Category Archives: Coronavirus

A letter from the Bishop of Guildford

Bishop Andrew, Bishop of Guildford, has written the following letter to be shared among all parishes in the diocese:

Dear Friends,

The last few days and weeks have been a confusing and bewildering time for us all. A growing number across our communities have contracted the coronavirus, of whom a small proportion have died. A far greater number are now self-isolating, including many able-bodied men and women over the age of 70. Social gatherings have increasingly come to a halt. The economy is in freefall.

And yesterday we all received the news that church services are to be suspended for the time being, so as to seek to contain the virus: another unprecedented move at a time when the very word ‘unprecedented’ is becoming almost a cliché.

In all this there has inevitably been much talk of closures, cancellations and postponements, including the postponement of a visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to our diocese, which was due to begin today.  Is the Church just shutting up shop, people might be wondering – to which the answer is a resounding No! For this current crisis is a time for Christians (including we clergy) to step up not to give up: to let go of what’s less important so as to focus on what’s most important: to be not just the Church of England but the Church for England; to go deeper in our commitment to what Jesus described as the greatest commandment of them all: to ‘love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves’.

So how might we love our neighbour at this time? Perhaps through committing ourselves to ten acts of kindness every day, especially in relation to those who are poorest and most disadvantaged among us: making sure that our Foodbanks remain properly stocked with provisions and volunteers; leafleting streets with offers to pray and to help; arranging for daily phone calls to those who are frail and housebound; joining in with local community initiatives (because Christians don’t have a monopoly on good ideas or compassion).

Even the self-isolating can love their neighbour at the end of a phone-line, or in front of a computer, or by writing a good old-fashioned letter. How about expressing your appreciation of your Vicar, for example, at a time when she or he is likely to be feeling really pressurised?

One of our churches has followed the Italian example in providing a little outdoor concert for those who are self-isolating in a block of flats in their parish. Another has taken round a hamper to their local GP surgery, to express their huge admiration and support of those on the frontline. Clergy will shortly be invited to join a diocesan Facebook group to share good ideas and learn from one another; and do please consult our diocesan website daily as we respond to the most pressing questions that are cropping up in our churches and our schools.

Loving our neighbour is one thing, but how about loving the Lord our God when corporate worship is on hold? What might that look like?

As you know, we’re in the season of Lent, 40 days and 40 nights in which Jesus went into self-isolation, to be tested, yes, but also to pray, to meditate on the scriptures and to deepen his sense of calling for the future. During that time he was echoing the 40 years that Israel spent in the desert before entering the Promised Land: a time in which there was no church or temple, but just a makeshift tent (the tabernacle) in which Moses used to meet with God day by day.

So how might we meet with God over this time as we take time out to pray, to meditate on the scriptures and to reflect on our calling, now and in the future? What’s our tabernacle? Again parishes around the diocese are being really creative on this one, keeping their churches open where possible, providing spiritual resources for those who need them, making use of technology to help people feel connected, and above all praying, and calling others to join in. This coming Sunday the Archbishops have called us to a Day of Prayer, symbolised by putting candles in the windows of our houses and together lighting it at 7pm. And again there are some wonderful resources appearing on the diocesan website to help spiritually nourish us during this time in the wilderness.

Loving God, loving our neighbours; and how important too, to love ourselves at this time: to be kind on ourselves as well as others, as we all adjust to a rapidly shifting landscape.

And so finally to God’s Word through the prophet Isaiah: that ‘I will give you the treasures of darkness and the riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by name’ (Isaiah 43:5). So what might be the treasures of darkness during this time?

Perhaps a new togetherness as a nation, following the deep divisions of the Brexit debate. Perhaps a new connection between the church in England and the people of England. Perhaps deeper discipleship and new vocations arising out of those forty days and forty nights of self-isolation (or however long it lasts). Perhaps a new commitment to prayer, and above all a new recognition of the sheer wonder of the Christian gospel – that nothing (not even loneliness or sickness or death itself) can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

And, in recognition that the call to suspend public worship fell on St. Patrick’s day, a prayer from St Patrick’s Breastplate:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger, Amen’.

 

Every Blessings,

Bishop Andrew

Listen or watch this message here

Coronavirus update

Alan and Lesley Crawley are both showing symptoms of coronavirus and are therefore self-isolating for 14 days. A number of others in the ministry team are having to take precautions and this will obviously have an impact on ministry and work in the parish. At the moment though everything is changing on a day-by-day basis and we will keep you up-to-date as best we can. Information will be available on the website and if you want to receive regular updates, including spiritual resources such as prayers and articles, please sign up here and click the box marked ‘Coronavirus updates etc’.

We will continue serving people in every way we can. If you are having to self-isolate, if you need help with deliveries, if you are anxious, get in touch. We also need people who are willing to pick up shopping or help people feel less isolated by keeping in touch. If you have prayer requests please also let us know. The best way to do this is to email Stella Wiseman, the administrator, or call her on 07842761919.

