garden and prayer hut
  • ‘Garden gatherings’ – safely distanced gatherings of up to 6 people in someone’s garden, to connect, reflect, talk and (possibly!) eat together
  • ‘Walk and talk’ and picnics – safely distanced walks and picnics, for up to 6 people, to connect, reflect, talk and (possibly!) eat together
  • Neighbourhood pilgrimages / trails – occasional opportunities to walk, alone or with others, engaging with temporary ‘installations’ in locations around our area
  • Other gatherings on Zoom (times TBC) for connection, reflection & discussion

Opening the church building

  • The Mission & Ministry Oversight Group is currently working on a step-by-step process towards at least partial re-opening of the church building, for some limited use, shaped by the ‘guiding principles’ we have outlined above. This includes conducting a thorough risk assessment process, which needs to be fed back to the United Reformed Church synod office, as the body with legal oversight of building-related matters.
  • If anyone has any particular ideas, suggestions or questions, in connection with how the church building might be re-opened, for what purpose, and on what timescale, please get in touch with any of the church’s ministers, church wardens or church secretaries.

The Mission & Ministry Oversight Group (MMOG) will review this position every month, and communicate any changes. We are always keen to hear any feedback, questions or suggestions you might have, to help us all to make the best decisions we can, and to help us all, as the community of Hodge Hill Church, to live our life together as fully and faithfully as possible.

 

Revd Al Barrett, on behalf of Hodge Hill Mission & Ministry Oversight Group (MMOG)
v2, 6th July 2020

 

Welcome to Hodge Hill Church!

Welcome to the website for Hodge Hill Church – a partnership between St Philip & St James (Church of England) and Hodge Hill United Reformed Church. We are committed to being an Inclusive Church and try to live out that commitment to God’s inclusivity in all that we do.

We meet at the ‘Blue Cross Church’ (242 Coleshill Road B36 8BG) every Sunday for worship (10.30am), but are also present and active in all kinds of ways in our wider neighbourhood.

Use the navigation menu (on the left) to find out more – or contact us

Commissioning a new set of ‘Stations of the Cross’ for Hodge Hill Church

We are looking for interested artists from Black / Global Majority Heritage backgrounds

Who we are

Hodge Hill Church is a small, ecumenical church community (United Reformed Church, Church of England, Methodist and others), on the eastern edge of the city of Birmingham. Our local area is multiethnic, including neighbours from African, south-east Asian and European backgrounds, and people of Christian and Muslim faith traditions. Much of Hodge Hill experiences high levels of economic injustice and marginalisation. Within the church community, we have members from white, African-Caribbean and African backgrounds.

Our church vision statement is ‘Growing Loving Community – in the love of God, with all our neighbours, across Hodge Hill’, and we have been on a journey with our neighbours of building community together for more than a decade. In more recent years, we have committed ourselves as a church community to the priorities of pursuing racial justice, deepening ecological responsibility, and supporting and nurturing each other in faith and daily life.

Why ‘Stations of the Cross’?

We have a long tradition here of engaging with the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, as well as having them on display for the season of Lent, and more recently all year round. For at least 20 years, these have been a set of prints by the artist Sieger Kōder, who created them after the Second World War and the Nazi Holocaust.

Since 2019, we have marked October each year as Black History Month, with a particular focus on racial justice, and seeking particularly to create space for the voices and experiences of our Black members to be heard. In 2020, responding to the murder of George Floyd in the USA, members of our congregation joined in Black Lives Matter protests in Birmingham. We are currently working through the book Ghost Ship: Institutional Racism and the Church of England (by ADA France-Williams), discussing a chapter a month in a group which includes about half of our regular Sunday congregation. This has helped sharpen our awareness of the words and images used within our worship, and of the importance of remembering our shared histories of colonialism and slavery – and their legacies of racism in the present.

Reflecting on our experience of Good Friday 2022, many of us felt both the images and the words associated with our current set of Stations jarred uncomfortably with our commitments as a church. We are therefore looking to commission a new set of Stations – both images and words – that will:

  • be more visually representative of the diversity of our congregation and our wider neighbourhoods;
  • reflect something of the experiences of racism – both personal to congregation members and more widely in the world – and the pain and grief they cause to human beings, to creation as a whole, and to God;
  • invite opportunities for engagement, reflection and conversation – on issues of racial justice, on the story of Jesus’ passion, and on the Christian faith more broadly;
  • enable local Christians to grow in their discipleship, making connections between their lived experience, their faith, and issues of justice in the wider world;
  • offer opportunities for those conversations to go wider than Hodge Hill – engaging visitors to our church (Christian and non-Christian), and with the potential to offer to other places as a temporary installation.

