“The BBQs we had this summer” – Rev. Young Joo Lee

June generally marks the start of the summer holidays for university students. So we used to borrow a park on the last Saturday of June to hold a barbeque for the entire congregation. But due to COVID-19, we weren’t able to go ahead with this last year and this year. It was really sad to lose this opportunity to meet everyone for two consecutive years, as a lot of people come and go in our congregation each year. Of course, we had been doing a great job with holding our online services, cell and team meetings throughout the pandemic (and in some ways, in a better way!) but the desire to meet people face-to-face was more intense than ever.

Thankfully, restrictions were relaxed step by step from June onwards, so while we weren’t able to host the entire congregation, we were able to invite smaller groups to barbeques at our garden. We invited the Praise Team and Production Team first, who had gone through the most trouble to keep our church going during the pandemic, then we invited a combination of other smaller teams together for a second one. We also were able to host Deacon Soona Choi’s 60th birthday party, who practically is like the mother figure for our church, for which we were very grateful.

When July came, we expected that the restriction on numbers would ease so we invited the cell leaders. But the 30 people restriction didn’t go away in time so we had a bit of trouble catering for that. Then we invited the Choir who had been praising the Lord with their video/audio recordings, which then had to be edited each week. They were really happy to see each other in person, as they had been working online for some time.

The last week of July and first week of August was when we had our Summer Bible School for the children so we took a break, but afterwards we were able to invite our Team leaders thanks to Deacon Soona Choi’s who personally sponsored this, and thanks to the restrictions on numbers being lifted.

It was great to have barbeques for all those members who serve our church, but we still felt bad for the single members of our congregation. Those in our Family Cell have their families to rely on, but those who are single tend to be lonelier because they don’t know a lot of people in the UK. We really wanted to give them an opportunity to meet others at the church, but it was difficult to host everyone. Even so, we decided last minute to hold a barbeque on the last bank holiday in August for them – as those who had gone to Korea for the vacation would be able to see their family, but those who were left probably didn’t have that opportunity. We didn’t expect a lot to join, but 40 were able to come. I met a lot of people who I only knew by name – in particular, it was great to meet two sisters who said that this was the first time coming to church in their life.

All this wouldn’t have been possible without my wife, who cleaned the entire house each week for the guests, and prepared not only side dishes, but also a huge box of kimchi to hand out to everyone when they left. We still have the barbeque for our Welcome Team and B2 leaders left, which was cancelled last minute.

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