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This page collects together all of the news resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
There are messages from our Minister further down the page.
Are you panicking? Frustrated? Try our page of Shared Thoughts - they may help you.
Church Family Blessing
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General Guidance and Resources are available on the National Methodist Church Website
23 March: The National Methodist Website also has a page entitled Coronavirus: Taking care of yourself and those around you
23 March: The Methodist Church Communications Team has issued this Update
3 April: Churches Together in England has prepared a candle poster for those who would like to place a permanent symbol in their front windows of Christ’s light shining in the darkness. Visit www.cte.org.uk/prayersofhope for your copy. This poster has been made available due to our awareness of the potential fire risk posed by lighting live candles, particularly on windowsills. We are keen to avoid adding any pressure to our emergency service personnel, particularly at this difficult time.
‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' John 1:5
1 May: A Little Help if Needed
During these strange times when we have to stay at home, it is proving difficult for even the most robust of us. Staying at home, not seeing loved ones, not being able to socialise as we would normally do, not being able to celebrate, commiserate or just enjoy company can prove challenging. Should it be needed here are some details of organisations to contact (pdf).
8 May: Some further places to look for help if you need it (pdf).
We will not be assembling for worship at church until further notice.
If you wish to continue your worship at home, there are online resources available, which you can find from the menus at the top of this page: click on Worship, then Worship This Week.
Groups, Events and Activities
All other Group meetings, Events and Activities at the church complex are cancelled until further notice.
The following messages are downloadable PDF files
MINISTER'S Easter MESSAGE (8 APRIL 2020)
Easter 2020 will be like no other we have experienced in our lives before as a church family. Who would have thought at the beginning of the year that all our churches would be closed on Easter Day? The last few weeks have been an anxious time for people all around the world; so many lives cut short and grieving families devastated by the effects of the covid19 virus, it is hard to comprehend. If we need to stay in for a few more weeks, it is a small price to pay in order to curtail the spread of this insidious virus. Everyone who works for the NHS has been awesome in their unrelenting commitment to save as many lives as possible, under extreme circumstances. Huge gratitude also goes to the many key workers who have kept all the essential services going.
The Easter story reminds us once again that from the depths of despair and loss, there is always hope, if we know where to look for it. On the first Easter day, Mary went to the tomb with a heavy heart fully expecting to find the body of Jesus still wrapped in grave clothes. No doubt she was still in shock from witnessing his traumatic death, it seemed like all hope was lost and yet in her despair, perhaps she dared to hope. Mary’s grief was turned to joy when she met the risen Lord Jesus in the garden and in her excitement rushes off to tell the others that he is alive.
The message of Easter this year more than ever is still one of hope for a suffering and broken world. Hope in a Saviour who demonstrates God’s love for all people by dying and rising again to eternal life. After the darkness of death and suffering, the light of Christ cannot be extinguished. We do not know when this current crisis will come to an end or when normal service will be resumed. In some ways I hope things will be different, rather than us just picking up where we left off and continuing to do things the way they have always been done.
I was reminded today of a quote from Julian of Norwich, ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.’ The Church’s resurrection hope is what continues to inspire us and sustain us in these troubled times.
Easter Blessings to you all
MINISTER'S MESSAGE (3 April 2020)
In a few days I shall be starting my sabbatical. As worship services and meetings are not happening it could be seen as an appropriate time, but without the usual ways of being church in place, it could be viewed as an inappropriate time. The Methodist church advice is that sabbaticals should still go ahead.
In July 2018 I received an email from the district sabbatical secretary asking for my sabbatical plan to be submitted by the end of October in time for the sabbatical committee. Personal events last summer completely changed what I had planned, and I resubmitted a new plan last October, much of which will now have to be abandoned – so much for my plans!
For me there is always a sense that whatever we might plan or expect to be in place or expect to happen, there are other things that we couldn’t have known or factored in. Some of these things may be difficult and seem to shake our own little world and life, and may cause us all kinds of questions and uncertainties, others will be welcomed and come as pleasant surprises. But I believe and have experienced that even with the most difficult of times there have always been ‘gifts’ – something that I have discovered about the love and presence of God or of the truth that sets us free, or of what is truly essential to life. I suppose it follows those words in Romans chapter 8 about God working for good in all things – not that God is responsible for all things, or that we might say ‘I’m really glad that this bad thing happened because …’ as if the gift should justify the original event and make it ok, but that even the smallest of gifts, something that is good, can come – even if it is sometime later. And maybe, despite all the suffering and loss that has and will continue to be experienced during this pandemic, we will discover again our need for community and the value of loving and compassionate relationships with family and friends, with those around us and with the earth.