Services suspended but the Church is still here

Public worship in Church of England churches is being suspended in the light of the continuing coronavirus pandemic. but the church is still here and looking at ways we can continue to serve and to pray.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and John Sentamu, have written a letter to all churches asking them to put public services on hold until further notice. But, where possible, churches will remain open as places of prayer for the community, observing social distancing recommendations.

They urged congregations to be in the forefront of providing practical care and support for the most poor and the most vulnerable during the crisis. And they also encouraged clergy to maintain the ancient pattern of daily prayer and, where possible, the eucharist – live streaming worship if they have the resources to do so.

“Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead,” they wrote. “Our life is going to be less characterised by attendance at church on Sunday, and more characterised by the prayer and service we offer each day.

“We may not be able to pray with people in the ways that we are used to, but we can certainly pray for people. And we can certainly offer practical care and support.

“Please do carry on supporting the local foodbank and buy extra provisions for it.  Ensure the night shelters wherever possible are kept open. There are many very encouraging schemes happening right across our country in communities to focus on caring for the most vulnerable and do continue to play your part in those.

“Then by our service, and by our love,  Jesus Christ will be made known, and the hope of the gospel – a hope that can counter fear and isolation – will spread across our land.”

They added: “This is a defining moment for the Church of England. Are we truly are a church for all, or just the church for ourselves.

“We urge you sisters and brothers to become a different sort of church in these coming months: hopeful and rooted in the offering of prayer and praise and overflowing in service to the world.”

The archbishops have joined other church leaders in calling for a day of prayer and action this Sunday (Mothering Sunday) particularly remembering those who are sick or anxious and all involved in health and emergency services.

Further information on what the suspension of public worship will mean will be available as soon as possible on the Church of England website. This page will be regularly updated.

The Church will be providing a range of resources to enable people to continue to walk with God at this difficult time. This includes #LiveLent daily reflectionsprayer for the day audio and text and Alexa and Google Home smart speaker apps.

In the days and weeks ahead, the Church will be significantly expanding this output with audio of a simple daytime prayer and night prayer service, more video content and some live-streaming, new mental health reflections to support people, and webinars to help churches stream sermons, events and make the most of social media. Read more here.

The aim will be to make as much as possible available in simple downloadable and printable formats for those who can’t easily access the technology.

 

Picture by Tony Mclachlan on Unsplash.

 

 

Coronavirus and the church

It has been a distressing start to the year. We are facing a pandemic and what does that even mean? What impact is it going to have on our lives? Is one of our loved ones going to die? Are we going to die? What do we do? Do we cancel things? Do we stay at home? Will we get cabin fever? How do we keep each other safe?

It is interesting how each of us thinks differently about this pandemic. Some people have looked to the past – we didn’t hoard for SARS or Bird Flu, why do we need to do so now? Some people have looked at the present – it is only 5000 people in the UK who have this out of a population of nearly 70million, what is the problem? Some have looked to the future – if the number of cases are doubling every two days, then in a month everyone in the UK will have it.

Our personalities are different, and how we evaluate truth and who we look to as authorities also differ. Some of us we grew up in households where we were the ones who had the role of keeping a level head and not panicking – we tend to downplay everything. Some of us grew up in houses where we didn’t feel safe and this threat keys into that, we might be worriers. Some of us look to older, wiser people as authorities, others look to scientists, others to our friends or family.

Over the weeks, some things have become clearer. We can’t contain this virus – we are just trying to delay it so that the hospitals are not overloaded. A lot of us will therefore get sick – probably 60-70% of the population. This might be so slight that we don’t notice or we might be very sick indeed. If we are older or have a chronic condition then we are more likely to die – very sobering if you find yourself in that category, as I do. We also know this virus is going to be part of our lives for months – probably a year.

It has made me wonder how do we do church in these times. Already we are changing things. We are no longer sharing the peace, and yet we need peace and unity as Christians. Jesus was a healer – he touched people, even the untouchable, even those with the feared and highly contagious disease of leprosy. For some, the act of hugging each other on a Sunday is a form of healing, compassion and love. We are no longer sharing the common cup – the greatest symbol of unity that we have, we are no longer passing round the common collection plate, the symbol of us holding our money and resources in common. We are offering less hospitality in the form of coffee and tea – our symbols of God’s grace that he pours out on us and we in turn pour out to the world. Also, if there are only 50% of us there on a Sunday then how do we do Communion?

