Tag Archives: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updates relating to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Sue Mann

9th July 2020

 9th July 2020

Dear All,

Having written a long letter last week, this week’s message is brief in comparison and, as things unfold, whilst I will remain in touch to keep you informed, it is unlikely that I will be writing on a weekly basis, from now on, although I am aware that some of you like to receive Lectionary Readings, so I will give this some thought…

On  Sunday 19th July, we will be holding our first church service in the Benefice since the beginning of the lockdown. This will be  a short Holy Communion Service at Orsett Church at 10am. Please be aware that, at this stage, no singing is allowed and that social distancing and the necessary precautions will be in place. If this works efficiently, the plan is to hold weekly United Benefice services alternating between Orsett and Horndon so, all being well, the following week, on 26th  July, the service will be at Horndon. Because of the small size of Bulphan  Church and the fact that it is not possible to introduce  a one-way system, Sunday services will not be held at Bulphan at this present time. However, Bulphan Church will continue to be open for individual private prayer on Monday and Thursday mornings between 10am and 12.00, along with Horndon on Tuesday and Saturday mornings, also from 10am until 12.00.

Having a booking system for church services  seems contrary to the ethos of being welcoming, particularly to newcomers. However, it would be helpful if you could let me know whether you intend to come to church on 19th and how many members of your household this might include. Please could you also let me know if, at this stage, you  don’t feel ready to come back to church so that we can plan accordingly; my contact details are at the top of this letter. If you are coming, you may wish to bring your own bible, to follow the readings as our pew bibles have been put away for the time being.

This Sunday will be our last online service in its present form, as we begin returning to church. However, I am  considering how we might be able to record or livestream our church services in the future so that those of you who are not comfortable or able to return to public worship might still be able to share in the worship. I will keep you informed about progress which will require some thought as none of our churches currently have wifi. At the moment we will continue the livestreamed Morning and Evening Prayer and it is hoped that  we may be able to continue some of these services in the future and, again, I will keep you informed, in due course, as to when and how often we might be able to do this.

Our online service this Sunday, as mentioned in last week’s letter, will celebrate The Mission to Seafarers when we remember the work of our dear friend, Glyn Jones, their former Secretary General. If you would like to make a donation to the Mission to Seafarers,  you can click on,

You can also  find out about The Mission to Seafarers Sunday Online Service at

With regard to the foodbank, needs this week include savoury treats for adults ie cheese biscuits, cream crackers or savoury biscuits, breakfasat bars, cheese twirls, breadsticks etc and they are also short of tinned rice. sponge puddings, tinned fruit (preferably not peaches), custard and jelly.

The Lectionary Readings for this week, beginning 13th July, are

DAYMorning PrayerEvening Prayer
Monday 13th   Psalm: 98; 1 Samuel 1: 1-20 Luke 19: 28-40Psalm: 105; Ezekiel 1: 1-14; 2 Cor 1: 1-14
Tuesday 14th  Psalm: 106; 1 Samuel 1: 21-2.11; Luke 19: 41-endPsalm: 107; Ezekiel 1: 15-2.2 2 Cor 1: 15-2.4
Wednesday 15th Psalm: 111; 1 Samuel 2: 12-26 Luke 20: 1-8Psalm: 119: 129-152; Ezekiel 2: 3 – 3.11; 2 Cor 2: 5-end
Thursday 16th Osmund, bishop, 1099Psalm: 115; 1 Samuel 2: 27-end; Luke 20: 9-19Psalm: 116; Ezekiel 3: 12-end 2 Cor 3
Friday 17thPsalm: 139; 1 Samuel 3: 1 – 4.1a; Luke 20: 20-26Psalm: 130; Ezekiel 8 2 Cor 4
Saturday 18th  Psalm: 121; 1 Samuel 4.1b-end; Luke 20: 27-40Psalm: 118; Ezekiel 9 2 Cor 5

Don’t forget you can also access Daily Hope, a free phone line of hymns, reflections and prayers, on 0800 8048044.

Local prayer needs this week include Nicola, Hazel, Dave, Steve, Steve, Jane, Dawn and Roy. Please pray for those affected by the crane collapse on the houses in Bow. And, of course, we remember all those whose lives are lived on God’ s great oceans and we give thanks for the work and inspiration of The Mission to Seafarers and pray for all agencies who work amongst seafarers. You may like to use the following prayer in your personal devotions.