Several years ago a book was recommended to me[i] It considers what it is for us to be active, busy and in control and then suddenly to be helpless and powerless, and expanding our understanding of the passion of Jesus. The book draws on the example of Mark’s gospel that is written in such a way that Jesus is always the one who is doing and initiating actions and events (in grammatical terms Jesus is always the subject of the verb). But in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus is ‘handed over’ he becomes the one who is done to by the action of others (Jesus becomes the object of the verb). Of the very few occasions following Gethsemane when Jesus does something – it is to say nothing, to remain silent – Jesus doesn’t do anything. And it is this willingness to be ‘handed over’ to others and their actions that is the passion of Jesus.
It seems to me that the way of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed is very different to the way that we usually do politics, power, business and life where we seek and believe that we are in total control. Think for a moment of the beatitudes and those who are blessed – not the people that we would usually think of or the way of life that we would choose for ourselves – not without much hesitation or wincing! The way of the kingdom is about lives that are centred in a trusting relationship with God; people who have ‘handed themselves over’ to God in the same way that Jesus handed himself over to all those who took decisions and actions from the time in the garden of Gethsemane to his death on the cross.
For many in our churches, we can often go from Palm Sunday and the ‘hosannas’ and waving of palms to the following Sunday and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. We might touch base with Good Friday as some kind of victorious vanquishing of death – but that is not the story. Jesus’ story goes much further and much deeper than that. There are words in our communion prayer for Lent and Passiontide that always move me no matter how many times I have said them ‘When the hour of his (Jesus’) glory came, and loving his own to the end,’ As I say them I am aware of what is to come as the story of Jesus unfolds, Gethsemane, trial and condemnation, torture and a cruel agonising death - and a love that runs deep and true to the very end and that somehow conveys the depth and truth of the love of God for us all.
As we approach the beginning of Holy Week marked with Palm Sunday and we recall Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, I can’t help but think that Jesus did so knowing that this might be the point where his words of the kingdom either took root in hearts or where the ultimate in rejection would be played out … and I am humbled and overwhelmed by the depth of love that Jesus shows through it all. Of course there are other words that we might use like faithfulness, obedience etc, but for me it always comes back to love; love that is at the heart of God and that can flow through us transforming not just our lives but going beyond as our circle of compassion grows. And that transformation brings new life and new energy and new perspective and renewal and we might call that ‘resurrection’. It is not just a story of something that happened in the first century in Jerusalem at a Passover, but something that is lived again and again as people experience new life and new hope and the love of God that is in and comes from the most unlikely of situations.
May you know God’s love, peace and blessing,
[i] The Stature of Waiting by W.H. Vanstone (written in the early 80s it does not use inclusive language).
MINISTER'S MESSAGE (27 MARCH 2020)
Much has happened since my letter of last week. Following the scenes at the weekend when Britain seemed to go in Bank Holiday mode, the whole nation is now required to staying at home for all but the most essential of tasks. We can be grateful to those who continue to work for our wellbeing: medical and care staff who are facing Covid-19 every working day, those involved in food production and supply, those delivering food and other items to our homes, our leaders who are making decisions and taking steps to protect the nation as best as they can. And we can give thanks for the expressions of compassion and care that such a situation can bring out in us.
Earlier this week I received an email from one of the Companions of Julian (CJN) that compared Julian’s times to our current days. In between thinking about GDPR requirements and what I feel I want to have in place before I start my sabbatical, I had already been thinking of Julian; the email from my CJN colleague has prompted my focus for this week’s letter.
Julian of Norwich (born about December 1342) lived through three outbreaks of the plague, an ongoing war with France, devastating floods in Norfolk, failed harvests (the most severe in 1369 leading to widespread famine), the Peasants Revolt, three outbreaks of cattle disease that decimated cow herds (could include what we know as Foot and Mouth), religious persecution within the church and against those who questioned the extravagancies of church hierarchies, crusades, and controversy over who was the rightful pope (there was in Rome and one in Avignon).
I think that there is some similarity – although of course there is a lot that is different – to our own times. And I believe that Julian’s message of God’s love for us is as apt for our own time as it was for hers, even though to articulate it in the way that she does would have not been acceptable to those in power within the church and would have put her at risk. That her writings were kept safe and ‘buried’ until the early part of the 20th century has perhaps meant that they have had a profound reconnection and relevance for us now.
As an anchoress Julian chose to be ‘enclosed’ within a cell built on the side of St. Julian’s church. There is some question regarding whether she was able to access a small garden space at the church – but essentially she was confined to her cell.
The cell would have had a small window through which she would be able to see the altar of the church and the celebration of Holy Communion. There would have been a window into a porch through which her attendant would deliver food and remove waste. And there would have been a heavily curtained window by which people could ask for prayer and spiritual advice and wisdom from Julian. Her cell and her life within it – different to the life that she would have lived previously and the life that much of the population would still have been living – was a place for deeper communion with God – a place of drawing closer and deeper to God in prayer. It was also a time for her to continue to reflect on the visions that she had had whilst she lay grievously ill to the point where everyone including herself, thought that she was dying. And the longer version of her writing was the product of more than 20 years reflection following her illness.
