Dear Friends,
We hope you are well as lockdown continues and we recognise what a difficult and challenging season this is for many people.

It’s hard to be cut off from regular physical contact with family and friends. It’s hard to see so many businesses and schools closed and everyone taken from the important routines we value so much. Going to church is one such activity and routine that is deeply important to so many of our parishioners and we feel the pain of not being able to worship together in the normal way. We miss seeing our friends and fellow parishioners. We miss the splendid music we enjoy from Mark, our organist, and the choir and the musicians who lead us in worship at the Connect services every month. Mark has been furloughed under the current Government Scheme until we can resume services in church and we hope it will not be too long. Hearing an audio file is some comfort at times, but it’s not the same as gathering as a community.

We miss seeing the beautiful flowers so lovingly arranged by our Flower Guild. We miss our organisations and the regular meetings we attend and receive so much from. We miss the warm welcome we receive from our Church Wardens and the welcome teams at Connect.

In a time of enforced isolation, we are conscious that quite a proportion of our congregation may not have access to the Internet where they can receive the audio files and services, including a couple of visual ones for Easter, or get the regular updates through the parish Facebook page and blog.

For that reason, we have decided to produce another magazine which will be available to download on the Internet. We are also going to physically post out some copies to parishioners who we know do not have access to the Internet.

This magazine will primarily include some further devotional resources for use at home at a time when we cannot physically worship together.
You will find some Bible readings and prayers to offer strength and comfort in these troubled times.

We want everyone to know that each Sunday, even though the building is closed to the public, Holy Communion is celebrated and the pages of our Book of Remembrance are turned and each household on our parish lists is prayed for.

Every Thursday night during this crisis the church bells are rung for 5 minutes at 8pm in appreciation for the NHS and other frontline workers who are doing such an amazing job. Every Friday at noon also, the bells are rung as a reminder that we are a people of hope. If you live in the vicinity of the church, keep your ears open. We do this in solidarity with many other churches who are doing something similar across the world.

I’m very grateful to Linda, our Secretary, who has worked very hard sourcing materials for this magazine. I’m grateful, too, to the amazing team who have been involved in the technology behind producing our online services and getting material onto the website and Facebook page. Alison has been keeping our Facebook page updated and our Sunday School in contact through Zoom calls. Gillian and Chris have been very involved in the website and Peter has been editing the recordings I make in the Church. Chris has also helped me to video a couple of services and edit them
and there is a huge amount of work going into these.

I’m very conscious, too, of how many people have been phoning each other throughout these difficult times and those phone calls are a source
of great support and encouragement. Some people have told me that they have made a great connection with some of the people they have been asked to phone and this is such a positive and encouraging thing.

I’ve also been moved to hear stories of people playing recordings down the phone to others who don’t have the Internet and people sharing some of the services with those who are ill and don’t normally go to church.
The BB and Mothers’ Union Union have been sending material to our Facebook page and there is a real effort going on to keep people connected.

People are praying for each other, there’s a lot of loving and serving going on and God is honoured through all of these things.
I’ve called the blog which now appears a couple of times a week on the website and Facebook page, “Church Without Walls” as we learn what that looks like in the new situation we are facing.

No-one knows at this point how long these restrictions will last, but we hope this collection of Bible readings and prayers will bring you encouragement and hope in these days until we can worship together again.

If I could ask you to pray particularly for one group of people at this time it would be those who have been bereaved. Families are having to arrange funerals in very difficult and restricted circumstances. Usually there is just a very short service either at a graveside or a funeral home and we are very mindful of those who cannot visit the graves of their loved ones in Roselawn and other cemeteries with the current restrictions.

Thank you to everyone for all the lovely messages and phone calls and for being so supportive. It’s a great privilege to be part of this church family and we send you our love and prayers and look forward to the day when we can return to church together.

In the meantime keep in mind some words from St Paul who wrote to
the Thessalonians and said, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.
(1 Thessalonians 5, Verses 16-18).

Much love.

Jonathan Pierce (Rector)

Telephone 02890 793822