Following the Government announcement on 23rd March 2020, the Church building is now closed until further notice and there are no public services taking place. The Church is now operating online, through networks of prayer and mutual support for our congregation and our community, and via online worship meetings and events on the Zoom platform (see the Church Calendar for further details). Prayer and scripture resources are being distributed to members of the congregation by email, and the Vicar is issuing short meditations which are available on the purple Recent Media tab.
There are also other recorded sermons and audio resources.
Meanwhile, as a reminder of what the inside of our Church building looks like, please see our virtual tour.
Coronavirus Update, 04.04.20
HOLY WEEK 2020
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53.3-6
I can’t imagine there’ll ever be another Holy Week like the one just ahead of us this year. Certainly, I hope not. It will be so strange and painful being apart. It will be so sad, not being able to gather in church, to mark the ceremonies of this special time of year. It will be hard not being able to pray to God about all the current sufferings and anxieties of the world, in the place specially consecrated for that very purpose. It will be agony on Easter Day not to be able to share the good news of resurrection, which the world so needs to hear right now, in the presence of Christ’s body, the community of the church.
Yet the story, and the message, of this pivotal week remain the same. However we must spend the coming days, and wherever we are constrained to be, God wants us to hear the same Gospel which we share every Holy Week. The good news that Jesus came to share all our sufferings. To stand among us and alongside us in all the pain and hurt of the human condition. To soak up all the wickedness and sin of the world, taking it upon himself, so that we might each be freed, ultimately, from all the ravages of evil and death. Jesus came to lay down his life: freely, generously, graciously, so that after taking it up again in the resurrection, he could share that life with all who come to him.
How the world needs to hear that right now. How we all need to hear it again, in our own suffering, worry or isolation. How good it would be if we can share our faith in this Gospel, by our words and deeds and attitudes, in this time of crisis and despair. Please, O God, help us do that.
We can’t worship in St Michael’s this Holy Week. But we can worship in our hearts and homes. Maybe worship in those private places more deeply than ever before, as we hear of rising death tolls, a ravaged economy, strain and stress for so many people. For among all the news stories with their tidings of woe, there is another story – of undefeatable love, of life that cannot be destroyed – of hope that will never be overcome. It’s the story of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and it’s the story we all need to hear.
Do have a think about how you’ll spend this strange Holy Week. What you’ll listen to, who you’ll talk to, what you’ll say, how you’ll pray. Maybe access our ZOOM worship meetings. Maybe use the daily prayer and scripture resources. Maybe read a Gospel from start to finish. Maybe use Church of England resources on the web, or maybe do your own thing. Whatever you do, may the power of Christ’s cross and the new life of resurrection come into your hearts and homes, and spread outwards to touch our world.
Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him to the Gentiles, and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days, he will rise. Mark 9.33-34.
With my prayers and blessing,
Coronavirus Update, 25.03.20
How lonely sits the city that was full of people. How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the cities. Lamentations 1.1
I write soon after fixing a notice to the church door to say that the building is closed. One of the saddest things I’ve done in ministry. The streets are pretty much empty. No planes fly in the skies. I can hear the birds singing more than normally. People are in their homes, apart from shopping, exercise, medical care and vital work.
Much of the normal life of the church, and much of the world, has been put on pause. It feels eerie, uncomfortable and strange. I really don’t like it at all. But I wonder if we can do some key things in these days.
Can we pray: that this government policy will indeed reduce pressure on the NHS, slow the spread of Covid-19 and save lives? Pray for doctors and nurses, the sick and the worried in the work, pain and anxiety they experience?
Can we invoke the Holy Spirit: against the destructive impact on mental health, relationships, jobs and the economy which this season is going to have. Intercede: that the vulnerable of every kind be preserved from all forms of evil, in these days and their long aftermath?
And in due time, not seeking to do more than we can sustain, or attempt to do everything at once:
Can we ask: what might I be able to do to help someone who finds themselves in need because of this virus: tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year?
Can we reach out: though a phone call, an electronic message, or even a good old-fashioned card or letter. Is there someone we can contact, to let them know they matter, and in their isolation we still love them, think of them and want to share fellowship with them?
Can we allay our fears: maybe just do one key thing each day that opposes this epidemic and its effects, in God’s name. Don’t worry that we’re not doing enough – there is no ‘enough’ that ever could be done, humanly speaking. But there is one who can do everything needful.
So, like Mary, who said her great, scary, glorious, bewildered ‘yes’ to God on this day, can we trust that:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3.22
With my prayers for all of you,
25.3.20, Feast of the Annunciation.
Coronavirus Update, 19.03.20
The LORD is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life: of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27.1
It has been uplifting to receive many messages, emails and phone calls of encouragement and thanks these past few days. And to feel tangibly the prayer that unites us all, whether we are separated physically, or can sometimes still be physically present, relatively near to one another.
