Wednesday, 18th March 2020
As you will have seen on the national news all services in all churches are to be cancelled for the foreseeable future.
This also applies to all church run events (excluding the food bank) including the cafe at St Barnabas, the quiet day at St Mary's, prayer meetings and any organisational meetings (APCM's, PCC's and so on). Some of these meetings we may move online but many more will be postponed until all of this is over.
Far from meaning the church closes down, however, all this means is that we will need to be church in different ways:
Firstly, I imagine for many of us this time of enforced retreat from the world may give us more time to pray, worship and really focus on God.
Secondly, already I am aware of many of you looking out for and taking care of one another whilst also following the advice given by the government about social distancing and hygiene. If at any point you find yourself unable to get out to the shops due to needing to self isolate because of your age or health conditions then please please do contact either Rachel or myself and we/others from the church/the wider communities will pull together to help get you the things you need.
If you or members of your family or those you know are struggling because of the financial pressures put upon you due to the virus, please do remember we will still be operating the food bank out of St Barnabas. Rachel and I can sign vouchers for people to get the things they need, remotely if necessary. I am aware we may struggle for volunteers for this and will be speaking to the Hart Food bank about how some of us who are not normally involved with food bank and not in one of the vulnerable categories may be able to help. I have had many many offers of help from people, so if you need help please SAY!!!
In terms of prayer and worship
During the week
Although we are not able to gather, we will be attempting to keep one or both of our churches open for periods most days where people can come in to offer individual prayer. Please keep your eyes out for the times of these. If you are a key holder and not in any of the groups being asked specifically to stay at home and would be willing to open up and/or shut the church(es) please do contact us. Currently we will be open at St Mary's today (Thursday), Saturday and Sunday from roughly 10am until 4pm. We will have hand sanitiser available as you enter the church(es) and obviously ask you not to come if you are self isolating out of illness or suspected illness. Once we have other offers of help we will let you know further times and days. If others are in the church with you, please do follow the government advice and be sensible.
Although we will not be able to gather in our church venues there will be a number of ways in which we will be looking to gather people together virtually over the coming weeks. Yesterday Rachel posted a video on both churches Facebook pages with a psalm and a little message. Today I will be posting something similar at approximately 9.30 am from St Barnabas. Between the two of us and others on the ministry teams for both churches we will be looking to post daily reflections and readings on Facebook or YouTube or both. We will also be doing some of these via Facebook live which means if you tune in at the same time as we are putting it up you can comment and join in with the person speaking and we can respond to you. Even if you are not a Facebook user, you will be able to access these posts via a link I will send out to you on email and join in (I hope! Its all new to us as well!)
Each Sunday we will be looking to post up a service on the Facebook groups and probably on YouTube at or around 10am. This will be one service across both of the churches and will be somewhat experimental as we come to grips with the technology and what we can do with it. I will let you know more details about this as we work out what this will look like and will be calling some of you to be involved virtually if possible.
We have also been issued a NATIONAL CALL TO PRAYER this coming Sunday 22nd March 7pm. A National Day of Prayer and Action has been announced by the presidents of Churches Together in England, re. the Corona-virus epidemic, for this Sunday 22nd March. In an excerpt from a joint letter issued today, they wrote: "At such a time as this, when so many are fearful and there is great uncertainty, we are reminded of our dependence on our loving Heavenly Father and the future that he holds. Therefore, at 7pm (GMT) this Sunday, light a candle in the windows of your homes as a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source and hope in prayer." Wherever you are in the world, we invite you to join with us in prayer to see an end to the Corona-virus pandemic. "Cast all your cares on to Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7."
As our local schools close to all but a few children, we will also be facing many families in need of extra help in all sorts of ways . If you or your children or those in your family are now facing home educating and would like any help or advice the schools will all be providing things to help parents. There are many home educators across the nation, many teachers confined to home and many others who will help in whatever way they safely can. If Kate or I can be of any help in signposting people, reassuring you or your loved ones or anything else, please do contact us as well - Kate's been home educating Seren for three years, so is very familiar with it. Obviously we must also be praying for those still teaching or in school, that they remain safe.
Finally, I spoke to the children at Charles Kingsley School on Tuesday about Esther, who was brave enough to put others needs before her own life and trusted God to save her, and her people, even when things seemed bleak. I told them to be brave enough to have hope and to give hope to the grown ups around them (who need it too right now), to be brave enough to ask others to help them when they need it and to not be afraid because God is with them and will help them. As we learn what it means to put ourselves in God's hands, to be brave and trust in him, to paraphrase the words of Mordecai, in Esther 4: 14 "who knows but that God has put you in your current position for such a time as this?"
The contact details for the church are:
May the peace of Christ rule in our hearts