New Doorstep Church brings Devon neighbours together
Doorstep Church grew from an Easter Sunday lockdown sing song on a suburban North Devon street.
The Reverend Andy Dodwell, the vicar of St John the Baptist church in Newport, Barnstaple, explains:
“We went out of our house on Easter Sunday and eventually about 15 of us joined together to sing random requests of hymns.
“We stood around chatting in the sunshine, kids rode bikes and people made comments like ‘We think more people would come to church if it was like this’, then someone suggested we do it again next week.”
Last Sunday marked the 10th week Andy and his family have been gathering with some of their neighbours for socially-distanced church on their doorsteps.
He and his wife Carolyn were originally inspired by the idea of ‘Sing Resurrection’ which was an initiative from Churches Together in England calling for people to celebrate Easter by going outside and singing Jesus Christ is Risen Today and Thine be the Glory.
“We spoke to the neighbours on the Thursday, during the NHS clap, and said ‘we’re going to sing a couple of hymns, apologies if it sounds awful!’
“We invited them to join us but we didn’t think they would, and then it was one of them who lent over the fence and said ‘we’re out front!’
“Anyone could have done it, anyone could do it”
Since then, some weeks they have had over 20 people joining them on the street, and have found that in addition to their neighbours, they have had worshippers from other churches come to join them who have missed the experience of singing together since churches have been unable to hold services.
Andy said: “We didn’t plan it, this sprung up by accident after asking God ‘what are we meant to do during lockdown?’ and coming across the idea of ‘Sing Resurrection’.
Since then we’ve just been responding to the opportunities that have come up to minister to our neighbours, anyone could have done it, and anyone could do it.
“Not everyone is going to be interested but there’s 30 houses on our street and 9 or 10 of them have come along.”
“This is our church”
As well as singing together, Andy and his family share bible stories and ask their neighbours if there is anything they would like them to pray for.
Carolyn said: “While we can’t do church in the normal way, getting out on our doorsteps, singing and sharing the highs and lows of life in lockdown with neighbours has been great”.
Several of the households who have been joining in with Doorstep Church don’t usually attend church, including a housebound couple who haven’t been for 4 years but have been able to get involved and have now said: “This is our church.”
Andy said, “Last weekend we were joined by one of the elders from a different church who lives nearby and heard it was happening when one of his neighbours who doesn’t normally go to church invited him to come along.
“That’s one of the most exciting things here, there’s a couple who don’t go to church and they’ve been inviting other people to come out, and that’s really lovely.”
“It’s been invaluable for emotional and mental well being”
A couple from the neighbourhood, Keith and Tish, said: “We have found it to be a very uplifting experience which has provided togetherness within safe distancing.
“Each Sunday we show each other kindness and support by talking, singing and sharing feelings and thoughts. It has been an extremely positive experience and one which we have looked forward to each week, as it has been invaluable for emotional and mental well being.”
Jane and Nigel, another couple said: “The sense of community and getting to know neighbours and singing is good for the soul.”
Andy and his family plan to continue holding a ‘Doorstep Church’ service every week.