Lord God, Creator of land and sea, bless those who work at sea. Be with them in fair weather and foul, in danger or distress. Strengthen them when weary, lift them up when down and comfort them when far from their loved ones. In this life, bring them safely to shore and, in the life to come, welcome them to your kingdom. For Jesus Christ’s sake, Amen. (From the Mission to Seafarers).

Thank you, so much, to all of you who during the past 4 months, have faithfully kept an eye on the Churches in the Benefice, tended the churchyards, phoned parishioners, delivered letters, cakes and shopping to others, assisted with readings and prayers for our online services and Max, with talks, and, more recently, thank you to those who have helped with risk assessments and cleaning in preparation for reopening. And, of course, your continued great support for Thurrock Foodbank, who anticipate an increased demand for the foreseeable future is greatly appreciated.

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,

Sue

Sue Mann

2nd July 2020

2nd July 2020

Dear All,

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:

DAYMorning PrayerEvening Prayer
Sunday 4th Sunday after TrinityPsalm: 55 1-15, 18-22 Deut:  24: 10-end; Acts 28: 1-16Psalm: 56; 2 Samuel 2: 1-11; 3.1 Luke 18: 31-19.10
Monday 6th  Thomas More, scholar, and John Fisher, bishop, martyrs, 1535Psalm: 80; Judges 13: 1-24 Luke 17: 20-endPsalm: 85; Job 33 Romans 14: 13-end
Tuesday 7th  Psalm: 89: 1-18; Judges 14 Luke 18: 1-14Psalm: 89: 19-end; Job 38 Romans 15: 1-13
Wednesday 8th   Psalm: 119: 105-128 Judges 15: 1-16.3; Luke 18: 15-30Psalm: 91; Job 39 Romans 15: 14-21
Thursday 9th  Psalm: 92; Judges 16: 4-end Luke 18: 31-endPsalm: 94; Job 40 Romans 15: 22-end
Friday 10thPsalm: 88; Judges 17 Luke 19: 1-10Psalm: 102; Job 41 Romans 16: 1-16
Saturday 11th Benedict, abbot, c.550Psalm: 97; Judges 18: 1-20, 27-end; Luke 19: 11-27Psalm: 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,

Sue

Sue Mann

26th June 2020

26th June 2020

Dear All,

I hope you are remaining well.

I am delighted that, thanks to those of you who have worked hard to clean, all our churches  are ready to open for individual private prayer, as follows.

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. (Please note that whilst we fully intend, in the future, to reinstate the ‘open church’ coffee mornings,when safe to do so, at present this is not allowed and the church will be open for individual private prayer only.)

In addition, St John’s Church, Corringham, will be open on Wednesday mornings from 10am until 12.00, beginning on Wednesday 1st July and St Margaret’s Church, Stanford-le-Hope, will be open on Friday mornings at the same time, beginning on Friday 3rd July.

Funerals, weddings and baptisms are now permitted with the appropriate restrictions in place which, at the current time, in this Benefice, will be conducted mostly at Horndon and Orsett due to  their larger buildings.  I am sure you will also be aware that the Government has stated that Sunday  worship is permitted to begin  at the beginning of July. Please note that they have said permitted, not mandatory, and whilst I know some of you may be  keen to begin worshipping in church again, I am asking for your patience as  we begin to consider when and how it might be safe and appropriate to do this and what form worship might take within the current restrictions. For example, we will not be able to have hymns books or service books and, whilst  church liturgy is familiar to  some people, it is not familiar to everyone. This will, therefore, require some prayer and creativity if we are to continue to make our services engaging for all as I hope, together, we have achieved during the lockdown.  Certainly I have received some positive feedback and, as churches we have been encouraged by the Bishops to build upon the positive things that have been learned during the lockdown. So please can I ask for your prayer and support in this matter.

Last week I sent a list of 6 questions for us to use as a template for our Benefice response to the Diocesan appeal for our views  regarding the kind of person we think  would be  appropriate as our new Bishop of Chelmsford. The deadline for  your responses was today, 26th June and, as yet, only one person has replied! You may have  already sent your own personal response to the Diocese following my previous mailing, but, if you haven’t, please could I ask you to give the questions below some consideration and send me your thoughts on one or all of them by tomorrow, 27th June.

  1. Can you tell us what you value most about the Church in your community as well as across Essex and East London?
  2. What challenges does the Church face in East London and Essex as we seek to share the Good News of Jesus?
  3. What wider issues would you like our next Bishop of Chelmsford to be passionate about?
  4. What qualities, skills or leadership characteristics will our next Bishop of Chelmsford require?
  5. What kind of person will our next Bishop of Chelmsford need to be (particularly as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic)?
  6. What else would you like to tell us?

