The Church of England has been updating its advice to churches about the coronavirus on a daily basis and has developed a contingency plan to help guide us through the coming weeks and months. As part of this, it is now necessary to stop church services and close our buildings compleataly until further notice.
So what does a church do in times like this?
In these unprecedented times, life feels very unsettled. A few weeks ago our worries and concerns were very different. Most of us were not worried about where to buy food or finding the money to do so. Most of us were not worried about going outside and did not doubt that medical care would be available if we needed it.
Things have changed, and changed fast. The church needs to respond quickly by finding new ways to do all those things that we too took for granted. But one thing does not need to change, and that is what the church is.
The task of the church is always to help people find life in Jesus: a life which equips us to live well in this world and to look with hope to the world to come.
Many of us will feel a growing sense of fear as we see normal life replaced by uncertainty and anxiety over things we cannot directly control.
And Christian faith at times like this is about letting these worries find their answer, not in the decreasing reserves of our strength, but in the steadfast faithfulness of God.
There are 4 key ways we do this:
Worship: Know God to be the one who is at the centre of our lives.
Scripture: Let God speak to us of his faithfulness that we may trust him.
Prayer: Seeking from God everything we need to do his will today.
Fellowship: Loving and encouraging each other in the life we share in Christ.
For the next few months, the way we do all these will of course look very different.
With our building closed, we have brought forward the launch of our new website and are delivering digital worship every Sunday at 10am and 6pm.
The ‘St Mary’s Weekly’ news sheet will help people who are not online keep in touch and resource them in prayer and faith. Printed copies are available in the dispenser outside the Rectory and in several village shops. We have also launched church cell groups to help us better care and support another during this time.
In all this, keep following the good advice of health professionals and help them and the wider community by following the government guidelines. And finally keep praying, because in prayer, we express our dependence on the God who never grows tired or weary; and in whom is a life and a love that no hardship can take away.
The difficult decision has been taken nationally to stop holding funerals in church, even small ones. From now on, all services will be either at crematoriums or at the graveside with attendance numbers kept to a strict minimum. Most crematoriums will offer live-streaming of services for those unable to attend
We will allocate church members into a number of cell groups. These will be groups of 10-15 people and each group will have a couple of leaders who will check in each week to make sure everything is OK. (If you don’t think St Mary’s has your details, please contact Sue Shaw: email@example.com / 07734 755088).
Those of you we have contact details for will be contacted by the leaders of those cell groups in the coming days. If you’d rather not be part of this pastoral system, please let us know. If you have any questions at this time, please contact me (07928 630667), churchwardens Conrad Oatey (852549) and Voirrey Paesler (559702), or Sue Shaw.
St Mary's Weekly
A weekly news sheet will help people who are not online keep in touch and resource them in prayer and faith. Printed copies are available in the dispenser outside the Rectory and in several village shops.
Over the next few months, it is likely that at least some of us will have to self-isolate for a period. So we can support one another during this time, we would ask anyone in this position to let their churchwarden know or contact our staff team using a special email address set up for coronavirus news: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an email address shared by several members of the staff team so that, should one of us be unavailable for a period, we can still keep in contact.
To help with communication and decision-making, churchwardens have been invited to the weekly Wednesday staff meeting which will be held digitally.