Category Archives: Coronavirus

Children welcome in church

We would love to welcome children back to church now that we have started services in the buildings again.

There is plenty of space in the churches and there are places for families to sit in their ‘bubbles’. Please, though, bring your own toys, books, colouring books, colours, snacks and drinks etc, and we ask that you don’t share between families.

There is a relatively formal service at St John’s at 9.30am, an informal service at St George’s at 10am and a very informal service at St Mark’s at 11am.

Please join us.

Picture by Dawn Hudson

Churches reopen for services

Come on in! We are excited to announce that our churches will be open again for services this Sunday, after more than four months of being closed thanks to Covid-19.

There will be simple Communion services at each of the three churches from this Sunday: St John’s at 9.30am, St George’s at 10am and St Mark’s at 11am. We will also hold a service at noon on Wednesday at St Mark’s, replacing the old Friday service.

We are also going to continue to offer online services as we know that not everyone will feel able to come to the church buildings themselves. You can find our online services here.

If you are familiar with the services you will notice some differences, as Lesley Crawley explains: “We are absolutely delighted that we can return to the church buildings to worship together in person. However there will be changes to the services designed to reduce the risk of Covid-19.  For instance we cannot have any singing, we cannot sit close to each other and we cannot share the Communion cup of wine. We will, however, be able to receive the Communion bread. Please come along and be a part of our services if you are able to, everyone is welcome.”

We have installed hand sanitizers and put up notices to remind everyone about social distancing and where it is safe to sit. Everyone attending will be asked for contact details so that if someone tests positive for Covid-19 it will be possible to get in touch with others who attended church at the same time. Those coming to church are strongly advised to wear masks but this is not compulsory.

There will be services available online from 9am on Sunday. “Holding services online means that more people can access them,” says Lesley. “Some people may feel particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 and therefore not want to come to church, and there are also others who cannot come to church perhaps because of mobility issues or illness, or because of work or family commitments. We should have thought about online services long ago but Covid concentrated our minds rather and has enabled us to be creative and reach more people.”

We are also very aware that the Covid pandemic has accentuated the divide between those who have access to modern technology and those who do not. Many of those who are not online are also older and have been increasingly isolated during lockdown. The parish, along with other groups in Farnham, has been supporting those who are isolated and is looking at how to increase this support in the future.

Stories from Lockdown

What has lockdown been like for everyone? Over the past few weeks we have been chatting to members of the community about how they have found these past months.


Margaret has felt the full impact of isolation.

When lockdown started, I had already been confined to home for almost a year due to a fall.  I was, however, managing to get better movement and with the help of injections and medication my pain was more controlled. Of course, I realised I was  probably not going to walk properly or maybe unaided again.

So lockdown started and I thought, not much difference to before. It wasn’t too bad for the first couple of weeks; however after that the realisation that this was going to be much longer, and our world forever changed, really sank in.

No visits from family or friends, the absolute silence, no traffic, no sound of people talking, children laughing, they might have been annoying sometimes but now I longed to hear them. No knock on the door. Only my thoughts and sometimes not good ones.

The telephone and text messages became my companion, keeping in touch now has a different meaning. Some special people have helped so much.  Sometimes I have felt so low, it’s very hard being entirely alone, (and I know there is always someone worse off) so much time to think about the past and loved ones no longer here, and I wish I could turn back time. I have watched Sunday services online but missed being able to be there.

I had been looking forward to the VE Day celebrations at St John’s; still maybe next year but not quite the same. I spent it alone.

Great difficulty in getting a grocery delivery, my one piece of independence taken away from me. There is a slight improvement now but not a great deal (I had been using online shopping prior to lockdown).

Thankfully, we started to get better weather and getting in the garden was a real boost. I’ve weeded and trimmed fuschias where I could reach and found someone to cut the grass. Wish I could do more but everything I do is from a sitting position. I’ve been removing buttercups, the trailing kind from the grass, tedious but I’m enjoying the lovely sun, grown dahlias from seed and a few asters. The rest of my seed planting was a disaster as the propagator blew over in the strong winds and my seedlings were scattered beyond hope. 

The easing of lockdown: it’s such a mixed emotion. What is safe? We are all so unsure. I have seen my family;,still no hugging but it has been great to have human contact again.

A friend asked me if I’d like to visit the caravan and kindly took me down and home again. I enjoyed the sea air and saw quite a few friends who stopped at a safe distance for a chat. The caravan is self-contained so no worries on close contact with people, as we are still unsure what will happen as people get out and about more. 

