The health emergency has led the government to ask the nation temporarily to change the way we live. This means that God’s people, for a season, are having to learn to be Church in a different way. Please scroll down for parish adaptations to the situation and how you can respond in Faith, Hope and Love. In particular there is information about:

  1. Worship
  2. Pastoral Care
  3. Communication
  4. Where God might be in all of this?!
  1. WORSHIP

We have reached the point in our journey back towards normality where we are permitted to meet again in person for public worship. This means that from Sunday 5th July we will be offering services both onsite and online. It is an exciting but evolving time: details are on our Regular Services webpage.

Morning Prayer is being said via Zoom at 9am Monday to Thursday. It lasts about twenty minutes. To obtain the Zoom code, please subscribe to our regular email via kennethpadley@gmail.com

Reopening

Both churches are now open again for private prayer, seven days a week. Ahead of reopening, risks have been assessed and mitigated in both churches. Regular cleaning regimes are in place: please contact Jane Larman if you could help.
 

Intercessions

If you would like a particular person or issue to be prayed for by us all together, do email the Vicar. Issues and individuals ordinarily remain on our circulated prayer list for a month. If the clergy and wardens know there is an ongoing need, names will remain. (If a name drops off and you would like it reinstated do just ask.) If you would like us to join in prayer for a third party, please get their permission for their name to be shared in this way.

Online prayer resources
In addition to what we can offer as a parish, the Church of England has a number of internet-based resources to support your time with God at home, especially for the duration of the period when we must pray apart. These include:

Children’s resources
Parents, if you are not on the mailing blocks to receive age-specific materials from our children’s leaders, then do make contact with:

In addition, the Diocesan Children’s Officer, Margaret Pritchard has put together some prayer resources for families.

The Life of Jesus in Minecraft is being developed by a parish family’s Youtube channel, MamaRhinoGamer, and is proving popular with all ages!

Baptisms and Weddings
Advice has been received from the national Church about the conduct of these special services during the health emergency. We are in contact with those who have booked baptisms and weddings with us but please get in touch if this affects you and you have any questions.

Bereavement and funerals
Among the many things being restricted at the present time is attendance at funerals. You may find that someone you know has died and you are unable to attend, perhaps because the service is at a distance or because limited numbers are permitted at the crematorium. If you find yourself in this situation, you might find support in the Funeral at Home service sheet. It will allow you to join in at home while the service is going on elsewhere.

2. PASTORAL CARE
Looking out for one another is a simple duty of all Christians. We need to do this more than ever during this health emergency. We cannot visit one another in person (and please note this includes your parish clergy and Pastoral Visiting Team) but we can stay in touch by telephone or a welter of online devices.

Telephone Buddy Scheme
In addition to the support which we can all offer to friends, family and neighbours, St Michaels and St Marys have linked up the most vulnerable in our community with a buddy from church to help maintain social contact during this time of potential isolation. Please click here for more information.

  • We think we have the bases covered but if you would appreciate the support of a regular phone call, do email Charles who will link you up with a buddy.
  • Similarly, if you might be able to be part of this scheme and commit to regularly calling one or two people, and/or potentially to assist with shopping for those who cannot get out, please let Charles know.

FEED Foodbank
Foodbanks will face significantly increased demand and reduced donations during this emergency. It is important that we maintain and if possible increase our support for this vital community resource. Click here for more information.

  • The best support for FEED at the present time is BACS donation via the Vineyard Church FEED Fund. FEED has a trade arrangement with Morrisons and will be buying goods for distribution to those with the greatest need. Please reference every donation you make with ‘FEED’ and your surname; this will enable Vineyard to channel your support in the right way and claim additional Gift Aid if you sign up for this.

Other local sources of practical and emotional support

3. COMMUNICATION
With everyone in various degrees of isolation, electronic and telephonic communications have become essential. We usually circulate our publicity email once a month; this frequency has been stepped to at least once a week until the emergency is over and ‘normal service’ resumes. Please encourage any who want to stay in touch with St Michaels and St Marys to email the Vicar for inclusion on our mailing list.

