Dear Friends,

As we start to take baby steps in terms of coming out of lockdown there are certain things we maybe appreciate in a new way. I found it to be such a moving and beautiful thing to see people back in the church building to worship together on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Throughout lockdown I have appreciated so much the efforts of our technology team in making services available to everyone at home. We were greatly blessed by an array of marvellous speakers and inspiring interviews as we journeyed through Lent but there’s something so special about being able to worship together in person.

The music of the organ, the recordings of our own choir, the care and attention that went into the simple but beautiful decoration of the church, all helped to create a very special atmosphere. Even if one is just an occasional attender at church services there is something very reassuring and encouraging about being able to worship together if the desire enters our soul.

As a parent I have been so thankful to see children getting back to school again after such a long period of online learning. Schools and teachers have done a magnificent job and we are greatly indebted to them for all their efforts on our children’s behalf but nothing quite compares to getting back to school and seeing your friends and teachers in person again.

We had the opportunity in the week after Easter to go on a family outing together for the first time in many months. We booked a day at the Montalto Estate where we could wander the trails, have a takeaway coffee and a bun and enjoy a picnic in the bracing wind. It just felt marvellous to be getting out together for a day out and we felt everything was very well monitored and distanced enabling everyone to feel safe. As this magazine goes to print, garden centres are reopening and there are further decisions being made about how things might be reopened in the next little while. The rolling out of the vaccination programme has been a great success and we are all indebted to the medical teams that have got through so much work so efficiently.

The knowledge of having some protection against the virus has given people confidence as they start to get out and about again. I have spoken to people and heard people interviewed on the radio who are making their first cautious journeys beyond their homes after 13 months of not getting outside their gardens. Whether it’s a trip to a garden centre to buy some plants or a visit to a Sunday service it’s a sign of hope, a belief that better days are to come. These are all important things to behold and to witness in our society at the present time.

For such a long time we were inclined to take all our freedoms for granted. We had so many choices constantly available to us. There were always places to go, people to visit, experiences to discover and participate in. The past year has reminded us not to take these things for granted. Everything has in that sense changed forever. The church will have a major task to rebuild and renew our spiritual life and community together.

Maybe there are valuable lessons we have learned through this experience. We appreciate just how precious people are in our lives. We value the services they offer, whether it’s cooking and preparing food and drinks, to selling clothes or cutting hair. We recognise how important it is to stand with others and among others as we move into a new future. Instead of asking what can life bring me, we maybe ask different questions, like what can I bring to this life and offer to God and to others?

Are there things He has taught me or revealed to me about His faithfulness, His constancy and His love that might make a real difference to how we do things in the future? Are there values we need to rediscover, things we need to give up or possibilities we need to explore?

Before we move on too quickly, perhaps the first step is to assess where we are and give thanks that we have made it to this point. Maybe there are people to say thank you to, whether it is in person or by sending them a message. By simply showing up and continuing to do their job these people have been crucial to our survival through this difficult season. I think of people like our GP and local pharmacy. I think of delivery people and postal workers.

I think of people who have posted sermons or teaching or services online that helped me to keep trusting and hold on to faith. I think of the quiet compassion of undertakers, the checkout staff at our local shops and supermarkets and garages. I think of those who have written and published books that have brought me to different places in my imagination or sowed stimulating thoughts through their words.
I think of those who have prayed with me or for me.
I think of parishioners who have cared for and encouraged me and my family. I think of neighbours and friends who have looked after my mum’s needs, taking her to appointments, collecting her groceries and prescriptions, reaching out to help and support and do things I couldn’t because of restrictions. To one and all I say at this point in time, thank you and let’s keep working together to do all we can to be a community of love and care that spreads the fragrance of Jesus in all we seek to do.

Can I ask people to continue to phone people they know who might be isolated or going through difficult things? Can I ask people to continue to pray for the life and witness and worship of the church? Can I ask us to be careful and vigilant as we follow Government guidelines and follow the best advice to stay safe? Can I ask too that we be kind and patient with each other as we work out new ways and systems that will lead us under God into the future?

With very best wishes.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Pierce (Rector)

Telephone 02890 793822