What we want

We want to commission an artist from a Black or Global Majority Heritage background, who will work with us as a church community, to produce:

  • a set of at least 10 visual images (in any medium that feels most appropriate) – to be installed (in a moveable form) in the church worship space
  • following either the traditional series of ‘Stations of the Cross’, or a ‘faithfully improvised’ version
  • some explanation or narrative to accompany the images – in text and/or audio recording
  • some documentation of the process of creating the images – in photos and text/audio

The process

  • Applications [before 30/9/22]: we are now inviting artists to apply for this commission, outlining why they want to do it, how they will go about it, and offering some samples of previous work
  • Interview(s) [October 2022]: we would like to engage with shortlisted artists, either face-to-face or via an online call, to discern who will be the ‘best fit’ to work with us here
  • Workshop(s) / away-day [Nov 2022 / Jan 2023]: the commissioned artist will lead one or more workshops with members of the congregation, creatively drawing out some of our stories, experiences and reflections of racial injustice and the passion of Jesus, to help inspire the creation of the artwork, and to begin to create the accompanying texts
  • Creating the artwork: we acknowledge this will take a period of time – to be negotiated between us [ideally by Good Friday 2023 or, at the very latest, Good Friday 2024]
  • Launch event [TBC]: we will work with the artist on a public launch event to celebrate the creation of the artwork, to tell something of the story of its creation, and to share some of the reflections of congregation members on the process

The budget

We are budgeting £10,000 in total for this project. £5,000 is from the legacy of Mollie Staniforth, a long-standing member of our congregation who died in 2021. £5,000 we are applying for from the United Reformed Church Discipleship Development Fund (which should be confirmed by 31st October). Within this total figure, we expect to allocate funds as following:

  • £8,000 to the artist: for time and materials, and any expenses associated with leading the workshops, producing and installing the finished artwork and associated documentation (including travel and packaging / transporting the artwork).
  • £2,000 for Hodge Hill Church: to cover any costs associated with the launch event and wider sharing of the artwork, including producing publicity, explanatory literature, links to audio descriptions, commemorative plaque, etc.

Hodge Hill Church would be keen to retain the ability to use reproductions of the artwork in our publications (both in print and online) without any further cost.

For more information, or to discuss the commission, please contact:

Revd Dr Al Barrett
hodgehillvicar@hotmail.co.uk
07738119210

Reconnecting & rebuilding: ‘doing church’ after the COVID crisis

COVID-19 is still with us, but we seem to be over the severest impact and risks of the global pandemic. As a church community, for a little while now we’ve felt we’ve been in a new period of reconnecting and rebuilding. As we’ve always said, it’s not been ‘back to normal’, but rediscovering what it means to live faithfully as followers of Jesus in this changed and changing world.

The words we’re using a lot at the moment are ‘slowly’, ‘gently’, ‘small’ and ‘fragile’. We’ve restarted some things, and reinvented others, but we’re very aware that we’re a smaller and more tired and fragile community than we were before COVID. So we’re trying not to do too much, or too quickly. We’re trying to go ‘at the speed of trust’ (at the walking pace of God, we might say). And we’re rejoicing in the small more than letting our imaginations and ambitions go ‘big’.

As a church, our priority commitments for 2022-23 are:

Priority #1:  Church community

i. Further develop opportunities to support & nurture each other in faith & daily life

ii. Pursuing racial justice

Priority #2:  Missional engagement

i. Nurturing missional expressions of church

ii. Exploring new ways to engage with local children & families

Priority #3:  Church site and environmental responsibility

i. Developing a ‘church site development group’

ii. Deepening ecological responsibility

We’re now gathering for worship regularly at these times and places:

  • Sunday, 9am @ The Old Rectory (a small, quiet communion service using Common Worship)
  • Sunday, 10.30am @ main church site (a slightly bigger gathering, using our own home-grown seasonal liturgy, songs and hymns, and a little bit of interaction and moving around)
  • Wednesday, 12.00 @ The Old Rectory (a bit like Sunday 9am)

After the 10.30am service most weeks there are hot drinks and cakes/biscuits, and an invitation to gather together again in a small-ish group to share our reflections on the themes of the service. Once a month this group discusses a chapter of the book Ghost Ship: Institutional Racism and the Church of England (by A.D.A. France-Williams), as part of our ongoing commitment to pursuing racial justice both locally and wider.

We also have a monthly informal gathering in people’s homes on the Firs & Bromford estate that we call ‘FAB Church’. Get in touch with us to find out more about this!

We’ve recently launched a seasonal small-group gathering that we’re calling ‘Fruitful Conversations’. This is an opportunity to step back from our daily lives and take stock of where we feel we’re at, what we would like to try or develop further in our lives, and what things we might be needing to stop doing or let go of. We also offer these conversations on a 1-to-1 basis for those who prefer. Again, do get in touch with us if you’d like to get involved in these conversations.

Remembering Departed Loved Ones @ Hodge Hill Church

Over the past couple of years, all of us will have seen loss and bereavement at close hand – whether we’ve lost loved ones to COVID, or been unable to be with loved ones in the last days of their life, or have supported friends and other family members through times of loss and grief.