I still feel apprehensive as to our future, so changed in many ways. Freedom apparently may come at a big price for some. I just hope everyone remains careful and contains the virus.

Dealing with a health condition

Derek and Aly Buckle have enjoyed life in the slow lane as health problems forced them to shield.

Just before lockdown began we took a short break at a holiday resort on Hayling Island. At dinner time on day three we were told the resort would be closing in the morning  and all guests would have to leave after breakfast. At this point I don’t think people realised how serious COVID-19 was and how fast it was spreading.

Two days after this, lockdown was officially announced. This meant Derek would have to shield for 12 weeks due to having coronary heart disease. As he is very much an outdoor person this wasn’t something he wanted to hear but knew he had no option.

We welcomed a slower pace of life more time to get through the rather long job list. By the second week most of the jobs were completed, the house spring cleaned and garden tidied. We were happy and content and always found plenty to do. Aly finished the jumper knitting she started in 2012. If you notice all the colour changes in the picture below you’ll understand why it took so long, plus she thought she’d lost the pattern! It was also a good time to get in touch with friends we hadn’t contacted for some time especially those who live alone.

Derek was due to have his pacemaker checked during lockdown at Royal Surrey County Hospital. As the due date got closer and no cancellation letter arrived, we both because rather anxious at the thought of Derek having to enter the hospital. However two days before the appointment a letter arrived. It was not cancellation as we thought,  but telling us how to find the pacing department using different approach instead of the usual main entrance. We followed the instructions, fourth entrance, drive round to back of hospital, a few right and left turns and there we were. Not quite what Derek was used too or expecting. He was expecting to arrive at the same department he had visited many times before but using different entrance. Instead it was a mobile unit.

We were told how and where to park the car and to stay in car. We were greeted by two technicians from a window in the portacabin  in full PPE who explained in detail what was going to happen without any need for Derek to get out of car. Hand-sanitizer was lowered down to him. Next came a hand-held device also lowered down which he had to hold against his pacemaker whilst adjustments were made on computerised machine. About 10 minutes later all finished and on our way home. We were extremely impressed at the treatment and how a mobile unit such as was set up.  Praise God for the NHS.

Derek deals with technology

Towards the end of the 12 weeks we were both getting a little restless and wanted to venture a further than our back garden. We can happily say now our daily exercise is walking around the park and just beginning to meet up with people.  Social distancing of course. And really happy that we can attend  church  again.

Derek & Aly Buckle

How lockdown has updated NHS systems

Olivia and June Jasper (pictured above) both work for the NHS in a GP practice in Farnham Hospital. They work in administration supporting the smooth running of the practice and during Covid have seen a change in the way the practice has worked.

“We have been supporting our colleagues working on the frontline,” says Olivia. “There have been a lot of changes including supporting people to work remotely from home so that there wouldn’t be too many people in the office at anyone time.  We had to make sure that we could keep all the medical records secure,” says Olivia who deals with referrals and administration”. “But working this way is for the future and has had its benefits.”

June, who deals with registrations, records, screenings says that one of the most important things to do was to “work out how we could run a good practice where people felt secure and also in touch during this time.   We now have telephone consultations first and then if a patient has to come in we arrange social distancing with the clinicians . We have scrubs and other PPE, we have visors which Liz Larkin [DT teacher from Farnborough Hill] made in her workshop amongst others we received. We have had to manage how both patients and staff feel when coming into the practice.”

Both women recall how anxious everyone was at the beginning.  People had some days at home and some in the office to ensure that social distancing could take place, while some had to work at home the whole time as they were shielding. “At the beginning we were all frightened of getting a cough or a sniffle,” June recalls. “And then tents started going up in the car park where people would go to be assessed first so that we could protect the frontline staff; Out Patients was closed; a wall went up so that the only entry was through one side of the building; people were queueing round the block to visit the pharmacy. Everyone was amazing getting this all set up, Farnham Town Council lent the tents which are normally used for local events.  We  had volunteers helping and everyone did a great job.”

They both reflect what a steep learning curve it was for the practice but are grateful for all the new skills, particularly the IT ones which they will continue to develop.

“If you are looking for the silver lining in all this,” says Olivia, “we have seen the way that the system can be more efficient. There were things we were doing just because we had always done them, and we’ve been able to change that. We have learnt a lot.”