Julian has much to say about prayer, about suffering and sin, about our desire for God and about God’s desire for us as God’s beloved. Her writing has much to say about the love of God, in fact it ends with words that put Love at the very centre of all that is.
We may be familiar with Julian’s words even if we don’t know their origin “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” It might sound like a glib assertion of hope, but rooted within the Revelations of Divine Love we realise that they are words that come from an experience of reality that is far from ideal and that knows suffering, and through it all is a search for God and the goodness of God. Julian in spite of the ways of the church of her time, discovers that in all is God and the love of God. Her book was written in English and not Latin and throughout she has an understanding that the visions, her further reflections and the message that has been given to her are for the benefit of others.
At these times, maybe these words are more readily accessible “He did not say, ‘You shall not be tempest-tossed, you shall not be work-weary, you shall not be discomforted.’ But he said ‘You shall not be overcome’. God wants us to heed these words so that we shall always be strong in trust, both in sorrow and in joy.”
And finally “The greatest honour we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”
And this is where I finish this letter, God is our beginning, our end and all that is in between, and God is our now, and the love of God keeps us and holds us. And when we are discouraged or fearful we may ask God to give us the grace to re-discover once again the truth of God’s love for us and all the world. And may this time, when we need to ‘withdraw’ from so much that we usually do, provide us with an opportunity to draw closer to God.
May you know God’s blessings – peace and love,
Minister's Message (20 March 2020)
It is a cliché, but we really are living in unprecedented times.
In the face of Covid-19, grocery items being in short supply in the shops due to panic buying, people facing loss of jobs and income as we are encouraged to limit our social interaction with others by not frequenting the places where we would normally gather, we need all the more to work at having a sense of community! Unlike so many generations before us we must do this as we physically distance ourselves from one another. Of course internet and social media gives us an advantage. I can’t help thinking that it is reminiscent of the sort of fiction of the likes of John Wyndham or 1984 by George Orwell.
But the reality is very different. People are living with fear and anxiety concerning what will happen over the coming weeks and months. We are social beings and I can understand the anxiety that is around social isolation and the potential for increased loneliness and depression.
For us as a church where so much of our church life (worship, fellowship/ study groups, and social activities) relies on our being gathered together, this is particularly challenging and we need to think in creative ways. How can we continue to be the body of Christ that is engaged in service and ministry when so much of what we have previously assumed is no longer in place?
We still need to ‘keep in touch’ with one another by phone or email, to continue to worship God and spend time in prayer in our own homes and to live and witness to the faith that is in us, knowing that we are grounded and held together in God.
So, initial thinking is that a weekly newsletter can be produced that includes a pastoral letter, message or reflection from a minister, local preacher or steward and that also enables us to share and celebrate with one another ie, a section for birthdays and anniversaries etc. It could include a section for prayer requests but as this newsletter will be circulated and will go onto the website we need to be aware of our responsibilities around confidentiality and protecting one another’s vulnerability. Over the weeks the newsletter may well develop and others of you may wish to contribute to it.
We can make available website links to worship resources that we can use at home and maybe some of us will wish to do so at 10.30am on a Sunday morning. And maybe there could be something produced locally that is audibly and visually available via the website.
For those of our community who are unable to access email or the internet and who would like to receive printed copies of the newsletter and worship resources it has been suggested that others living nearby might be willing to print and deliver these documents. We can of course print centrally if necessary, but we are going into the realms of effectively being a dispersed church community rather than a gathered one, and keeping things as local as possible does seem to be a more desirable way to go.
To enable us to maintain our community I am wondering if we can get teams of 2 or 3 people who are able to organise between them opportunities for keeping in touch with 8 -12 others. This will enable the scheme to continue if someone becomes ill or is away (if holidays are still going to happen) etc. Keeping in touch may be by phone or email or both depending on the person’s preferences. If you are willing to be someone who keeps in touch, please let me know and we can ensure that this is up and running as soon as possible. I will take into account existing friendships/fellowship groups etc, but we also need to include others on our membership role and those who are not officially members but still very much part of our church.
On a personal note, I am due to start my sabbatical from the first of April, but there is some regret to be leaving you at this difficult and very different time, and part of me that would relish engaging in the need to be creative and develop ways in which we can do church differently.
Joanne will be the first port of call in my absence.
Worship on Sunday 22nd March
Here are some worship resources that you might like to use for your own worship at home:
The above link also also provides details for live-streamed services.
on Free Resources on Worship at Home. This also include
resources for families.
Churches Together in England invite us at 7pm this Sunday, to light a candle in the windows of our homes as a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source and hope in prayer.
And finally, if you have any suggestions that you think will benefit us as a church community and as we continue in seeking to fulfil our church vision; to be a town centre church aiming to radiate God’s love, as revealed in Jesus Christ, for the local community and the wider world. We seek to help people in their search for God through our worship, prayer and action, please let me, Joanne or one of the church steward’s know.
May the Lord bless you and fill you with peace,