Vicar's Blog ~ 18 March 2020
'Distance yourselves and stay close to God…'
Distance yourselves and stay close to God…
It was not my plan to write daily, but then plans are not quite where we are at at the moment! I’ve been writing this on and off all day, and things change from one hour to the next. Schools are now to close.
You will have heard that the Archbishops have stated that churches are closed for public worship. Much as I regret this, we will comply, yet while seeing this as something of a minor opportunity rather than a huge problem. Many of you would not have come on Sunday anyway, and might have felt a bit bad or sorry about that. Not only do you not need to feel bad about not coming, now you can’t, because what your were not coming to is not happening. Please do not feel bad about not coming to Church. Church is coming to you in new ways.
There will be no liturgical gatherings in Church for at least a month. This is a very strange scenario indeed, reminiscent perhaps of times of dissent, plague or the Commonwealth between 1649-1660. We are in better company than that, but it is nevertheless necessary. However, the Church is not closed. Nevertheless, Sundays and the forthcoming Holy Week and Easter events are to be assumed as cancelled. Similarly, the Agape Meal, Golf Club Dinner, VE Day and APCM are cancelled too. We await guidance on the cancellation of the APCM and what it means.
We are the Church
We are the Church and we are open to new ways of being so, and we have technology to assist us. There will still be a Sunday sermon, a bulletin with readings and collect and there are prayers to join in with, even if you cannot hear others saying them, yet while knowing we are. We are connected by our prayers, not by our physical proximity. Never lose inner sight of that fact.
Church - ek clesia means ‘called out’ and while it may seem that we have been called indoors, out of the playground of modern life, in fact we have been called inside to look outwards. Look outwards to others and inside to God: it is good and healthy to do that.
Last week I took delivery of thousands of votive candles. Let’s burn ‘em! Let’s burn them for ourselves, for those we worry about, for those we give thanks for, for those who have no-one to light a candle for them. And this weekend, let’s light them for our Mums, living and departed, near or far.
This Mothering Sunday, unless otherwise contradicted, the Church will be open during the hours when a service would have happened. So from about 9.30 the doors will be open and anyone can come in, walk around, sit still, light a candle, listen to the music, speak to someone. Hopefully we can do something like this each Sunday.
Small scale gathering for daily prayer or even communion may be possible, such as on a Monday or Thursday (but not this Thursday). It is hoped that we can do this on Thursday of next week, with a small gathering, spread throughout the church.
DO NOT COME if you are feeling unwell or living with someone who is unwell.
THINK HARD about coming and consider prayerfully whether you should if you are vulnerable to concomitant illness, or living with someone vulnerable. If you are over 70ish always keep government advice in mind.
All are welcome, to be present in the building, but not in close proximity: there will be no communion or peace-sharing, indeed nothing other than perhaps a quarterly prayer from the pulpit. There will be an intercessions list in church (which can be written on), and the Prayer Board is very much available. The intercessions list will be emailed to you to use at home. Please do not circulate these widely beyond our own community. Basically the Church will continue as normal, yet without public liturgy. We do not need to gather to pray, but rather are gathered together simply by praying, wherever we are.
I’m reminded of that lovely Victorian hymn. ‘The Day thou gavest’ which has as two central verses, words that speak to our time in new ways:
We thank thee that thy Church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.
As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.
ASKing and telling
We have set up the ASK Force. And remember, all you have to do is ask. Now we are asking you to tell - tell us whom you think we should be in regular contact with. Feel free to send me a list of whom you are keeping an eye on and we can look for gaps. I have had a lovely response from many of you about this and some wonderful offers of various kinds of involvement and engagement with the scheme. If you need shopping collected, ASK us. It can be done. But please can I ask you to let me know, however randomly, any names of people who we might be overlooking in terms of checking in on. Or anyone who is not receiving these emails and who should or would like to. Even in these straightened times I assume GDPR still applies!
As I said, we can facilitate the collection of shopping, and this exact from the Boss of Sainsbury’s is heartening. They are also opening their stores for a bit of targeted ageist shopping (hooray!), so if you can get there, you will not be jostling with the kleptomaniacs and bog-roll bullies. You will need to check online for that, although my researches reveal no information yet about any arrangements at our local stores in Highlands and Winchmore Hill. Rumour has it that it will be at the rather uncivilised hour of 7am!
We will also help elderly and vulnerable customers access food online. From Monday 23rd March, our online customers who are over 70 years of age or have a disability will have priority access to online delivery slots. We will contact these customers in the coming days with more details.
For any online customer who can travel to our stores, from Monday 23rd March, we will operate an expanded 'click and collect' service. We are significantly increasing the number of collection sites across the country over the coming days in preparation for this. Customers can place their order online as usual and pick it up from a collection point in the store car park. We believe this will also work for people who are self-isolating.
In terms of the local Borough repsonse, here is a link you may find interesting or helpful:
Rest assured of our prayers and good wishes as we sail into uncharted waters.
Do ring/email me and ring each other,