Patients have also seen differences in the way they have been accessing the services, from how they see the medical staff to how they pick up their prescribed medicines. “The reception team have done a great job,” says June. “I have been working in a general practice for 26 years and seen changes but more so in the three months!”

It is, of course, uncertain whether or not there will be a ‘second wave’ of Covid-19, but they both reflect: “Some changes are here to stay, helping the NHS provide an improved service for the future”.

Staying safe when health makes you vulnerable

Leaving the house in lockdown has been more problematic for some than others. What if you are older and/or have underlying health conditions?

Chris Fisher tells us what it has been like.

I am the world’s worst worrier and I find the coronavirus scary. I was very worried when lockdown first started and had a few sleepless nights, but I soon learned it was important to get into a routine and this helped tremendously.

Initially one of our big concerns was getting food supplies, but our sons helped us and we were lucky that from the start of lockdown we got supplies from our local farm shop. Because we are both 71 and I have underlying medical conditions, we were able to arrange home deliveries from Sainsbury’s and fortunately, we haven’t had to go shopping at all.

So what have I been doing?

I am not very good at DIY and gardening and I can’t cook, but trying to share all our activities with my wife, Sue, has been brilliant. We have been gardening and clearing cupboards but we had to stop clearing the cupboards because we had so many boxes to go to the charity shops!

I’ve been trying to do something good every day and it’s been important to look after my key relationships, which for me includes keeping in contact with my cousins in USA, Burma and Australia. I’ve been reading books, trying to stay active, doing exercise and enjoying nature which has been especially rewarding.

I have a project of saving all our old photos from the computer to memory sticks. We have over 100 photo albums and about 10,000 photos on the computer, so it is certainly keeping me busy.

I’ve missed going to church, but I am not very techie and don’t feel I can take part in any of our online services, but I enjoy reading Lesley’s e-mails. I have especially missed the church at Easter and was hoping there would be some good services on the telly. I saw the Pope which was good but not sure Justin Welby in his kitchen was what I was expecting at Easter!

Sadly, Sue’s aunt died during lockdown and unfortunately, only 10 people including the vicar could attend the funeral service, which was particularly upsetting for her Uncle Frank.

Our daily exercise walks are brilliant. In March and April we walked a lot down Old Park Lane and nearby country lanes and fields, with established oak trees and birds singing in the bushes. We’ve heard woodpeckers and saw pheasants and partridges, lambs in the fields (Sue sent videos of the lambs to our grandchildren). We’ve seen deer, squirrels, etc. and loads of flowers including bluebells in the spring. As summer came on we changed our route and have had many walks on the Common. We have been able to take the back paths which are often deserted and among the wildlife we have seen has been a snake.

I’m pleased that lockdown is easing and we have been able to see our boys but our new normal is different from the old normal. For instance we have just been into Farnham and rather than wandering around as we would have done in the past, we just went to the one shop we needed to visit and came home. We are still worried about the virus and worried for our granddaughter who is doing GCSEs next year. There’s talk of them not doing the whole syllabus.

I hope people keep up social distancing and I pray we find a vaccine soon.

Chris Fisher

The teacher

Teachers have had their whole way of working turned upside down by Covid-19. How, for instance, do you teach a practical subject? This has been one of the questions that Liz Larkin, a Design and Technology teacher at Farnborough Hill, has had to face. Farnborough Hill is an independent school for girls ages 11-18, so among her pupils are those preparing for GCSE and A-level exams next year, as well as those who should have taken these exams this summer.

Liz in her workshop at Farnborough Hill.

“I had to completely rethink what I was going to teach,” says Liz. “Luckily we were at the beginning of new projects because of the way the timetable rotation works. The year nines were able to finish upcycling aprons out of old jeans at home, though some had to have needle and thread sent to them and then I taught them to knit via video. The year eights should have been learning to solder and do electronics. But I got pupils throughout the school to learn CAD and CAM packages (Computer-aided  design and computer-aided manufacturing), making models which we could print on the 3D printer. “

While the year 11 and 13 students have probably had the most frustrating time, not quite being able to finish their projects at school and having to have their final grades estimated for GCSE and A-levels, the year 10 and 12 students who take their exams in 2021 have had to start their coursework at a distance. “They have been able to start design and research for their projects but were not able to be in the workshop refining their skills.”

Year 10 and 12 pupils were able to return to the school in small groups. “We had year 10 in for week and did blended teaching between home and school, and year 12 in for a few lessons and to give them university application support. We also held a socially distanced retreat.”

