Hilary Nichols describes her experience leading an English language class, with the help of 2:19, in Highlands Village, North London. The surrounding area comprises lots of flats, with a diverse population. It has been difficult to reach into the community as most people live in closed flats. It is serviced by two large primary schools and this has been a way into the community
Situated in North London, our church in Highlands Village is always looking for ways to reach out to our neighbourhood with the love and good news of the gospel. For some years, we’ve been offering English language classes after the Sunday morning service, popular with those who were delighted to have the opportunity to improve their English and a chance to converse in a relaxed atmosphere. Recently, the idea was adapted to trial English Conversation classes for the parents connected to the Primary school adjacent to our church. The School was very keen to partner with our church in offering weekly lessons, which they would advertise to parents on our behalf. A church team committed to the idea had been meeting and praying about the opportunity for a while and so were thrilled to bits when we were finally invited with open arms into the school in January!
Our team included just 3 trained teachers, our vicar, a young Mum, 2 experienced older ladies, and a theological student with a heart for cross cultural work.
The first week, we met excitedly and nervously, with no idea who would turn up. News spread and over the weeks we have grown to more than 10 students in the class. The diversity is compelling! Students have come from Somalia, Eritrea, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan and a good number from Turkey (representative of our area). We have used the fantastic So to Speak material, covering topics of Greetings, Storytelling, Housing, Food, Health, Gardening, Recycling, Jobs, Clothing, and Weddings, to name but a few.
Obviously since lockdown we haven’t been able to provide lessons on the school site, so adapting to Zoom lessons has been a challenge. We’ve kept the lessons shorter and tried to make sure we always include ways in which we can share our lives together and build relationships in these strange times. We’ve loved people bringing/wearing items from their culture to our Zoom lessons, talking about photographs of their weddings, discussing their own cultural festivals and even revealing the contents of their recycling bins! In spite of the limitations of technology, we are managing to grow our friendships and care for each other.
Two highlights of our lockdown lessons have been sharing the story of Easter with the class and using the Queen’s Easter Speech to talk about hope, especially the hope of the gospel.
We were sad to have to say goodbye to Maura and Dave Baldwin in our lesson last week, but it was wonderful to see the impact of their teaching, love and lifestyle on the students, who will really miss them as they move on to Birmingham. When asked by a student: “What is the secret to a happy family and being a good mother?”, Maura was able to answer by talking about the difference that the sacrificial love of God and forgiveness makes to her in mirroring these attributes in her relationships. Praise God.
Please pray as we continue to meet that we wouldn’t lose connection with those students who have struggled to access Zoom lessons due to technology during lockdown. Please pray we can enjoy meeting face to face again soon and that we can continue to invite people to join in services and events at Grace Church. Our Bulgarian student, M, and her daughter were attending church regularly with us before lockdown. She has had to move out of the area now, so please pray that we would be able to link her up with another church who can help her with her English! (The 2:19 map could help!)