What shall we do for Christian Aid Week this year?
Faced with a second year of not being able to share with other local Churches in collecting from homes, outside the railway station and a big store, Woking URC, in addition to another Zoom Quiz Night, took on the challenge of a different kind of sponsored event from last year’s head shaving. This was a 24 hour Bible ‘read-a-thon’, starting with the New Testament and, if time, adding some Psalms! When this was first suggested by Minister, Lucy Brierley and her husband, Justin (whose head was shaved last year and wasn’t that keen to have it done again!) it all sounded very easy to offer to read for half an hour on Zoom (eventually changed to Stream Yard which allowed information about the event to be shown all the time). The dates and times were fixed – Saturday 8th May at 10 am through to Sunday 9th May at the same time, and people began to sign up to read. Eight offered to act as hosts (even one for the 1 am to 5 am slot!) to keep things moving, step in to cover for any technical difficulties and give a Christian Aid story every hour. But what about the night time? Some who were often late to bed and some who always got up early volunteered for those slots but that still left a few hours. Eyes then focussed on Australia and former Woking friends and a Church in the little town of Padthaway, South Australia. The Church there had made contact with Woking URC a few months earlier because someone had seen Woking’s live stream Sunday Services (and, in fact, used one of the recordings one Sunday when they didn’t have anyone to lead their Service). Australian friends filled all the night gaps and the whole 24 hours was complete.
The read-a-thon involved 75 different people spanning all ages from five to 90+ (16 of those were under 18). Some had dyslexia and bravely faced those challenges. One took the midnight slot to see her into her 40th birthday (and asked for sponsorship instead of presents!). Three read in a different language – Cantonese, Korean and French (the latter being by someone who had kept in contact following the Wessex Synod ‘Le Weekend’ held in Woking in 2019). Andy Jackson, URC Head of Communications and Bridget Banks, Southern Synod Moderator ‘visited’ Wessex to take part and a few others who had been sharing in the Woking live stream Sunday Services also read.
Facebook messages of encouragement and appreciation continually came through locally and from different parts of the UK and the world, as well as donations (to supplement those already made) and it wasn’t long before it was realised that the original target of £6,000 was going to be reached. It was increased to £7,000 and by the end of Sunday even that had been exceeded. With all the Gift Aid added and the Quiz donations as well the final total will be over £9,000!
As soon as the marathon had ended it was time to get ready for the live stream Service and Woking URC was privileged to welcome in person Amanda Mukwashi, Chief Executive of Christian Aid. Her chosen theme for the Service, in which she talked to the children and preached the sermon, was ‘Sing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land’. Worshippers were challenged to keep on the work of the Kingdom to bring hope and justice to those who are suffering. She also powerfully reminded us how there is nothing that God cannot do or does not care deeply about. He is always to be praised. And this is what the Church family in Woking, and wider, will hold on to having been so blessed over these very special few days. The Service and the 24 read-a-thon can be seen on the Church website – www.wokingurc.org.uk