The Lectionary Readings for the week beginning 28th  June are, as follows.

DAYMorning PrayerEvening Prayer
Monday 29th  Saint Peter & Paul, ApostlesPsalm: 71, 113,Isaiah 49: 1-6 John 21: 15-22Psalm: 124, 138, Ezekiel 34: 11-16 Psalm: 125
Tuesday 30th  Psalm: 73, Judges 9: 1-21 Luke 15: 11-endPsalm: 74, Job 28 Romans 12: 1-8
Wednesday 1st  Henry, John and Henry Venn, priests, evangelical divines, 1797, 1813, 1873Psalm: 77, Judges 9: 22-end Luke 16: 1-18Psalm: 119: 81-104 Job 29, Romans 12: 9-end
Thursday 2nd 1st EP of Thomas the ApostlePsalm: 78: 1-39, Judges 11: 1-11 Luke 16: 19-endPsalm: 27, Isaiah: 35 Hebrews 10: 35-11.1
Friday 3rd  Thomas the ApostlePsalm: 92, 146, 2 Samuel: 15: 17-21, John 11: 1-16Psalm: 139, Job 42: 1-6 1 Peter 1: 3-12
Saturday 4thPsalm: 76, Judges 12: 1-7 Luke 17: 11-19Psalm: 84, Job 32 Romans: 14: 1-12

Also,  a reminder that, if you are unable to access our online services at hobnob.org.uk/watch or our Facebook services @HOBNOBChurches, you can access Daily Hope, a free phone line of hymns, reflections and prayers, on 0800 8048044.

Thank you for your loyal support for the Foodbank. Items  needed this week are brown sauce, gravy granules, ketchup,  stuffing,  jelly cubes, sponge puddings, shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap and handwash.

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 the park in Reading. Louise Bradshaw and Kevin McAlpin are due to be married at Bulphan on 4th July, so please hold them in your prayers. We are also asked to pray for the Friends of Essex Churches Trust, The United Church of North India and The Most Reverend Dr Prem Chand Singh, Moderator and Bishop of Jabaipur.

As ever, please continue to let me know about any prayer or pastoral needs and please be assured of my prayers for all of you.

Take care and God bless,

Sue

Sue Mann

19th June 2020

19th June 2020

Dear All,

Over the past week I have been meeting with wardens to do risk assessments for when the church buildings re-open and I am pleased to let you know that, from the beginning of July, the churches in the Benefice will be open for funerals, albeit, with  necessary restrictions in place, to enable social distancing etc. Because Bulphan Church is small with only one aisle, and unable to support a one-way system it will, at present, only be used for funeral services after which there is a burial in the churchyard.

With regard to churches opening for individual private prayer,

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. (Please note that whilst we fully intend, in the future, to reinstate the ‘open church’ coffee mornings,when safe to do so, at present this is not allowed and the church will be open for individual private prayer only.)

In addition, St John’s Church, Corringham, will be open on Wednesday mornings from 10am until 12.00, beginning on Wednesday 1st July and St Margaret’s Church, Stanford-le-Hope, will be open on Friday mornings at the same time, beginning on Friday 3rd July.

You may remember a few weeks ago, I sent you some information about the discernment process to appoint our new Bishop of Chelmsford. I hope that some of you might have sent a response, and, if you have, thank you for taking the time to pray and consider this. If you haven’t had a chance to do it yet, there is still  an opportunity and I am planning to send a response from our Benefice at the end of June so would be grateful for any answers to the  questions below by next Friday 26th June. It is important that we send  our views so, even if you only have  an answer to one of the questions, please send it to me and I will make sure I include it with our submission. You can email me, phone, or put a note through the door. The questions are,

  1. Can you tell us what you value most about the Church in your community as well as across Essex and East London?
  2. What challenges does the Church face in East London and Essex as we seek to share the Good News of Jesus?
  3. What wider issues would you like our next Bishop of Chelmsford to be passionate about?
  4. What qualities, skills or leadership characteristics will our next Bishop of Chelmsford require?
  5. What kind of person will our next Bishop of Chelmsford need to be (particularly as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic)?
  6. What else would you like to tell us?

The Lectionary Readings for the week beginning 22nd  June are, as follows.