Parish Socials by Zoom are up and running. If interested in meeting friends from church in this way please contact Jenny Tarvet (young adults), Bronwen Parr (Ladies’ Night), and Vitor Ferreira (Men’s Night).

Some of our young people are working on a social media platform to provide an accessible venue for sharing stories and images, to encourage us and hold us together. More to follow in due course…

The Parish Office and Vicarage are presently closed for any face-to-face enquiries. Please respect this extra separation so that we can continue to work together through this health emergency. Colleagues remain available by phone or email so do leave a message and we will come back to you as soon as possible.

The Annual Parish Meetings (scheduled for 26th April) have been postponed. We will advise about a rescheduled date once agreed by the PCC or Standing Committee. Those elected post-holders whose term of office was due to lapse at the end of April will be joyed to learn that they remain in office until the date of the rearranged meetings. The Annual Report and Accounts for 2019, irrespective of when we hold the meetings, will be made available on this website and to subscribers via our email when complete.

Your Clergy and Wardens are seeking to make constructive use of this time of difference and are already planning for the Restoration which is to come. We are anticipating a tapered return towards services in church and other gatherings and are actively planning for possible scenarios. Please get thinking about the future too. What will a return to ‘normal’ look like? What might have changed? What act of Thanksgiving or Memorial might we hold? What sort of Church do you want us to be when we regather? Get thinking, talking and praying…

4. WHERE IS GOD IN ALL OF THIS?!
We are still in the early days of this emergency. Doubtless much reflection is yet to come and huge tomes on the Theology of Coronavirus will be written by learned professors in years to come. In the interim, a few thoughts:

  • Events have reminded us about the fundamental interconnectedness of all human existence – no man is an island and all of that. We are all responsible for looking out for one another by maintaining contact with friends and neighbours and showing consideration through good personal hygiene and, temporarily, through appropriate social distancing.
  • Just as people are interconnected, so is the omnipresent God. He is closer to us than we are to ourselves. Wherever we are we can turn to him in prayer. We do not need to be in a church or with other people, nice though both of these are. In the current outbreak, the old adage that godliness is next to cleanliness is more than just a Latin pun about sanctitas and sanitas being adjacent in the dictionary.
  • It feels like we are being sent through a compulsory Lent. Through social distancing we are being asked for a season to surrender so much of what is precious to us, precisely in order to remember just how precious it is, and to preserve it for the long term. There is a paradox of isolation in this – we need to keep our distance in order to stick together. There is a particular challenge here for the Church because we are fundamentally about bringing people together, with one another and one with God. We can still do this, just in new and creative ways. Locally, our Mission Action Plan includes a target to alleviate loneliness; circumstances have compelled us to consider the greatest social vulnerabilities in our parish and to put a basic safety net in place through the telephone buddy scheme.
  • We are conscious from the news of the huge sacrifices being demanded, especially of those in healthcare services – our prayers and support (in whatever ways possible) go out to them. In turn, these sacrifices expose the egotistical recklessness of hoarding: preparedness is one thing, selfishness another.
  • This virus and its effects on individuals and communities is a profound evil. It is the antithesis of the flourishing which is the ultimate will of God for humanity. As with all suffering we are confronted with the question of ‘why’? Why should an all-loving and all-powerful deity allow such wickedness in his world? The problem is particularly acute because we cannot directly blame human free will for the genetic mutation which evolved Covid-19, or for its initial transmission into the human population. Coronavirus sits alongside volcanoes and cancer as ‘natural evils’, intermittent problems with the way the world works and which sporadically rear their ugly heads. And as so often with such instances of evil, we find ourselves confronted with the ‘what’ but are not told the ‘why’: why should God permit this to happen indiscriminately to loved ones? There are no easy answers. We might conclude with the biologist who says that this virus in replicating itself is just doing what it does, with St Augustine that evil is not an active force but a ‘privation’ – less than the fullness which God wishes for his people, and with those who are finding countless opportunities at this time for loving acts of service that the Kingdom of God is made manifest in our response to adversity.

Finally we must remain steadfast in prayer for all those who are affected by the Coronavirus outbreak: especially those who are most vulnerable and afraid for themselves or people they love; those who work in our medical and support services; and those who are researching prevention and cure.

Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.    
       
Amen.