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Coping with COVID-19: Rev Alex Sangster

As part of our ongoing series, we speak with Rev Alex Sangster, minister at St Andrews UC, Fairfield

On Palm Sunday, you hosted a national live-streamed service via the Assembly’s Facebook page. How did you come to be involved with that?

I am the advocate for the Transforming Worship Circle and in this role I am called to help facilitate ways for the whole church to be renewed and connected in its worshipping life.

Was the preparation any different to what you would usually do?

The prep for the actual worship was pretty similar, although it was much shorter, but I did feel deeply sad not to pray with one of my lovely elders before we began. And the tech was a nightmare, simply because of internet tech issues and internet connection speed!

You decided to broadcast it from living room rather than from your church. Why?

It was simply because the church doesn’t have the internet connected! We are very low tech normally at St Andrew’s.

How many people tuned in?

There were over 200 participating across the service and many, many more have watched it since.

Is that the biggest service you’ve conducted?

The biggest service I have ever conducted was a funeral for a young man. There were over 800 folk at that one.

Is there anything you learned from doing the service?

Keep the dogs out! Tell the 10-year-old not to eat a carrot in the middle of the sermon! Don’t drop your notes all over the floor!

How much has the lockdown affected you professionally?

It’s turned my whole ministry expression upside down. Our whole vocation is about the being with, and the walking alongside, and the holding of the hand, and the gathering of the people, and the breaking of the bread so the lockdown has been deeply challenging.

But I have been galvanised by my amazing colleagues and upheld by our gorgeous UCA people and I have been listening to our beautiful earth breathing, in the silence and the space.

All shall be well and all shall be well, despite the devastating loss and the fear and the collapse … all shall be well.

Is there anything you feel you need to do that you can’t because of the Stage 3 restrictions?

Hug people, lean in close, gather to protest, gather to share story, protect the planet with my body. 

Is there anything you’ve learned in the past few weeks you’d like to share?

Not learnt so much as been reminded of how deeply connected we all are, of how much we need each other, of how much we can learn from saying “yes” to being part of the incarnation and of how deeply the community of faith matters and how lonely so many people are.

In this time of challenge and for many distress, do you have a personal message or faith reflection that you would like to share?

We are a resurrection people.

We are a people who surge forth from tombs and wombs and caves and prisons and darkness and death and we join with angels and say:

Do not be afraid.

In this valley of the shadow, let us be part of shepherding our frightened world and let us find the tiny, shiny, moments of light and hold them up for all to see.

So much kindness, so many people reaching out to the stranger with love.

We’ve got this dear ones, we’ve got this.

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