DayMorning PrayerEvening Prayer
Monday 22nd Alban, first martyr of Britain, c250Psalm: 44, Judges 2, Luke 13: 1-9Psalm: 47, Job 19, Romans 9: 1-18
Tuesday 23rd Etheldra, abbess, c678. 1st EP of Birth of John the BaptistPsalm: 48, Judges 4: 1-23 Luke 12: 13-21Psalm: 71, Judges 13: 2-7,24-end Luke 1: 5-25
Wednesday 24th Birth of John the Baptist Ember DayPsalms: 50, 149, Ecclesiasticus 48: 1-10, Luke 3: 1-17Psalms: 80, 82, Malachi 4 Matthew 11: 2-19
Thursday 25th  Psalm: 57, Judges 6: 1-24 Luke 14: 1-11Psalm: 62, Job: 23 Romans 10: 11-end
Friday 26th Ember DayPsalm: 51, Judges 6: 25-end Luke 14: 12-24Psalm: 38, Job 24 Romans 11: 1-12
Saturday 27th Cyril, bishop, teacher of the faith, 444. Ember DayPsalm: 68, Judges 7 Luke 14: 25-endPsalm: 66, Job 25-26 Romans: 11: 13-24

Also, to let you know that, if you are unable to access our online services at hobnob.org.uk/watch or our Facebook services @HOBNOBChurches, you can access Daily Hope, a free phone line of hymns, reflections and prayers, on 0800 8048044, and when you phone you will hear a welcome message from the Archbishop of Canterbury!!

Items urgently needed at the Foodbank this week are brown sauce, gravy granules, jelly, ketchup, sponge puddings and toiletries. Thank you, so much, for your  ongoing practical and prayer support; it is greatly appreciated.

Local prayer needs this week include Nicola, Hazel, Dave, Steve, Steve, Jane, Dawn, Lyn and Roy.  Please also continue to pray for those recently bereaved, including our former Archdeacon, Mina, and her husband, Chris, following the tragic  death of their two daughters in a London park. Please pray for our local area coordinators and local councillors. As well as being Father’s Day, this Sunday is Refugee Sunday,  when we are called to hold before God all those who flee to other countries, or are internally displaced within their own country, due to famine, plagues, war, persecution, discrimination, natural disasters  like floods and earthquakes, or to escape dire poverty. We are asked to pray for all organisations, churches and communities who are working tirelessly to care for refugees. Other prayer requests, as part of the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer, are for the Anglican Church in Nigeria and the Most Revd Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba, Metropolitan and Primate, and, of course, the current discernment process to find the right person to serve us as  the Bishop of Chelmsford and East London.

As ever, please continue to let me know about any prayer or pastoral needs; please be assured of my prayers for all of you and know that each one of you is deeply loved by God.

Take care and God bless,

Sue

Revd Sue Mann

11th June 2020

Dear All,

This week, you have probably heard the news from the Government, that churches may open for individual prayer, from 15th June and that funerals can take place in church, with very clear instructions regarding how social distancing, etc. must be implemented. The wardens and I are currently in discussion and will be doing the necessary risk assessments to assess how we might best move forward. We are also in liaison with the other churches in the area; I will keep you informed but am sure you will  understand that there are many factors which need to be considered and that  we have a responsibility to ensure that people are kept safe, so  this may take some time. Chelmsford Cathedral  have  announced that they  will be opening for individual private prayer from 4th July.

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. It is, therefore, understandable that people are keen to get back into church, notwithstanding the sense of fellowship and community which many have missed greatly over the past three months; I, too, share that desire. But one thing which has become apparent over the past weeks is that the church  has  remained very much alive and kicking, despite its buildings being closed, and that our worship does not have to  confined to the buildings for it to be meaningful. The presence of  several  ‘new faces’ at our online and recorded services has been very encouraging. As clergy we have all been  urged to consider what church could be like when our buildings are open again, what a ‘new normal’ might  be and for us not to leave behind  the new, positive  things discovered during the lockdown.

