2nd July 2020
I hope you are well.
Now we are in July, we are approaching Sea Sunday, July 12th when we remember not only the work of the Mission to Seafarers but, in particular, our dear friend Glyn Jones, their former Secretary General who sadly died on Easter Monday this year, following a long illness. After the success of our online Christian Aid Appeal in May, I thought it would be good to do something similar for the Mission to Seafarers and we are fortunate to have been able to set up an online appeal for their work, in memory of Glyn; if you wish to donate, all you need to do is click on,
And thank you, Ron, for the thoughtful words you wrote about Glyn which are included on this page.
Reflecting upon mission, thank you for your continued fantastic support for Thurrock Foodbank. Items needed this week are sponge puddings, cooking sauces and jellies; shampoo, shower gel, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant and nappies size 4, 5 and 6 are in particularly short supply.
As we prepare to open Bulphan and Horndon Churches for private prayer next week, as below, please can I remind you that this is for individual private prayer with the appropriate 2 metre social distancing in place, and not for social gatherings. Therefore, please could I ask that you adhere to the regulations displayed, to make our worship spaces as safe as possible for all. We all need to be mindful that some people may not feel able or comfortable to return to our church buildings at present and that this may be the case for the foreseeable future and I ask for your continued support in ensuring no one feels excluded.
Bulphan will be open on Monday and Thursday mornings from 10am until 12.00, beginning on Monday 6th July.
Horndon will be open on Tuesday and Saturday mornings from 10am until 12.00 beginning on Tuesday 30th June.
Our 10am Sunday online service will continue this week at hobnob.org.uk/watch or you can join in with our daily Facebook Morning and Evening Prayer services @HOBNOBChurches, and don’t forget you can also access Daily Hope, a free phone line of hymns, reflections and prayers, on 0800 8048044.
As you will be aware, the Government has issued some more information with regard to Sunday worship in our Church buildings and Church of England Guidance on this was released yesterday. I am, currently in the process of assimilating the documents but am looking towards introducing United Benefice Services on a Sunday. Coupled with this, as I have mentioned previously, the Church of England has recognised that out of this COVID-19 crisis, new patterns of ministry have emerged. Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley, said,
‘The crisis is showing patterns that can enable the Church to recapture imaginations with the Gospel……We need to shrug off the instinct for safety and be ready to risk everything-even our bank balances- in the mission that Christ calls us to share with him. But then, since Jesus has already won the victory, what have we got to lose? The Church Times, 26th June, 2020.
I suspect, had it been suggested in January that we abandon all services in our Church buildings for three months and record Sunday services on Youtube, and live-stream Morning and Evening Prayer on Facebook each day, it might have been met with some resistance, not least from me! I am sure that many of us would have been very fearful. In fact, my recollection is that the discussion as to whether we should have a church Facebook page, some time ago, ran into debate of several hours, if one was to total up all the meetings at which it was deliberated! But, actually, since the beginning of the lockdown, online or telephone services for many people have become the norm.
In a study conducted by Tearfund, over a month ago, it was discovered that a quarter of adults in the UK have watched or listened to a religious service since the coronavirus lockdown began, and one in 20 have started praying during the crisis. The Church of England had found high numbers of people tuning into online or broadcast services, and 6,000 people phoned a prayer hotline in its first 48 hours of operation. A third of young adults aged between 18 and 34 had watched or listened to an online or broadcast religious service, compared with one in five adults over the age of 55. One in five of those who have tuned into services in the past few weeks say they have never gone to church.
So I think it can be said that the Church, generally, as well as locally, has risen to the occasion and in this Benefice I thank you for your support. We now, thanks to the help of Lynda Robertson, have nearly 300 people on our church data base and we also have 176 followers on our Facebook page. You may be aware that, on average, each day, between 20 and 30 people have joined in with our Morning or Evening Prayer services. And each Sunday, usually between 15 and 38 households worship with our online service.
You may, also, however, be aware of the concerning financial situation within the Church of England, and that clergy posts in our Diocese are in the process of being coded as Green, Amber or Red, with Green meaning a post is viable, Amber it is desirable, finances permitting, and Red, it is no longer viable. Ability to pay our share will be one factor taken into consideration with what has been termed the ‘RAG’ process, but the main factor is whether a post is of strategic importance, hence we need to be looking, seriously, at our strategies in this Benefice, in order to engage as many people as possible with the good news of the Gospel. It is a well-known fact that, prior to the coronavirus, Church of England Sunday church attendance was in steady decline but the above statistics reveal that hunger for God is not waning. Through this terrible pandemic I do believe that ‘God has revealed to the Church new insights and new ways of being faithful to the Gospel.’ The Church Times 26th June 2020.
