One of the things that our lovely staff team and I often say is that you never know what to expect next at Woking URC! This week we were delighted to have a visit by HRH The Countess of Wessex. The Countess is the Grand President of St John’s Ambulance and a number of their volunteers have been assisting the vaccination efforts in our church.
The Countess, who was accompanied by the Lord Lieutenant (Pictured, Lord Lieutenant Michael More-Molyneux with a volunteer and patient), spent two hours at the church volunteering alongside the vaccinators and was even served a cup of coffee in the Forum while she met church and pharmacy staff. The Countess (who was also celebrating her birthday that day!) praised the efforts of those who have gone out of their way to support the vaccine effort and was interested to hear about some of the other things that have happened at our church, such as the Petting Farm event which we hope to repeat this year in partnership with the Children With Special Needs Foundation. Our very own Gordon and Ann Paris who run the CWSNF know the Countess well as she is a patron of their charity too!
One of the wonderful things about hosting the vaccination centre is that we are able to work in partnership with groups right across our community, as well as welcoming countless people into our building to receive their vaccines. If people hadn’t heard of Woking URC before, they certainly have now!
The partnership with Fast Heal Pharmacy (which is a delivery only pharmacy based in Maybury) came about when the owner, Tahir Hussain (pictured alongside me above) approached us and asked if they could move from their location in St Paul’s church to Woking URC last September. The vaccination centre is run by Fast Heal Pharmacy but involves partnership with us as their hosts as well as the 300+ volunteers who offer their time to welcome, make tea, manage the car park, administer vaccines and generally ensure that everyone has a positive experience. The volunteers come from across the community and many have commented what a warm and welcoming environment WURC provides.
We have seen the Lord at work in so many ways throughout this time. There have been fruitful conversations with members of the public who ask about the church, and even some who have followed our services online or attended in person. In some cases, walking into a church worship space for their vaccine has sparked thoughts about faith and our Bible timeline has certainly been a great talking point.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5 v14-16
Of course, it hasn’t all been positive or straightforward. We have faced the challenge of anti-vax protestors demonstrating outside and even some individuals entering the church and causing disruption on one or two occasions. We are living in sadly divided times and Jesus never promised that shining our light would necessarily be an easy task. We are living with physical disruption in the building and having to be flexible about the use of our space as we extend hospitality to others.
Ultimately, we believe that we are being called by Jesus to show love to our community by joining in this essential healthcare work. Whatever complexities and challenges that may present, we believe that, through a spirit of generosity and hospitality, the light of Jesus will shine and seeds of the Spirit will be sown in the lives of those we interact with.
Some of you may have noticed that the vaccination centre is much quieter now than before Christmas when, for a time, over 2,000 vaccines a day were administered. There are now fewer vaccinators on duty at any one time and much less space is needed. It is likely that the centre will be open just a few days a week going forward. This would mean that we could move towards a point of opening up our Forum to the public again, with the vaccine centre operating alongside in a reduced way. This is, of course, all dependent on Covid risk assessments and constant monitoring of the situation.
It’s always exciting to see what the Lord has in store for us, in our individual lives and collectively as a church. Let’s commit to keeping our eyes firmly on him, to listen for his voice, to follow his lead and to having the loving heart of Jesus.