At Hodge Hill Church on Sunday 31st October, at 5pm, we will be offering a gentle, reflective service to honour those losses and loved ones, to say their names out loud, to light candles, and to sing and pray as we remember that God holds us in our grief.

Everyone is welcome.

Please note: as part of our ongoing COVID safety measures, we continue to wear masks for services in the church building.

Launching ‘Trees of Life’

Growing tree

We’re really excited to launch our new ‘Trees of Life’ programme for exploring and deepening our discipleship, ‘together, apart’. Trees of Life resources will be coming out weekly, offering readings and reflections to use in ‘worship at home’ on Sundays and over the following days. There are also lots of opportunities to reflect with others, over the phone, on walks together, or in small groups in people’s gardens.

‘Trees of Life’ has taken months of germination, and is being co-created by folk from across the Hodge Hill Church community. You can find an introduction to the programme, and the weekly resources, on our dedicated ‘Trees of Life’ website: www.TreesOfLifeHodgeHill.blogspot.com

RESOURCES FOR HOLY WEEK & EASTER

In these strange and challenging times, when we are unable to gather together, celebrating Easter ‘together, apart’ is going to be hard – impossible, even, to celebrate fully.

In the days ahead, we might find that some days feel like ‘Good Friday’ – days where suffering and death fill our minds and hearts. Some days might feel like ‘Holy Saturday’ – an empty space where we’re able to do hardly anything, where the numbness of grief and shock are overwhelming. But there will certainly be some ‘Easter Sunday’ days, where we catch at least glimpses of life, hope, joy and resurrection.

Although we’ve prepared these resources especially for the weekend from Good Friday to Easter Day (10th – 12th April), they are designed for you to be able to use them whenever you want to or need to, in the coming weeks. You might want to think of ‘Good Friday’, ‘Holy Saturday’ and ‘Easter Sunday’ as different ‘moods’ – pick what feels most appropriate for the mood you’re living through right now.

GOOD FRIDAY

HOLY SATURDAY

EASTER SUNDAY

OUR CHURCH BUILDING IS CLOSED

At the moment, staying at home is the best way to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We are therefore not now opening the church, either for public worship or for private prayer.
But that doesn’t mean church stops! We continue to offer other ways for us all to pray and worship ‘together’…
1. Daily Prayer: Mon-Fri, 9.15am & 5pm
Some of us are saying a short, simple form of daily prayer twice a day, Monday to Friday. We’ll share the words we’re using (on here, and via the WhatsApp group – see below), so you can join with us where you are.
2. Sunday ‘worship packs’ – online & home delivery
We are sharing a weekly ‘worship pack’ for people to use at home. They include a simple liturgy (based on our Sunday communion service), some readings and reflections, and (for those who want it) some activities for children.
We can deliver these to your door if you tell us you’d like one. We’ll also be posting the liturgy, readings and reflections in our church Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/HodgeHillChurch – or directly to your Inbox if you request it.
3. Prayer requests
If you’d like some of us to say prayers for you, or your friends, family or neighbours, at Morning and Evening Prayer each day, and on Sundays, do get in touch with us. Either send a Facebook message or a text to me (Al – 07738 119210) or Jenni (07377 363915), or join the WhatsApp Prayer Requests group using this link:

 

God of healing and hope,
in Jesus you meet us in our places of pain and fear.
Look with mercy on those who have contracted the virus,
on any who are vulnerable, and on all who feel in danger.
Through this time of global concern,
by your Holy Spirit bring out the best not the worst in us.
Make us more aware
of our interdependence on each other,
and on the strength that comes from being one body in you.
Through Christ our wounded healer. Amen.

(Sam Wells)

NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR PRAYER & WORSHIP

With public gatherings suspended for the time being, we’ll need to find creative new ways to pray and worship ‘together’. This is what we’ll be offering as Hodge Hill Church:
1. Daily Prayer: Mon-Fri, 9.15am & 5pm
Some of us will be saying a short, simple form of daily prayer twice a day, Monday to Friday. We’ll share the words we’re using, so you can join with us where you are.
2. ‘Open Church’, Sunday 10am-12
The church building will be open this Sunday from 10am-12 noon, for individuals to pop in for a little moment of quiet prayer and reflection. There will be opportunities to sit and listen to music, to light a candle, and to take away a bunch of Mother’s Day flowers.
3. ‘Worship packs’ – home delivery
We are putting together some ‘worship packs’ for people to use at home. They will include a simple liturgy (based on our Sunday communion service), some readings and reflections, a candle, and (for those who want it) some activities for children. We can deliver these to your door if you tell us you’d like one. We’ll also be posting the liturgy, readings and reflections on this Facebook page – or directly to your Inbox if you request it.
4. Prayer requests
If you’d like some of us to say prayers for you, or your friends, family or neighbours, at Morning and Evening Prayer each day, do get in touch with us. Either send a text to me (Al – 07738 119210) or Jenni (07377 363915), or join the WhatsApp group using this link: