Coronavirus Update, 06.07.20
Please pray with thanksgiving that worship inside St Michael’s resumed on Sunday 5th July, and Holy Communion was celebrated for the first time since March. Thank God for the smooth running of the services and the joy of being able to gather again. Please pray for our ongoing worshipping life, both in church, and via Zoom for those not yet able to worship in person. Please pray that we can continue developing procedures for safe and confident worship in the building, as circumstances evolve, and hopefully ease, in weeks and months to come. Our current approach can be found here:
St Michael's Parish Church Risk Assessment, 4th July 2020
Guidance Notes for Church Reopening, 4th July 2020
Please pray for ways to link our worship in the building to worship at home on Zoom, as we experiment, learn and feel our way forwards gradually. Thank you, Derwyn.
Coronavirus Update, 04.07.20
St Michael's will be open on Sunday 5th July for public worship. A said service of Holy Communion will be held at 8am and a Service of the Word will be held at 10am and will also be available via Zoom (see Calendar for details). Social distancing and infection control measures will be in place.
Coronavirus Update, 30.06.20
Please pray for the development and implementation of plans to re-establish public worship in
St Michael’s soon. Initial proposals to enable those who wish to, to come to church for worship, were distributed today.
The document sought to identify potential risks and put measures in place to minimize them. I would like us to resume public worship at St Michael’s from 5 July 2020. Our experience of opening the church for personal prayer, and the stewarding regime implemented to enable this, puts us in a good position to introduce similar safety measures, to ensure public worship is conducted and attended appropriately.
[THAT DOCUMENT, Towards Public Worship at St Michael's,
IS NOW SUPERSEDED BY THE RISK ASSESSMENT AND GUIDANCE NOTES ABOVE SO HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THE WEBSITE].
I hope this framework can enable us to begin worshipping again in the church on 5 July. It can be developed as guidance is received and experience builds.
Derwyn Williams, Vicar.
Version as at 30.6.20
Coronavirus Update, 14.06.20
St Michael's Church will be open for private prayer as from Monday June 15th. The Church will be open daily from 11am to 1pm. Social distancing and infection control measures will be in place and stewards will be in attendance to provide assistance if needed. For the moment, worship services will continue to be held via the Zoom platform (see the Church Calendar for further details).
Coronavirus Update, 12.06.20
A PLACE TO PRAY
I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the LORD. Psalm 122.1
I wonder how you are, all these months into the pandemic? I wonder what you’ve been through, how you feel, what you need?
Maybe you’re striving to get back into the world of work, or hoping children can get to school. Maybe you’re recovering from the effects of Covid, or grieving a loved one’s death. Maybe you’re feeling sad that you haven’t hugged a family member or friend since March. Or maybe you’re thankful, that life, health and sanity, income and calm have more-or-less stayed with you in this strange time.
However it’s been, maybe you’d value a place to be still, to think, reflect or pray. A moment to find peace, open your heart and pour out to Jesus your thoughts and feelings. Maybe a time to connect with God and seek his guiding and strengthening Spirit, for what lies ahead for us all.
We can do this anywhere, of course. But one great sadness for me has been the closure of our churches in these days. Just when people might most value a space to be still and calm, a place which was built to say that God knows us and loves us, and that Jesus is with us in everything, those very buildings have been locked up, and access denied.
Thankfully, an end to this is in sight. We are developing plans for safe opening of St Michael’s for individual, socially-distanced prayer. Please consult the website, or church noticeboards, for details of opening times, when this becomes possible. I hope that gently, gradually, we can build confidence about coming out and being in church again, and finding it a place of peace, light and hope.
I know that some people will take longer to want to do this than others. That is absolutely fine. Especially, of course, where parishioners are ill, frail or elderly. And, of course, no one who develops symptoms must enter the building, to protect everyone who does. I pray that as Covid infection rates lower and death rates fall, we will all grow in confidence to live more normal lives. But it will take time, and we will move at various speeds. Whatever we choose to do, or not to do, may we have confidence in our own decisions, as we take note of Paul’s exhortation:
Let everyone be fully convinced in their own mind. Romans 14.5
And if we do choose to make use of St Michael’s to pray, sooner or later, please let’s remember everyone who would love to visit the church again, and pray that one day soon we can all worship together there once more, safely, confidently and joyfully.
Rev'd Derwyn Williams, Vicar, St Michael’s
Coronavirus Update, 13.05.20
Encourage one another and build one another up…be patient with all. (I Thessalonians 5)
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5.22)
When I teach people about the Holy Spirit in nurture groups, I often do an exercise based on the fruit of the Spirit. Which of these fruits, I ask, do you begin to see developing in your life? Which of these fruits would you like to ask God to help grow in you more abundantly? Which do you most need his help with?
Very often, patience is the fruit people long for more of. Patience is the one they feel they lack. I wonder if you would be among them? I wonder how your patience is being tested, holding up, or fraying, as coronavirus restrictions endure?
It’s clear we’ll need to be patient for a good while longer. Patient, as we wait for society, shops, schools, churches, life itself to open up, bit by bit. Patient, as more people suffer illness, and tragically, as people continue to die.
Patient with our fears, our pains, our griefs, our losses, our uncertainties, our separations, our isolation. Patient with our decision-makers, patient with ourselves, when we want change to be faster, patient with God.
It isn’t easy to be patient, but it can be a gift and a grace. It was in the wilderness that Israel learnt, over their meandering journey, to be God’s people, to trust and to wait. And it was in his own wilderness time that Jesus came very close to his Father, and tested his own sense of being God’s Son.
I’m waiting patiently to see how church life can resume some of the activities which normally sustain us. Waiting patiently and painfully until we can break bread together once more. It isn’t easy. It irritates and tests and strains. I do hope before long I can share more about how the future will begin to look, what opportunities it will offer, what challenges it will contain. But for the moment, much of life feels still in limbo. I simply have to wait.
So for now I have to be patient. And grateful for the good things that reveal themselves in a wilderness time. People reaching out with love and encouragement. Faithfulness shown in the ongoing prayer and worship we can still enjoy. The offering of time and talents in neighbourly service and outreach, and our online worship. Space to pray, slow down and reconnect with Jesus. The testing of the wilderness can be the very season when we come closest to God.
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, for Jesus shows us that God is faithful. And when your patience does fray, like mine, let’s ask for a fresh anointing of the Spirit, for he knows our weaknesses, and intercedes for us always. And remember:
We know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5.3-5.)
With my patient prayers and blessing,
Coronavirus Update, 11.04.20
EASTER MESSAGE 2020
‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’. I Corinthians 15.54-57.
Death has featured heavily in the news this Holy Week. The Covid-19 death toll is a daily feature of the bulletins, with discussion of its rise or fall, and the possible implications.
Death has come to people we know, or have heard of. It has threatened our Prime Minister and, for many, it has loomed over people we are close to or acquainted with.
Even if death has not come so very near to us, we live with its fear overshadowing our lives. It hems us in to our homes, keeps our children from the experiences of school, limits our activities, and prevents us living life to the full. It clouds the world’s future with uncertainty and anxiety.
Death feels pretty powerful right now. It seems in control of the narrative.
But on Sunday we’ll tell a different story.
Death claimed Jesus. Evil struck him down and seemed to have wiped him out. He was dead and buried. Forgotten by his enemies, remembered only by a sorry bunch of grieving weaklings. Death had triumphed. Death was the boss. Or so it seemed.
Until, in a garden, in an upper room, on a beach and on a journey, life broke in again to those sorry weaklings’ lives. Life that was new, unbreakable, different and inspiring. Life that was eternal – the life of God revealed in the resurrection of Jesus. Life that was stronger than death. Life that told the true story of what we were made for, what we will receive, where we are going. Life that was, and is, resurrection.
Perhaps death just seems to be lurking in the shadows, or maybe it’s rushed up and is shaking you by the shoulders this Holy Week. Wherever death is: hear Jesus’ story, cherish it, let it speak to your heart this Easter. Let it into your life, to stir you, comfort you, refresh you and renew you. Let its power flood you anew. For ultimately it’s death which is going to die.
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, my beloved sisters and brothers, be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain. I Corinthians 15.57-58.
With my prayers and blessing this Easter,
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.