Of course, we all long for new people to walk through our doors, to have full buildings on a Sunday morning, but for some people, I believe,  walking through those big wooden doors  is incredibly difficult and I would like to share an analogy. I am not purporting, in any way, to be holier than thou; that I am not, as most of you know! But one place I have never been is a betting shop. When  I walk past a ‘bookie’s,’ with its frosted windows, I have often thought, even if I wanted to go in , I wouldn’t dare because I wouldn’t know what to do, that naivety would be clearly written all over my face! And my guess is that many people who are unfamiliar with church might  have similar worries about going to a service, even if they  desperately want to attend. How hard it must be to walk through a massive wooden door when  you can’t see who or what is on the other side, or when the door is so heavy and thick that it is impossible to hear whether or not the service has started? ‘What happens when I go in?’  ‘What happens if I am not meant to be at that service; if it is for a certain group of people which doesn’t include me?’ These are very real concerns that people have. And that’s before  even entering the building and other anxieties such as ‘Do I have to pay?’ ‘Where should I sit?’ ‘When should I stand up and sit down?’ come into play.  As a priest and someone who has  been to church most of  my life, when I attend church services on holiday,  one or two  similar thoughts or fears about entering the building race through my mind. If I can’t see any lights on, I wonder if  they’ve changed the time. Or if the lights are on and there is no one outside, I wonder if the service has already started and I am late, even if I am arriving at  the time it says on the noticeboard. If, as a regular churchgoer, I have these fears, what, on earth, must be going through the minds of those who have never been to church before.

As churches, we do need to welcome people into our buildings and, as Christians, we need to encourage people to come to church with us, but gone are the days when we can just expect people to come to church on a Sunday morning as ‘normal.’ Statistics show that for most people today, Sunday morning church attendance isn’t ‘normal.’ As has been happening during the lockdown, we need to continue to seek additional ways of, sharing our faith with others,  and being church in our communities.

Before the lockdown, over the past two years we have introduced Messy Church at our three primary schools from 3.30pm until 5pm, for families, which has been great. In April we were  due to hold our first Forest Church, an outdoor church, for all ages. Over the past couple of years, we have held some outdoor services, where people who are walking past have been able to  join in without having to go through the whole ‘walking through the big wooden door ‘thing.

In Matthew’s Gospel, 28:19, Jesus calls  his disciples to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ And we need to note the word ‘go’ as we  continue to seek creative ways of ‘being’ church in our local communities beyond our buildings,  keeping the Gospel message relevant  and  the Church vibrant in the years to come. I firmly believe that our foodbank collection is one way of  doing this, which has engaged people far beyond our regular congregations; it has triggered some great conversations and the response has been so positive  that this is something I hope we can continue, when the lockdown has finished. Once again, thank you for your support. And, just to let you know, requirements this week are condiments (ketchup, brown sauce, gravy, stuffing etc.) sponge puddings and jelly cubes. This week  they also require shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes and soap / hand wash.

I know many of you have been  using the Lectionary for your daily Bible reading and prayer and the readings for the week beginning 14th June are, as follows.

DayMorning PrayerEvening Prayer
Sunday – Corpus ChristiPsalm: 147; Deut:  8: 2-16 1 Cor: 10: 1-17Psalm: 23; Proverbs 9:1-5 Luke 9: 11-17
Monday 15th  Evelyn Underhill, Spiritual WriterPsalm: 30; Joshua 14 Luke 12: 1-12Psalm: 28; Job 13 Romans 7: 1-6
Tuesday 16th Richard, bishop 1253 Joseph Butler, Bishop & Philosopher 1752Psalm: 36; Joshua 21: 43 – 22.8 Luke 12: 13-21Psalm: 33; Job 14 Romans 7: 7-end
Wednesday 17th Samuel & Henrietta Barnett, Social Reformers.Psalm: 34; Joshua 22: 9-end Luke 12: 22-31Psalm: 119: 33-56; Job 15 Romans 8: 1-11
Thursday 18th Bernard Mizeki, martyr, 1896.Psalm: 37; Joshua 23 Luke 12: 32-40Psalm: 40; Job: 16: 1 – 17.2 Romans 8: 12-17
Friday 19th Sundar Singh, Sadu (holy man), evangelist, teacher of the faith, 1929Psalm: 31; Joshua 24: 1-28 Luke 12: 41-48Psalm: 35; Job 17: 3-end Romans 8: 18-30
Saturday 20thPsalm: 42; Joshua 24: 29-end Luke 12: 49-endPsalm: 46; Job 18 Romans: 8: 31-end

Prayer needs this week include Nicola, Hazel, Rose, Dave, Jane, Steve, Steve, Dawn and Steve,  Please continue to pray for those recently bereaved and, especially the family of the two women tragically murdered in the park in London at the weekend.

As ever, please continue to let me know about any prayer or pastoral needs.

Take care and God bless,

Sue