While COVID-19 continues to restrict gathered church life in the physical world, in the online realm it’s very much on for young and old with last weekend seeing both knitters and Lego builders logging on to share their creations.
For the second year running, Manningham Uniting Church’s knitting group put on an event for the June 13 World Wide Knit in Public Day.
Somewhat to their surprise and even alarm, they discovered the online meet was drawing more people than the previous year’s physical gathering.
Knitting group founder, 74-year-old grandmother Helen Bartlett, said last year’s event attracted about 30 people, whereas this year’s gathering – which was conducted via Zoom – totalled almost 40.
“Almost half of them were from the wider community that had heard about it in various ways,” Helen said.
“The council put the event in the local Manningham newsletter. Through Facebook and other social networking, people latched on to it.
“It was a bit scary to have so many, I must admit. But one of our members, Tony McLachlan, is great with IT and he offered to help, so prior to the event people could contact him and run through it.
“He was there on the day, so he was able to manage it. It worked very well.”
Five years ago, Helen was inspired by the knitting club at Queenscliff Uniting Church to begin the Manningham group, which knits clothes, rugs, blankets and toys for refugees settling in Australia.
“We are only a fairly small group, on average about half a dozen,” Helen said.
“We meet the last Monday of every month, except in January and February. We’ve had a lot of equipment wool and needles donated by various people throughout the congregation.
“One of our members, Marion Bales, is a doctor who works in the Eastern Access Community Clinic in Ringwood. She takes all the nice warm garments over to the refugees who attend there, mostly Rohinga refugees, and distributes them.
“Over the five years, there has been probably hundreds of warm jumpers and beanies and scarfs made.
“One lady in particular makes teddy bears, the knitted care bears that are often given out in hospitals and are given to kids at the refugee health clinic. If they have to have an injection they get a cuddly bear and that helps ease the pain. It’s been really successful.”
For the Zoom session, the group prepared a video before the event as a beginner’s guide to knitting and to provide the pattern for squares, which will be collected from the Hub and sewn into a rug.
To kick off the hour and a quarter Saturday afternoon meeting Marion gave a PowerPoint presentation about the knitting group and how it helped refugees.
“There was also a show-and-tell session, where people could show what they have made,” Helen said.
“It was really inspiring to see so much beautiful knitting that had been done that will be sent on to the refugees.
The oldest knitting group member featured during the Zoom session was 102-year-old Joyce Hart but the event drew people many years her junior.
“At the time we weren’t aware that were a couple of people about 12 and 14 who didn’t know how to knit but they stayed with us,” Helen said.
“Emma Hanna spoke to them by Zoom afterwards and taught them how to knit then. It was great to have an intergenerational event, that was really amazing.”
On Sunday, it was the Banyule Network’s time to showcase some intergenerational creativity.
Its Messy Church held a Lego competition, with builders taking inspiration from the theme “What I am thankful for…”.
Banyule member Paul Voutier helped set up the Zoom session, but credited Messy Church minister Rev Sandy Brodine for coming up with the idea.
“My kids were getting into the Lego Masters program and I think Sandy saw the opportunity to pick up on the enthusiasm of the kids in the church network who were following the TV show,” Paul said.
“I also think isolation made them look around the house and think ‘Hmm I wonder what we can do now that we are at home’.
“I think we rediscovered a love of Lego in isolation and not just them, but some of the other kids in the church, so it was good timing.”
Paul’s son Jonte, aged 12, entered two models, one of a church with Sandy inside and another, more abstract representation of a sword that seems to be sprouting plants.
“I made a sword but I thought ‘probably I don’t really enjoy swords’,” Jonte said.
“So, I made the sword with plants kind of growing out of it to represent peace.”
Jonte said the sword took about an hour to make and about two minutes to stick on the plants. The church took about two hours.
His sister Adele, aged 9, made a house with characters bursting out of the top doing different things.
This was to show how grateful she was for isolation to end and for people to go to school, work and do fun things.
Mandie Butters entered models already made during the isolation period by her Lego-loving daughter six-year-old Samantha.
One was of a rainbow, which is something Samantha really likes. The other was of Mandie, who added the coffee cup to show what she is grateful for.