Coloured chalks and a bubble blaster have become essential pieces of equipment for Rachel’s lockdown ministry. She and her family moved to the post-war Whiteway estate on the outskirts of Bath last summer when Rachel began her post as Pioneer Minister there. Prior to lockdown she was busy becoming a ‘positive playing presence’ in the local community, involving herself in drop-in cafes (where she would set up a play table), various toddler groups, the local ‘Open the Book’ assembly team and a Youth for Christ Breakfast Club.
When lockdown began, relationships were still very new, but Rachel has found that in many ways, the current situation has presented new opportunities and has enhanced the ways she can connect with the Whiteway families. There are a few organisations working to support the estate during lockdown but they are not based there and there can be a wait for their services, whereas Rachel is always there – Whiteway is her home too. So, one sunny afternoon she set off with her tub of chalks and hasn’t looked back! Wherever she walked, Rachel chalked rainbows, two metres apart, on the pavement. By the rainbows there are invitations to hop, jump, stride or skip. Many of the households are out in their front gardens on sunny afternoons and the rainbows were an immediate hit.
Conversations began and Rachel started to ask people if they had a ‘word of the week’ or a ‘word of the day’. Some were puzzled by this but some responded – ‘Samey’, or ‘Kids are bored now’. Others began to raise their mugs and shout, ‘Cheers!’. Connections were being made. Rachel really wanted to take tubs of bubble mixture out with her to blow as she walked but decided that wasn’t the most hygienic thing to do in a pandemic! Then she sent for a battery-operated bubble blaster and her problem was solved. Now there are squeals of joy from children as she approaches with her bubbles and stands chatting at garden gates for a couple of minutes at a time. Families know that she is a ‘friend from the church’ who lives on the estate, and I have no doubt that God will continue to grow these new green shoots.
As you can tell, Rachel is passionate about play and also about its role in helping us to connect with God and each other. She has devised ‘Play and Pray’, a way of creating themed play scenes and inviting people to wonder. Lockdown has given her the space to really develop this approach further and she has set up a Facebook page and invited people to join in and respond to the play scenes. One of these, created with Playmobile figures, had an NHS/keyworker theme and people’s comments indicated that God was very much at work as they used this as a focus for prayer. I recommend taking a look!
Many thanks for sharing with us and inspiring us, Rachel. Every blessing for your future ministry and carry on chalking!