But since lockdown began all pupils have been following their normal timetable of six lessons per day but doing so from home online and even taking school exams online. “The first week was the most challenging. We were teaching from home and trying to get our head round all the challenges but as we have all got better at it, it improved. We learned so much but it could be frustrating to spend some of the lesson making sure everyone was connected.”

More frustrating though was the lack of real contact: “I missed the girls most, that lovely interaction that we have.”

The Pain of Funerals during the Pandemic

If you had told me a year ago that our world would be affected by a great pandemic and we would be confined to our homes except for the most essential work, and then asked me what I might struggle with most, I would have guessed a few things:

  • Fear for my children (I am secretly an insanely protective mother, but I try to hide it!);
  • The pain of not seeing my grandchild (who I absolutely adore);
  • Cabin fever and not being able to do the things that stop me feeling stressed;
  • Not being able to see those I love at church face to face;
  • Not being able to worship with others, pray together, share the peace, sing together;
  • Not having Communion, a very sacred and important act for me,

I would have been wrong. There is one thing, and one thing only that has cut me to the core in terms of pain, and that is conducting funerals under the current circumstances. In particular, seeing people sitting on chairs at the crematorium, two meters away from the next person, crying with no-one to put an arm around them and console them. My heart breaks. I am forbidden, like everyone else, from offering a hug, and that is a dreadful cruelty that had never occurred to me before. It is torture to see someone in pain and not be able to offer acts of comfort. Here is a poem written by Stella about the pain of such a funeral.

My understanding is that most bereaved people have opted for something called ‘direct cremation’, a term I hadn’t heard of before, where their loved one is cremated with no ceremony preceding it. The hope is that after the lockdown is over, we will be able to have memorial services and express all that we want to and need to. I don’t know how that feels; I suspect it is like being in limbo.

I look forward to the day when we can have these memorial services, where people can cry and be comforted with hugs and words spoken softly and squeezes of the hand, where friends and relatives can be present and comfort each other in their grief.


Note: Church of England churches are available to all people for memorial services – those who attend regular services and those who have never attended.

Funeral 2020

A poem about funerals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no black and yellow tape 
So they searched the office drawers
And found brown  
Which would seal parcels 
But not stick to carpet 
Scuffed, edged with dust, lines 
To keep us safe, far apart 
As we control our tears  
On chairs ranged coldly  
Ten of them 
For ten stiff soldiers 
Alert to the war 
Around us 
A war to save lives 
Tearing us apart in the face of grief and death 

Stella Wiseman

Churches prepare to reopen

As you probably know, the government has announced that church services may resume from this weekend and we have been looking carefully at how this will be possible from the beginning of August which will give us enough time to prepare.

It is not, unfortunately, simply a case of throwing open the doors and welcoming everyone in, much as we would like to. There are all sorts of issues to deal with to ensure that we keep everyone safe.

This week further information has been released by the government, the national Church of England and the Diocese of Guildford to help us plan to reopen the churches for services. 

Our plan – subject to PCC approval – is to have a service in each of the three churches on a Sunday and a mid-week service at St Mark’s from the beginning of August.

Because of the dangers of Covid-19 infection, the services will follow a simple format with no singing but with musicians playing instruments. We will not be able to share the Peace but we will be able to take Communion, though in one kind only. The Bread may be distributed in wafer form by the priest (who will have taken all the necessary hygiene precautions) but we cannot share the Wine. Everyone coming forward to receive Communion or a blessing will be guided on where to walk and stand in order to minimise the danger of passing anything on.

Everyone will have to observe strict social distancing measures – though you can sit in your household groups of course – and hygiene regulations, but we have installed hand sanitisers already and have been working hard to ensure that it will all be as safe as possible.

We are also going to continue worship online so anyone who can’t come to church on Sundays or feels unsafe doing so can still join in the worship.

We’ll keep you updated.

A Happy Birthday service for the NHS

The National Health Service is 72 years old today (July 5) so we are holding an online service to celebrate and give thanks for this life-saving institution.

The service, is a mix of music, prayer, art, videos and stories of how the NHS has helped improve health and save lives. There are contributions from Farnham Heath End School and Post19, which supports young adults with learning difficulties, from a Frimley Park Hospital nurse describing working during the COVID-19 pandemic, from people whose lives have been saved by the NHS; and there is a history of healthcare before the NHS from Father John Evans who remembers its foundation when he was a teenager in 1948.