The answer is we will find a way. We will find safe ways of being hospitable, we will find ways of showing love and compassion and unity. Some ideas so far are that we will ask people to tell us if they are self-isolating and we can then ring them up and chat. We can get a buddy system going. Some of us can use technology to continue to grow in our faith and link up with others to discuss books that we are reading, or we can use prayer sites such as these:

https://pray-as-you-go.org/

https://www.24-7prayer.com/dailydevotional

https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-daily-prayer/todays-prayer

https://www.sacredspace.ie/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnds

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006wzfs

Alan and I have lots of good books on faith that can be borrowed and we will put more articles in the magazine and more items on the blog – https://badshotleaandhale.org/blog/

Of course, we will be following government advice about delaying the spread of the virus and ensure our services and events are compliant with this.

A more difficult thing to think and talk about is the chilling message Boris Johnson gave us; “Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.” If 60% of us get this illness and the death rate comes down to 1% then that is about 40,000 people will be killed by the virus over the next year in the UK. Of course, no one at this point knows the fatality rate or the percentage of the population who will be affected, these are just best guesses. To put the numbers in context, about 500,000 people die each year in the UK and so if the numbers are correct, it is an 8% increase. We are very poor about talking about death – it is the ultimate taboo, but perhaps we need to get better about thinking and talking about it, after all it will happen to all of us eventually – with or without the pandemic – and cancer and heart disease are much more of a threat than the coronavirus for most of us.

Finally, there is the old question “Why would a God of love allow something horrible like this to happen?” The reality is that life is not easy for anyone: relationships break down, people get sick, people lose their jobs, loved ones die, not one of us gets through life unscathed. For us to be resilient, we must accept this reality. We might not like it or understand it, but we must accept it, as it is certainly true. I believe it is part of creation; the chaos and uncertainty allow the evolution of life and gives us freewill. If volcanoes had never erupted then beautiful landmasses like Hawaii would not have been created. Changes in cells may cause bad things like cancer, but they also created us in all our uniqueness. As humans have the capacity to be loving but also not loving, hurting others, and without that we would be robots.

Jesus never promised us an easy life – and it is writ large with him dying on the cross. Instead, we are promised life in all its fullness – a rich life where we have meaning and purpose, where we achieve good things as we seek the Kingdom of God, where we form loving relationships with others. In these uncertain times let us hold onto this calling and allow love and compassion to guide us.

Lesley

 

 

 

 

 

Picture: New visualisation of Covid-19 by Fusion Medical  Animation on Unsplash.

‘Let us remember that we are in this together’: advice from the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written the following piece with advice on how to approach the coronavirus pandemic:

“As we continue responding to coronavirus, a lot of us are wondering how we can walk in faith, resist fear, and support those who are most vulnerable.

The first thing to say is that following the advice of experts – especially about washing our hands regularly and self-isolating if we have cold or flu symptoms – is a really important place to start.

But what else can we do? Well, the thing about having hope, faith and courage is that although they are gifts from God, we can do our bit to nurture them.

We can take some time to sit quietly and pray, letting God know about those things that are on our hearts and minds. When we do that, we make that connection with God that nourishes and sustains us.

We can pray for those who are physically vulnerable. Those who are financially insecure and worried about needing to take time off work. Those who live in countries without public healthcare systems. Those who do not have family or friends and are facing this situation alone.

We can pray for healthcare workers and political leaders who are responding to this crisis and bearing the incredible responsibility of trying to keep us safe.

That brings us to resisting fear. One way to avoid being overwhelmed by fear is turning our attention to helping someone. Is there a person in your life, or your community, that you could call on the phone and see if they’re okay? Maybe it was someone that you prayed for?

Perhaps they can’t get to the shops – could you pick up some groceries for them? Perhaps they are self-isolating and feeling lonely – could you call them on the phone and see how they are?

If you have some spare income, or some spare food, could you donate to your local food bank?

Let’s remember that we are in this together. Let’s look after ourselves and our communities, gain courage from each other, and walk together in hope and faith.

As it says in Psalm 46: ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.'”

 

 

Coronavirus picture by Vektor Kunst from Pixabay

Celebrations for Hannah have been postponed

To all of you who had planned to go on Monday evening to St James, Elstead, to celebrate the Institution of our lovely former curate Hannah Moore, please note that the Institution will be a small private one and there will be a celebration at a later date.

Here is a message from Bishop Jo, but before that, here is a message from us all to you Hannah. We wish you every happiness and blessing in your new role and our prayers are with you. Elstead, Thursley, Shackleford and Peper Harow, you have a gem coming to you!

“Bishop Jo is very sorry to announce a change of plans in relation to the Institution of the Rev’d Hannah Moore and the Licensing of the Revd Delia Orme on Monday owing to the corona virus. Although Hannah will still begin her ministry from next week, the celebration of new ministry in Elstead, Thursley, Shackleford and Peper Harow will happen at a later date when circumstances permit. In the meantime, all regular church services continue as normal and clergy seek to be available pastorally to those in need, in person or by phone, adapting as necessary for the sake of protecting those who are vulnerable or anxious at this time.”