We have witnessed some resolute perseverance across our network of Urban Saints Groups. But for everyone it has been a long, hard journey. The leadership team from our Group in Londonderry shared their experiences of one of the toughest years in the 90-year history of the Group...
"With the first lockdown in March 2020 we stopped face to face meetings and started meeting weekly by Zoom. It took a little bit of IT support and phone calls with parents and Class members but we managed to get the majority of the Group meeting online within the first few weeks. We adjusted our normal format and in an hour we had games, a Bible talk, prayer, and a time just to chat. Our numbers held around 12 young people which was what we would have had prior to lockdown. Leaders were greatly encouraged and supported by the weekly Saturday morning Northern Ireland prayer gatherings.
Come September and schools being back but still a lot of restrictions, we decided to continue on Zoom but go bi-weekly to avoid Zoom fatigue. Again we managed to hold on to the majority of the young people and gained a few through contacts with school SU and friends in Donegal who wouldn’t be able to join in person but were glad of a chance to join online. When the second lockdown came in January we were already in a good routine.
A big challenge was keeping the connection with the young people, avoiding the black screens and actually interacting with one another. We tried to keep the teaching element relevant by looking at a number of Psalms, the life of Abraham and key Bible verses shared by Leaders for members to learn and live by. The games developed as did our knowledge of the technology so we brought in the whiteboard, shared screens, polls etc to become more interactive. Gift packs and prizes were regularly sent to members and Leaders to encourage them to keep ‘Looking to Jesus’ and brighten up dull days.
A highlight was celebrating the 90th Birthday of the Class in December. Zoom seemed our only option but we were determined to make it work. We started a campaign to gather together as many former Londonderry Crusaders from around the world to join with us on the day or send a video greeting. We had Alan Rowan (former Leader), former Crusaders and current Class members pre-record worship items, and we were blessed to have one of our former Leaders, John Magowan, give a highly relevant talk to the current and past members and friends, and another former Leader, Billy McIlwaine, gave a brief outline of the Londonderry Crusaders 90 year history. A big thank you goes to Wilson Beare too for his help.
So going forward we will remain online for the rest of this academic year but God willing by September we may once again meet in person. We may still have masks to wear so we won’t see the, hopefully, happy smiling faces but it will be amazing just to have that room with the young people physically sitting in front of us again. Zoom has been a blessing and has kept that vital connection between leaders and young people, and the young people with one another, but it will be so much better to be back in person after an eventful year and a half."
Douglas and Lorraine McMorris - Londonderry Crusaders
Image: Londonderry Crusaders pre-Covid Christmas party in 2019
You can see more stories like this in the latest edition of our 'This is US' magazine. If you don't get this twice-yearly publication (or any of our other postal communications), find out how to receive it here