One of the things I think we are all struggling with a little in the present time is uncertainty. With the changing guidelines and the ever-present threat of a second spike of coronavirus, we find it hard to make concrete plans for holidays or projects. It is even a challenge to do routine things like hospital or dental appointments or trips to the hairdresser or a pub or restaurant.
Normally, at this time of year, we like to inform people about when our various activities will reopen. We look forward to seeing everyone from our Toddlers’ Group to the Boys’ Brigade, the Mothers’ Union and Men’s Society and the Ladies Open Door Friendship Group. We like to see the bowlers making their way back and to resuming our tasty Root Soup lunches. We look forward to Wednesday Morning Communion services and opening our doors to the many who appreciate the weekly service for Divine Healing.
This year, however, is unlike any other year and, while people are asking those questions about when I think these activities can resume, I can’t answer them. That makes it hard to plan things. It makes it hard to prepare for events like Harvest Thanksgiving or Advent when normally our choir would be rehearsing from September and yet, in the current climate, we are not allowed to sing during public worship.
What I can say is that, for the next couple of months, we will be having services on Sundays at 11am and 7pm. Our capacity is quite restricted because of social distancing and, depending on whether people come as family groups or individuals, it can range from 22-80 with the average being around 50. We have a very dedicated team of stewards and cleaners who are ensuring we get in and out safely and a new technology team who are coming to grips with our new audio visual technology and doing a brilliant job on all our behalf making services available for people to phone in or live stream or watch on YouTube.
With the current regulations about cleaning the church if another group will use it within 72 hours, we are going to be focussing on providing the two services on Sundays initially and the 11am service will be live-streamed. This means a recording of that service should be available by around 1.30pm on Sundays for people to watch or listen to if they are phoning in. I will review at the end of September whether we can then introduce Wednesday Morning Communion Services and how other services can take place as the need arises.
We are seeking advice and guidance about the resumption of Sunday School as there are quite a few logistical challenges to overcome, but we will be in touch with parents as soon as we have set up a system we believe is safe for both teachers and children and complies with the Government guidelines.
I want to thank everyone who has been faithfully phoning others during the pandemic and staying in touch with them even if from a distance. This contact and these phone calls have been a huge support and comfort to many who feel incredibly isolated in these challenging days.
We have been inviting parishioners to participate each Thursday in the parish prayer meeting over Zoom at 7pm. It is so powerful to gather together and spend half an hour in guided prayer in our homes and to undergird all we are doing in prayer at the present time as well as remembering people and situations further afield. If you would like to take part you can receive the Zoom link by emailing email@example.com.
We are conscious that a time like this prompts many deep questions in people’s lives and hearts and we want to reach out through our online Alpha course which will run for 12 weeks hopefully from 2nd September. It will be on Wednesdays from 8-9pm and if you would like to be involved please express your interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. org and someone will be in touch with you about how to get your weekly link.
The Alpha course is a great way to go deeper in your faith or to explore the basics of the Christian faith for the first time. It will be our first time to offer the course online and having participated in such a course myself during lockdown I was greatly blessed and enriched by it.
We continue to be very conscious of those who have experienced bereavement in this very challenging season and please be assured of our prayers for you. Bereavement is always a most testing and difficult experience and the loss of a loved one with restricted numbers allowed to attend any funeral service and the absence of people to shake your hand or offer hugs at such a difficult time is very hard to bear. Please do stay in touch with those you know who have experienced loss over these past months.
I want to thank everyone for their patience, their encouragement and support as we continue to live with all this uncertainty. You will find some devotional resources in this magazine as we continue to remember those who are unable to return to worship for various reasons.
A verse from my morning devotions really struck me as I think about our desires for the parish in an uncertain time. ‘Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.’ (Isaiah 26 verse 8) Let’s make this our chief concern as we journey on in faith.
With very best wishes to everyone.
Jonathan Pierce (Rector)
Telephone 02890 793822