The question for us now is, how do we move forward?
Friends, I believe this is a time of great opportunity; opportunity to reflect upon our current way of doing things, in order to share the love of Jesus with as wide a range of people as possible and this may mean, using the analogy of of abseiling, leaning back into the unknown from a somewhat scary precipice, trusting in the rope, the hands of the Almighty, in order to experience the exhilaration of the new adventure with God which, potentially, lies before us.
As I said in my letter a few weeks ago, we have beautiful, historic buildings which have been cherished and nurtured for centuries, and within which prayers have been offered to God by people through many generations, for which we are thankful. Our buildings are important sacred spaces, and, in another survey, recently carried out by Andrew Village and Leslie Francis, 67% of church people regarded buildings to be central to the Church’s witness but another 63% also believe now to be time to rethink the church’s future…..
So how do we use and share our buildings but, also, how do we move away from our dependence upon them and our expectation that people will come to them on a Sunday morning?
How, when and where do we do church in a manageable way, in order both to fulfil the needs of current members and engage with the many others in our communities who are searching for God?
How, moving forward, do we conduct worship in a meaningful, inclusive way, whilst embracing some elements of technology because, clearly, we live in a digital age?
These are hard questions which, if we are to be sustainable in the future, we cannot avoid addressing.
I understand that many of us are looking forward to returning to our buildings but we also need to learn from the past three months. I believe we have risen to the challenges the coronavirus has imposed upon us, and that we can rise to the challenges of what might God might be calling us to embrace now as the ‘new normal.’
In order to consider how we might approach the future for our church community and our worship, I will be sending out an online survey for completion in the next few weeks and ask that you do take the time to prayerfully consider and answer the questions. I invite you, whatever your age, to join me in this new adventure as, together, we stand at the top of a precipice ready to trust the arms of our loving Father, as we step, or even leap, into the unknown, knowing that God will never leave us or forsake us.
The Lectionary readings for the coming week are:
|Sunday 4th Sunday after Trinity
|Psalm: 55 1-15, 18-22 Deut: 24: 10-end; Acts 28: 1-16
|Psalm: 56; 2 Samuel 2: 1-11; 3.1 Luke 18: 31-19.10
|Monday 6th Thomas More, scholar, and John Fisher, bishop, martyrs, 1535
|Psalm: 80; Judges 13: 1-24 Luke 17: 20-end
|Psalm: 85; Job 33 Romans 14: 13-end
|Psalm: 89: 1-18; Judges 14 Luke 18: 1-14
|Psalm: 89: 19-end; Job 38 Romans 15: 1-13
|Psalm: 119: 105-128 Judges 15: 1-16.3; Luke 18: 15-30
|Psalm: 91; Job 39 Romans 15: 14-21
|Psalm: 92; Judges 16: 4-end Luke 18: 31-end
|Psalm: 94; Job 40 Romans 15: 22-end
|Psalm: 88; Judges 17 Luke 19: 1-10
|Psalm: 102; Job 41 Romans 16: 1-16
|Saturday 11th Benedict, abbot, c.550
|Psalm: 97; Judges 18: 1-20, 27-end; Luke 19: 11-27
|Psalm: 104; Job 42 Romans: 16: 17-end
Local prayer needs this week include Nicola, Hazel, Dave, Steve, Steve, Jane, Dawn, Lyn, Roy, Mark, Derek and Alastair. Please continue to pray for those recently bereaved, including the family of Colin, Suzarne’s brother-in-law and, in particular, Colin’s wife, Diane, also our former Archdeacon, Mina, and her husband, Chris, following the tragic death of their two daughters in a London park, and those affected by the stabbings in Reading and Glasgow. Louise Bradshaw and Kevin McAlpin are due to be married this Saturday, so please hold them in your prayers. We are also asked to pray for the work of the Hockerill Foundation, which provides grants to teachers in training from this Diocese, St Albans’ Diocese and others, especially those studying Religious Education. We are also asked to pray for the United Church of Pakistan, the Most Reverend Humphrey Peters, Moderator and Bishop of Peshawar.
As ever, please continue to let me know about any prayer or pastoral needs and be assured of my prayers for all of you.
Take care and God bless,