“The NHS is a wonderful institution which is available for all UK citizens whether they are rich or poor,” says Lesley C.rawley. “It has saved the lives of many of us and made life for all of us better.

“I think that everyone has come to appreciate how special the NHS is during the COVID-19 pandemic and we have seen doctors, nurses and other NHS workers putting their own lives at risk and working round the clock to save lives. We really wanted to give thanks for everyone in the NHS and pray for God’s continued blessing of them.”

Churches reopen for private prayer

We are delighted to say that all three churches are open for private prayer on certain days.

The exact days and times that each is open are:

St John’s: Sunday 2-4pm and from July 12 all day.
Thursday all day

St George’s: Monday and Thursday, all day

St Mark’s: Tuesday and Saturday 10am-12pm

We have also installed hand sanitisers at the entrance and exit doors and everyone is asked to use these. The churches will then be shut for three days to help prevent the spread of the virus.

We are also able to hold funerals, weddings and baptisms in the churches, though numbers are limited.

Lesley commented: “We are so pleased to be able to welcome everyone back into the churches, although there are obvious time limits and other restrictions so that we can help protect people from COVID-19. Our churches are symbols of hope and stability in a troubled world and though we can pray anywhere, many of us find a sense of God and peace in church.

“Everyone is welcome to come in when we are open; people of any faith or none are free to come and enjoy the buildings.”

For further information contact the administrator, Stella, by email or by calling 07842761919.

Interfaith friendship and facemasks

We now have some cloth face masks for people in the parish, thanks to the work and generosity of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association, Lajna Ima’illah UK, in response to the health threat posed by Covid-19.

The churches and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which has its central mosque in Tilford, have been developing close links over the past year and we support each other where we can, so when Lajna UK contacted us last month to ask if we would like face masks we eagerly said yes. If you would like one, let us know.

“Our friends in Lajna UK have been so very generous in giving these masks to us,” says Lesley Crawley. “We are delighted to be continuing to build links with the Ahmadiyya Muslims who have a great heart for the community. We worship a loving God and follow many of the same values, in particular that of love for all people. Thank you again to our sisters from the local Lajna UK and we look forward to spending more time with you after lockdown.”

Ismat Sana, the Aldershot president of the Ahmaddiya Women’s Association, says: “Covid-19 is a new experience and we realised that there was a shortfall in PPE for those that needed it the most. Humanitarian work is massively important to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as a whole and something our Women’s Association, Lajna UK, is already passionate about, so we decided to purchase materials and make PPE as a way of assisting our hardworking local community members.”

The Aldershot branch of Lajna UK will be taking part in the Farnham Flower Festival which you will be able to find on this website over the weekend of June 27-28.

If you would like a face mask would you also be willing to video yourself catching a face mask and then throwing it on to the next person? Here Stella Wiseman is caught on camera maintaining social distancing while delivering a mask to Bob Shatwell. Video yourself and send the results to Thanks!

The Benefits of Meeting in Person

I have heard a number of people saying how wonderful it is that life has carried on as it has, and how once this is all over (all is a long way away) we don’t need to travel as much as we can do all our meetings by Zoom (other video conferencing apps exist).

I want to challenge this. I believe that we have been able to do it so far because we are living off relationships which already exist. I know there are stories of couples dating on Zoom and then getting together, but I believe that there is a fundamental difference between meeting with someone online who you already know, and forming a new relationship in that way.

This applies to both personal relationships as well as professional ones. The personal ones are perhaps more obvious with the obvious lack of touch, but I believe the professional ones also need physical presence, at least some of the time.

For example, my daughter is returning to work next week after maternity leave, and will be working from home for the foreseeable future. She will be managing staff she has never met before, as well as those she managed before she was off. There is no doubt in her mind that the former will be much harder.

Another issue that I foresee, although one which might now be a fact of life, is the “small stuff”. Twenty years ago the company I then worked for tried out video conferencing, and it did save a significant amount of travelling. However, personally I missed the conversations that took place because I was physically with someone, conversations that weren’t worth making an effort to have, but which when we were face to face cropped up. They were the times I discovered how well our service was working – it might have been well enough not to be complained about – but there were issues which if not addressed would come back to bite us. Similarly, when visiting a site I would speak to lots of different people; video conferencing it would just be the person on the call.

So, yes, when this is over lets look to change things, but please let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater and lose the personal interaction.