Letter to the Benefice March 27th

Services and Meetings

All services and meetings and any other events are cancelled for the foreseeable future. That includes the Easter morning service on the mountain. This is something which has been laid down by the Church of England: I know it is uncomfortable, but the reasons for it are abundantly clear.

APCMs may now be postponed until the end of October.

Churches

Churches are closed and locked. That is probably even more uncomfortable, but again the reasoning is clear. If anyone with the virus touches any surface, the virus will remain there for 72 hours: anybody else during that time who touches the same surface - which could be the church door - is likely to be infected. I do not know of any cases in this benefice, but I do know of several in the deanery - all of them connected with the racing at Cheltenham.

It might be helpful, if it is possible, for each PCC to nominate one person who - properly protected - goes into the church once a fortnight to check that everything is all right. But that is an optional extra. (It would be a kindness to make sure that those on the cleaning or flower rotas are aware that the churches are inaccessible.)

The deanery had produced a small leaflet of prayers for people to use in church at this time. I attach a copy to this email for your use or to pass on to anyone who you think may find it useful

Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals

Baptisms and weddings may not take place. I think that I have been on to all those with weddings in the near future, and they are rearranging things. It would be good to keep them in your thoughts and prayers: it is an upsetting time for them.

Funerals may take place, but only in the churchyard, and only with 11 people being present (including me or whoever is officiating). And there can be no singing as part of the service.

I realise that this goes very much against the grain, but I fear that, if we are going to observe a regime of social distancing, there is no alternative. And I fear that, if more people turn up than the maximum allowed, then the service cannot - and will not - take place. The same applies if people decide to gather outside the churchyard at the gate. This cannot be allowed. It would be dreadful if the behaviour of people at funerals resulted in there having to be more of them. These are not my rules - so please don’t shoot the messenger - but I am obliged to enforce them.

The deanery has produced an order of service for those unable to attend a funeral, and, again, I attach it. The Church of England has also produced something called Light a Candle which people might find useful: you can find it at https://www.churchofengland.org/life-events/funerals/light-candle

What I am saying to any family involved in a funeral is that, when this is all over - and it will be - they can have the grandest of grand thanksgiving services, where the person who has died can be properly commemorated. Someone has also suggested to me the possibility of having a combined thanksgiving service as well, and this is something to which I am anxious to give thought, depending on the number of people who are being commemorated.

Money

I know that many parishes - or at least parish officers - are concerned about the drop in revenue which this extended period of lock-out will inevitably entail.

To the parishes on the Parish Giving Scheme, I would say that this is a golden opportunity to follow up the idea at the recent Joint PCC Meeting of having an organised campaign to get people to sign up: I am sure there will be an increased willingness to do so, both from active members of the congregation and from others. To the one parish which is not on the scheme, well, all I can suggest is that they join it.

I think it would be a good idea if people started now making provisional plans for events they can put on when this is all over: I hesitate to suggest that they should try to make them oven-ready.

Is anything actually happening?

Well, yes, actually. Anne Lloyd, our wondrous Deanery Mission  Coordinator, is sending out regular emails keeping people up to date: if you want to be on her list, drop her a line at abbeydoredmc@gmail.com

The Abbeydore Deanery Facebook page is pretty dynamic, with ever-changing ideas for prayer and worship on-line, with details of all that is happening around here and all that is being done to help people at this time, and some light relief as well. The group is open to anyone: indeed, I know that some people have joined Facebook just to be on it!

The Abbeydore Deanery You Tube channel was launched this week. There will be a Morning Service involving people from across the deanery recorded which will be there for this Sunday morning. Evening Prayer will be live-streamed at 3.30 this coming Sunday. We are intending to use the channel extensively over Holy Week.

And, of course, a huge amount of pastoral work is going on. Inevitably much of this is by telephone, but I have certainly found - and I know others have as well - that by speaking to people on the phone, it does bring up some individual concerns which can be acted upon, and can give people the opportunity to have someone to talk to outside the family. And it is a great help for people on their own.

If you want someone to talk to, or if you know of someone who needs a willing ear, do please let me know.

There has been a huge amount of work done by individuals and groups to help those in any sort of need: that has been brilliant. It has been suggested that, provided suitable containers can be found, food larders could be produced in church porches.

What could be done?

Well, lots more, I imagine. Let me know of ideas you may have. 

An important thing we must all do is keep all those who are ill in our prayers, along with, of course, the heroic members of the medical profession coping so extraordinarily well and bravely with this unprecedented situation. And we must remember all those for whom this is a really difficult time, especially those anxious about their health or their financial security.

It might be good, when we cannot physically be together, the fix a moment each week - or each day - when we come together spiritually to offer up all those who are on our hearts and minds. Let me know what you think.

We must do all we can to make sure that, when all of this is over, that first, we have a big party and a big service of thanksgiving, but secondly, we build on all we have experienced at this time to make us an even more loving and compassionate community. 

Nicholas

27th March 2020