CORONAVIRUS: A message from the Team
Message 18 March 2020
As you know, the situation is changing very rapidly at the moment. Today we received confirmation from the Archbishop that all public worship will be suspended with immediate effect. This means that we will no longer be gathering physically to worship together, and all of our groups and external bookings will also be suspended.
Of course this feels very strange to us all - the body not being able to be together is a hard thing to understand. But we also trust that there is an opportunity in all of this to be creative, prayerful and grow in intimacy with both God and each other.
So, working alongside you, we will:
- Be providing a Sunday service equivalent on our website each week, from this Sunday. This may be somewhat of a work in progress!
- Be gathering a list of great things that others are doing for you to draw on - watch out for a resources page.
- Be looking at ways to build community through online small group gatherings, producing specific content for youth, children and nurture room users.
- Seek to support families and children with ‘action bags’ - a weekly gift that will be left in the church for anyone to come and pick up with a resource or activity to take home and do together.
- Seek to support the most vulnerable in our community by helping with food wherever possible - watch this space for more details!
- Be producing ‘I can help’ postcards (with church specific details included) for you to pick up from church, fill in with your own contact details, and drop through your neighbours' doors.
Not all of this will happen immediately, but we wanted you to know some of the ways we, the community St Mary’s, are responding in love to all that we’re walking through together. It’s been so heartening already to see how many of you have been in touch to offer help - thank you.
Please feel free to be in touch with any of us, the Staff Team at any point - we are mostly working from home, but will be attending the phone in the Church Office between 10.00 and 12.00 each morning and responding to emails as normal - it will really help us to hear from you because, In the strength that Jesus gives each of us, we need to be working together now more than ever!
"From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16)
-The St Mary’s Staff Team
Message 16 March 2020
The coming weeks will be, for some, a time of confusion and frustration, and for others, a time of fear and isolation. As a church family we want you to know that we will be standing with you in prayer and looking to reach out, seeking to offer practical, emotional and spiritual support to you, your neighbours and your families.
We have, of course, been closely monitoring the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and, following advice from Public Health England and the Church of England, are taking appropriate steps to ensure we keep our congregations, staff, volunteers, and event attendees as safe as possible. Those steps will be outlined below.
While there may be hard weeks ahead, we place our trust in a Lord who is mightier than we can begin to comprehend. It is in Him that we find hope in times of trial, and that hope is given to us to share with others in our community, bringing true peace.
The Church is in a unique position right now - one that we must be bold to take up for the good of our community.
Pastoral and Prayer Care for the isolated
We are committed to maintaining meaningful contact with those who are choosing to self-isolate or who become unwell. This means:
- Keeping a list of those who are unwell or choosing to self-isolate - please let us know.
- Seeking to support and communicate with those who do not have internet access and providing appropriate paper resources.
- Putting together a phone call system so that each person who is isolated has regular contact with someone, and knows who to call for help or just a friendly chat.
- Using our Prayer Tree to register particular prayer needs for the congregation and community.
- Meeting practical needs for food, medication etc where possible.
If you are isolated or in need yourself, while we may not be able to visit you at home, please let us know by contacting your Small Group leader or the Staff Team (01608 646202, or 07418 059434 if more urgent).
Email the Prayer Tree (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Register me to help (email@example.com)
Let the office know about someone who is unwell or self-isolating (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Looking out for others who are affected around us
Responding compassionately to this pandemic, we remember that God can use any situation, however dismal it may seem, for good. In times such as these, Jesus’ command that we commit ourselves to ‘loving our neighbour’ comes to the fore in our worship of a God who has already given everything for us. When we show our concern for the people that God has put around us, each of us can grasp the opportunity to share the unique message of hope that we have in Jesus.
As a Staff Team we will be doing all that we can to provide you with resources that will help you share that message, both in word and in practice.
- Please be particularly pro-active in thinking about how your friends and neighbours might need practical help (for example with shopping or picking up medicines), or social contact (e.g. a regular phone call)
- Direct anyone who might be interested to our online resources (once they’re up!) as we seek to share the love and hope of Jesus. There will also be a hard copy resource available in due course.
- We will be producing a ‘I can help’ postcard that you can drop through neighbours and friends doors.
We expect things to change in relation to our gathered worship over the coming weeks, but for now we are continuing to meet as normal, with the following hygiene measures in place:
- Communion will consist of just receiving bread (it is Anglican teaching that to receive the sacrament in one kind only (i.e. just the bread) is to receive the sacrament in its entirety).
- We will limit physical contact by:
- Using hand sanitiser as we enter and leave the church building
- Not sharing the peace by touching each other
- Taking a retiring collection, rather than passing the offering plate round. Electronic contactless giving points also available.
- Not serving any drinks or food before or after the service
For your own safety and for that of others, please:
- Think carefully before attending church if you are in a vulnerable, high risk group. We love you and want you to feel safe about the decisions you make.
- To help prevent the spread of infection, please follow general best practice as outlined by Public Health England (catch it, bin it, kill it).
- DO NOT ATTEND CHURCH if you have a recent onset of a new continuous cough and/or high temperature, and click for public health guidance.
We have started to record our whole service and this will be uploaded on our website for those who can’t make it to church. If we need to stop meeting together, we will be recording and uploading teaching in some form - watch this space!
Our Small Groups form the backbone of our church community so will be vital in maintaining positive contact and initiating support. Until further guidance, we will continue to meet in homes, with the following precautions:
- Anyone who is unwell, or considered particularly vulnerable, should not attend.
- People should wash their hands on arrival and hosts should clean door handles etc after people leave.
- Some groups may choose not to meet at all, or to meet over Skype, or for a walk outside instead.
Group leaders are encouraged to pursue close communication with the group members, and offer what support they can. You have a beautiful role to play in helping people through this, so please be in touch with Ursula to let us know how we can support you, and make any wider needs known to the pastoral care and prayer network.
Contact Ursula email@example.com
Other events and gatherings
We have already made the decision to cancel some of our regular ministries and activities, particularly those that cater for the more ‘at risk’. As of this week, there will be no more:
- Thursday Communion, Out to Lunch, Come for Tea, Mini Movers.
Our other regular groups and gatherings are under constant review so we will let you know if things change. Thank you for your patience.
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy.
Sustain and support the anxious,
be with those who care for the sick,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may find comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.