I write to you following the announcement yesterday from the Archbishop of Canterbury concerning the suspension of public worship. I’ve taken 2 extracts from that letter though the full script can be read here:
As the challenge of the coronavirus grips the world, and as the Government asks every individual and every organisation to rethink its life, we are now asking the Church of England in all its parishes, chaplaincies and ministries to serve all people in a new way. Public worship will have to stop for a season. Our usual pattern of Sunday services and other mid-week gatherings must be put on hold. But this does not mean that the Church of England has shut up shop. Far from it. We need to look at new ways of serving everyone:
- Where you can and where it is prudent, we encourage all clergy to continue their pattern of daily prayer and, if it is your practice and can be done within the constraints as set out, a daily Eucharist. It is vital to observe strictly the protocols of hygiene and, where necessary, self-isolation and social distancing. This will not be public worship that everyone can attend, but an offering of prayer and praise for the nation and for the world. Please do of course keep the church buildings open for private prayer wherever possible as we know so many do all the time.
We have called, along with our fellow church leaders, for a day of prayer and action this coming Sunday – Mothering Sunday (22nd March). Mothering Sunday has always been both a day of celebration for many and a sensitive and emotional day for some. Wherever you are this Sunday please do join in this day of prayer and action and remember especially those who are sick or anxious, and all involved in our Health Service. As one action, we are calling on everyone to place a lighted candle in their window at 7.00 p.m. as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished.
I do invite you all to join in with this action by placing a candle in your windows (bearing in mind fire safety), at 7pm on Sunday 22nd March, to show a united front as we face the uncertain future together with hope and trust (however fragile that may feel to you) rather than being overwhelmed by fear and anxiety.
In meantime what can you do as we distance ourselves socially and many will need to self-isolate? First and foremost please do follow the advice as it has not been given without much thought and for good reason.
We are working behind the scenes to get links on our website and also our Facebook page for you to be able to access church services, prayers, reflections and suggestions to maintain our spiritual lives at home. In the meantime here are some other suggestions from one of the churches in our diocese.
- Watch or listen to online, television or radio church services.
- Get into a daily rhythm of prayer, possibly using the Church of England’s app.
- Use a pinboard as an aid to prayer with photos, letters and request
- Pray with friends via online chat
- Create a pilgrimage trail in your home
- Each day put aside time for more in-depth reading and exploring – someone’s testimony, poetry or thoughts on a spiritual subject. Study and dwell on the Bible
- Keep a spiritual journal – or possibly an online blog
- If you have a garden or houseplants, spend time tending them – use that time for prayer while your hands are busy.
I’m sure there will be many more ideas that people will come up with so please feel free to share them.
For the moment, as the Archbishops have encouraged, our church will remain open for private prayer till directed otherwise. I have put very large print prayers and bible references in church, near the candle stand for people dropping in, to be able to use in quiet reflection and so that there is no need for handling.
In terms of practical help for those in our community we are asked to be very aware that anything done is in the framework and guidelines of safeguarding. As such we are not able to offer this as a parish, as anyone doing so under our banner would only be able to help with health care, transport, buying groceries, handling finance, collecting medicines etc if they have been subject to the enhanced DBS process though Oxford Diocese, including the barred list. Parishioners may however, work as ordinary individuals in the spirit of their faith, showing kindness to friends/neighbours who may be in need at this time. It is advised that you make sure that you annotate anything you have done for others. Any concerns you might have, particularly for isolated, vulnerable members of the community should be reported straight to social services.
As for keeping in touch with one another I suggest that we form small groups of support networks ( a kind of buddy system) where we make sure to contact one another fairly regularly to offer support, encouragement and simply for a chance to keep in touch. For many this is going to be a particularly lonely time and we hope to make this process of isolation and loneliness a less painful, more hopeful experience for us all. I know many are already in contact with other church members on a regular basis anyway and I’d really appreciate you letting me know who can form part of your ‘buddy group’ so that I can then assess who still needs caring for.
Here are some encouraging words from + Olivia, Bishop of Reading
While thinking about what we should do (or not do), here are some thoughts about how we should be:
- Calm the opposite will lead us to do things which might impact seriously on others – like panic buying,
- Caring: those who self-isolate, (those in high-risk groups, or who have been in contact with the virus) need to know that we care about them. Phone calls, messages, letters, cards, food left on the doorstep are all signs that we care.
- Considerate: let’s look out for one another, and act collectively to prevent the spread. It isn’t just about me, it’s about us
- And of course, Christ-like: let’s live hopefully, love generously and pray earnestly – and let’s bless each other by the way we behave
I hope to be sending a regular email out to keep in touch with everyone. I am still accessible on my home or mobile phone we are still conducting weddings and funerals in the Church of England though with limitations imposed. Please call me if you would like to discuss anything or would just like to talk to someone.
One of my favourite passages of scripture from which I draw strength in challenging times is:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3.5-6)
With every blessing
Revd Glynn Lautenbach
St Mary’s Burghfield
0118 983 2115