St. Matthew’s Church in Walsall has always had a wider reach than just its local parish, but its response to the government’s lockdown measures has seen it reach more people than ever before and given it a truly international audience.
Before the pandemic truly took hold in this country, the Church had a crisis meeting knowing lockdown was almost a certainty in the coming weeks and months. This enabled the Church to plan a co-ordinated response to help those most in need, and not just those from their own congregation or faith.
Reverend Trood (pictured), Rector at St. Matthew’s, explained: “We knew who out of our 300 or so Church members that would need help, but thanks to our links with local organisations such as Walsall for All and One Walsall we’ve been able to reach out and help the wider community across the borough.
Anne Tolley, Pastoral Care Co-ordinator at St. Matthew’s, who was nominated multiple times for an award in the recent Walsall for All Star Volunteers’ Awards, took overall responsibility for planning and operations. Reverend Trood said: “Anne and her team have been nothing short of magnificent. We have around 40 volunteers doing home visits or phoning the vulnerable. Our planning enabled us to have a co-ordinated and early response including making sure of DBS clearances for volunteers to collect prescriptions.”
Meanwhile, with services suspended during lockdown, the relatively young team at St. Matthew’s looked to technology to continue to engage with their parishioners moving their services to a live YouTube stream. Reverend Trood says it’s been enormously successful: “We are regularly seeing up to 400 people attend our online streamed services many from as far away as Canada and Asia. In fact we now deliver a group service to our Asian members in Urdu through Skype.”
Reverend Trood says that the pandemic has brought people of all faiths and backgrounds closer together: “I think just going out and clapping for the NHS has enabled people to meet their neighbours and broken down barriers, even just superficial ones. There’s been a collective appreciation of the work that those in the NHS and wider care sector do irrespective of faith, race or belief.”
“If we are to learn anything from this pandemic it is that we should re-evaluate the importance of jobs in our society, things can be done differently and that, actually, faith groups do community naturally and have a message of hope that people are responding to.”
If you would like more information on how to access St. Matthew’s online services or are need of help and think they could help then visit www.stmatthewswalsall.co.uk or call 01922 626039.