I’m very conscious of the situation of those of you who are isolated, and want to re-emphasise my prayers and those of the church for you all. I’m encouraged by all who have offered help, and have been undertaking acts of mercy. If you could use some help, even just to receive a phone call and have a chat, do contact us, don’t hesitate, and we will put you in touch with known church members who have offered to be available at this time.
I’m aware too of the questions and dilemmas some church members are having about what they should or should not be doing, where they should be going and where avoiding, at this moment. Please can we pray for peace and calm of mind for us all, as we place these choices and struggles in God’s hands and seek his guidance.
I want to encourage us to pray and reflect, and, God willing, will be sending out a daily prayer and scripture passage in case this is helpful, particularly to those who are at home. It may be something to unite us, even when we cannot all be physically together. There will be links to other prayer resources too.
For those who can still get out and about, I want you to know the church remains open, as a place for prayer, reflection, quiet and peace. We ask people to maintain suitable social distancing within the building. But it can also be a place for godly conversation and mutual encouragement when people do meet there, and I hope fellowship, however impaired and ad hoc, will go on within St Michael’s. We need to support one another and interact, whether through email, phone calls, cards, other electronic means, or if we are able to be present to other people (albeit 3 steps apart). If you are not isolating it would be lovely if you can use the church to pray sometimes.
It may help you to know that the round of daily prayer at 8.45-9.15 goes on every weekday morning in church. Perhaps you could make that a time for your own prayers. Although services of the sort we are used to are on hold, and all rota duties are cancelled, priests can celebrate the eucharist (communion). I know I need the strength of the sacrament to sustain me more than ever in these testing times. I will, God willing, look to maintain my regular eucharistic schedule of Wednesdays at 10 a.m., and Sundays at 8 and 10 a.m. in church. Wherever you are, you may again like to consider sharing some common prayer time during these hours.
A word about an initiative for this Sunday, Lent 4, Mothering Sunday. The Archbishops have called for this to be a day of prayer and action, to remember especially those who are sick or anxious, and all involved in our Health Service. As one action, they 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.
As I urged in an earlier email, please keep loving your neighbours, trusting in God and strong in prayer. We are looking to establish a Prayer Chain to further strengthen our prayer ministry. Please let the church, both community and building, act as a beacon of hope, and please let us keep strong in faith. We do not know what the future holds, individually or corporately. We may yet face further restrictions on our lives, due to illness, individual decision or government diktat. But while we can, let us do what we can, wisely, lovingly, boldly and faithfully.
Jesus said, ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’ John 14.27
May God bless us all,
Coronavirus Update, 17.03.20
God is our refuge and strength: a very present help in trouble.
I had been planning to send out a message to the Parish urging us, as far as possible, to keep calm and carry on with our Christian living and serving in the current season of concern.
In the light of the Prime Minister's statement on Monday 16 March I need to revise what I had planned to share.
I have become aware of increasing numbers of parishioners who are self-isolating in recent days: and that is now set to increase considerably, especially among the older members of the church and those with medical conditions. At the same time those who are still out and about due to school and work commitments are urged to reduce their scope for transmission of the Coronavirus through interaction.
I am awaiting Church of England guidance as to the implications of all this for church services and activities. This guidance is due on Thursday 19 March, I understand, and I will be in touch after receiving this.
I can’t yet therefore answer all the questions people will have about what will and what will not happen, in the coming days, week and months.
But I want to urge the following:
Please pray: whether you are in isolation, or know people who are. Let us uphold one another in our intercessions. I attach again our Lent devotion sheet, which may have helpful suggestions and resources. There are many resources online, particularly on the Church of England website, among them the Archbishops' #LiveLent 2020. I suspect individual prayer, sometimes resourced electronically, will become an important tool in these days.
Please love your neighbours: Are there people you can reach out to, with a phone call, or some other form of message? We may not be able to meet, but can we still pass on our love, offers of prayer, and concern? If you are still able to be out and about, is there practical help you can offer? Do let us know if you’d be available in this way. The church can’t meet all the needs and requests we may become aware of, but if we can link some people in need with folk able to offer it, we’ll be being faithful to Christ’s command.
Let the church be a beacon of hope: Some parishioners may not be able to come for a while, but if you can see the church or visualise it, let it be a symbol of our hope in God, both in and beyond this world. I don’t yet know exactly what will be able to go on in St Michael’s in the short and medium term. But I’m determined to do all possible to keep it open as a place for prayer, peace, calm and godly conversation. As long as I am fit and able I’ll personally be there for much of the coming days, enabling what prayer and worship I can to continue. If you are out and about please know that St Michael’s is there as a place to bring our hopes and fears, our longings and joys, and seek God’s guidance and comfort.
Keep strong in faith: Remember that Jesus said, ‘In the world you have tribulation. But do not fear: I have overcome the world.’
I will be in touch when I can share more news. In the meantime please be aware of my prayers for all our church community, and the wider town and world, in this strange season.