The Bramhall community may have been ravaged by Covid-19 but for many of our local groups and organisations, the last year has also presented opportunities for growth and connection in new ways – St Michael’s Parish Church being a prime example.
Reverend Calum Piper talk to I Love Bramhall about the ups and downs of 2020 and how the church community has adapted to the new normal.
It’s hard to believe that around this time last year, St Michael’s was gearing up for its Wonderland community festival – a major multi-sensory event that transformed the church into scenes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. After 18 months of planning, the amazing event ran for a week and welcomed 2,700 people from across the local community.
St Michael’s is no stranger to engaging community events, hosting I Love Bramhall’s annual Big Free Tea Party every year, and who could forget when the church was transformed into Narnia back in 2018? The Wonderland event was a great success, and as Reverend Calum and the hardworking team of volunteers had just begun to take stock of the experience, Covid-19 hit – and the church suddenly fell silent.
For the first time in its history, St Michael’s closed. For the safety of the congregation, services moved online, and Calum says there was a real sense of detachment within the very close-knit community.
“Throughout each lockdown we have attempted to offer daily reflections online which have been reaching people around the world, and tried to be as creative as possible with our Sunday services, whilst also developing a new online resource called ‘In Conversation’ where we approach different subjects with an open and honest opinion.”
Resilient and resourceful, however, Calum and the team took the opportunity to make the best of a strange situation by undertaking some much-needed refurbishment – the parish centre was painted and the church floor was completely renovated. While the refurbishment was taking place, the Pastoral Care Network was established to help everyone stay connected through fortnightly phone calls and later, in August, the church reopened for socially distanced worship with TV screens providing words and directions.
During the summer and autumn months, the church got a number of projects off the ground, too. Work in the gardens established new flower beds and laid the foundations for a permanent trail around the grounds based on Psalm 23, while a new memorial stone was erected and dedicated in the Garden of Remembrance for babies lost through miscarriage and stillbirth.
As Christmas drew near, the church erected a large art installation depicting the word ‘Joy’, with the crib scene featuring inside the letter O, and began developing the Micah Project – an initiative to create new paid posts at the church working within the local community with children, young people, families and the isolated to bridge gaps and strengthen the sense of community.
St Michael’s also established a strong link with the parish of Stockport and Brinnington, donating 55 Christmas hampers to the school in December, and while all carol services were cancelled, there was a real sense of joy, Calum says, as the congregation gathered for the few Christmas services that were permitted.
“Much of the fundraising that normally takes place for our link church in the Diocese of Newala in Tanzania hasn’t happened, but we have been able to support the rebuilding of a local medical dispensary in the diocese.”
In the run up to Christmas, the church raised £3,596 for The Children’s Society – a portion of which was generated by Calum’s efforts to run 10km every day throughout Advent, and a new event – the Field of Light – was held on the shortest day of the year, giving parishioners the opportunity to light candles in remembrance of loved ones in a simple act that had a big impact.
Despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus, the church community has continued to rally together, ever “an inclusive community that operates like a family”, Calum says.
“Covid-19 has been a challenge, but we have grown because of it,” he comments. “We’ve found new ways to worship, new ways to talk about and understand our faith, and new ways to support our local community. Life has changed; we are looking forwards to it changing again, but we have learnt a lot from the last few months.”
We may not know what the future holds but one thing’s for sure: St Michael’s will emerge from lockdown stronger than ever, and I Love Bramhall can’t wait to return for the next instalment of the Big Free Tea Party – we promise it’ll be the biggest and best celebration yet!
In the meantime, you’ll find all the information you need to get in touch with Calum and the team below:
Address: St Michael’s Ave, Bramhall, SK7 2PG
Phone: 0161 439 3989
Email: [email protected]