Dear Friends,

Many of us associate the month of November with remembering. We usually remember those who have died in the past year who were connected with the parish at a special service. We remember on another
Sunday those who made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in times of war and strife. I know that such services and ceremonies will have to be observed in different ways this year. We have already requested that parishioners watch the Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance either on the live stream or through listening in over the phone to facilitate the families who lost loved ones during the year to attend.

If possible, I want to encourage parishioners this year to think of November, not just as a month of remembering, but also a month when we don’t forget. I know so many of our parishioners willingly got involved in our pastoral care buddy system as lockdown started back in March. People phoned each other regularly and many have commented on how helpful and encouraging they found those phone calls. Please don’t forget those people you were phoning as the months progress.

As this magazine goes to print, news is breaking of new and more
severe restrictions to curb the the spread of coronavirus. It will affect schools and in particular the hospitality industry as we are reminded of what we need to do to stay safe.

At this point in time, the church buildings are permitted to remain open for worship and we are very grateful to our stewards, cleaning teams and technology teams for doing all they are doing to enable us to worship in a controlled and safe environment. Please don’t forget, however, that many of our parishioners are still shielding or self-isolating and that is why
your contact with others is so important. Phone calls and cards can make such a difference when people don’t have their usual social outlets and many, many, as we are aware are keenly feeling the loss of a loved one. Others have loved ones in nursing homes or sheltered accommodation or in hospital and the visiting restrictions leave patients and families feeling very vulnerable and isolated while staff are doing their very best to offer the best care they can in a very difficult situation.

When I have a colleague, we normally take much of November and December to try to visit every household in the parish and deliver a Christmas card invitation to some of our Advent and Christmas services and
events. This year we have to do this quite differently as the current restrictions mean that I am not permitted to visit people’s homes unless it is a situation of extremis involving a pastoral crisis, serious illness
or bereavement. What I hope to do in the light of this is to phone every household I have a number for over the next couple of months and, if
you feel comfortable, I am happy to pray for any situation that might be causing you concern.

There are a lot of regulations and precautions around handling documents
and papers, so we hope to post out people’s Christmas card in November along with their Freewill Offering envelopes to prevent lots of people having to handle them. We are conscious that this is not the most comfortable juxtaposition of correspondence, but we are trying to do things as safely and as carefully as we can to protect our parish family. We hope that you understand the reason for this in these unprecedented times.

As we plan our Advent and Christmas programme, we realise that we cannot facilitate all of the things we normally do at this season, but we hope that, if people cannot come in person, they will be able to connect in via the live stream or recordings. Certain services in the Christmas season may need to be pre-recorded to facilitate the deep cleaning required between services and to observe the current regulations we must follow.

The Bishop is using our church to record a talk for the Diocese later this week in connection with a proposed Gift Day on Advent Sunday 29th November. The suggestion, as I understand it, is that parishes give 80% of the collection on that day to a local project to help their local community. 10% of the total will go to our link Diocese of Maridi in South Sudan where the COVID-19 situation has placed a huge strain on people and churches who live in acute poverty. The remaining 10% will go to our diocesan Church Planting Fund where the Diocese is trying to plant new churches in areas where there isn’t a strong church presence and reach communities who have no church connection.

As I write this letter, I am conscious of parishioners who have lost employment or who have had their hours greatly reduced as the furlough
scheme draws to a close. Remembering through financial gifts is one way of helping, but there are other ways too. I am always struck by how generous our parishioners are in terms of their time and offering their talents. Whether that is something like phoning those who are currently vulnerable or shielding or praying intentionally for others and for the church, these are vitally important things to do.

The other thing I need to say is that, despite the best laid plans, we are currently in a very uncertain and fluid situation and we may find we have to cancel services or events atvery short notice. We will do our very best to keep people informed so, please, keep an eye on the parish website and Facebook page for the latest information and share it with other parishioners who may not have internet access.

While we are encouraged to remember this month, let’s not forget those we need to stay in touch with. Let’s not forget those, too, in other challenging situations in our prayers. Let’s pray for our Government, for scientific advisors and for those on the frontline in the Health Service, in retail and delivery and all who we know facing challenging times.

I look forward to speaking to and praying with many over the coming months over the phone and if there’s anything you want prayer for, please feel welcome to phone Robin our Prayer Warrior on 07513 947504 or myself on the number at the bottom of this letter.

In the meantime, stay safe and, in the midst of all these challenges, we remember God’s promise never to leave us or forsake us and how He will be with us even to the end of the age.
(Matthew 28 verse 20)

With very best wishes to everyone.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Pierce (Rector)

Telephone 02890 793822