Covid-19. Excerpts from the Parish Magazine and Newsletter
United Benefice Newsletter 29th August
After my summer break (which was great) I normally look forward to a new school year for the lads and in my ministry, I’m normally thinking about, about Harvest Festivals, Remembrance Sunday, Bereavement Sunday, Advent and even Christmas!! But this is not a normal year. If we take notice of news and scientific reports we’re far from the old ‘normal’. Churches around the world must rediscover their charisma and their callings through the Holy Spirit to serve God’s world and all who live within it.
For some of us we must ask what does it mean to be a Christian in Derbyshire here and now? I’d like to invite you to jump back to 1985 (I know some of you weren’t born!!). UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar called Mother Teresa “the most powerful woman in the world.” How did an elderly woman of ill health and complete poverty have any power? Her ‘power’ was found in her total reliance on God and her love for all people. She served all in need. To people she met she gave a card with the following words on. Maybe her Simple Path shows us how to live.
The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.
God bless you and your family this Sunday and throughout the week
With Kind Regards and every prayer.
Revd. Stephen Monk
WHERE ARE WE HEADING?
This may seem to be a strange title for an extra add on to the latest Newsletter and your September Magazine. Though our churches aren’t open yet there are a lot of things going on. We have members of our communities tidying and cleaning our churches ready for their opening for weekly, safe private prayer:
St Helen’s on the 17th of September 10 am – 12noon and then St Mary’s on September the 24th.
We’ve also got the first side people ready to be about on these dates. I will be in our churches on these dates and in the future whenever possible. If anyone wants a private chat, we will be able to go to a more private though safe area of our churches.
We are around the last of the local churches to open but I wanted to make sure we can be as safe as possible. Let me remind you that if you feel unsafe or anxious about coming to church for private prayer you are truly the church in your homes, in your flats or houses, or nursing homes – you ARE the church. You are the Body of Christ.
Then moving on to the corporate worship in St Mary’s and St Helen’s will be on 18th October and 25th of October respectively. Some will disagree with my actions; others will feel I’ve been too cautious. They may well be right, but my ministry is about two things – deep love of God and deep love of all of you for whom I have the ‘cure of souls’.
The church is truly fully realized when it gathers as one. One Body and One Faith but we live in difficult times and so I know that Jesus Christ is truly present in your homes and in your ‘bubbles’ – not just when we are in the church building.
My advice is to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. If you feel you want to visit your church for private prayer do so. If you want to come to a service on a Sunday do so but keep safe. Jesus doesn’t want any of us to put ourselves in harm’s way. Please let me assure you all again that you are daily in my prayers. You are held in love and you are precious in the sight of God.
“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” Helen Keller said these words. We live in a shattered world with many shattered people, these facts are evident but the equal reality is we live in a world where God the Holy Trinity loves every person on the planet. I very much look forward to seeing you all, when the time is right.
What follows is the practical points and information you need for the next few months. God bless you and all your friends, family, and neighbours.
Revd. Stephen Monk
The Standing Committees of each church continue to meet and work on the plans and procedures for opening our churches safely, in discussion with all PCC members. The following item is for St Helen’s church members only. To work out how we introduce services to accommodate all who wish to come to them please respond by letting us know as requested.
From Laurence Freeman OSB, “Letter Four,” THE WEB OF SILENCE (London: Dartman, Longman & Todd, 1996), pp. 42, 44-45.
In the face of our contemporary crises we need to ask why we meditate. We ask it not to undermine our commitment but to refine and deepen it. We are not in pursuit of interesting experiences. Meditation is not information technology. It is about knowledge that redeems, pure consciousness—knowing, not merely knowing about. Meditation does not increase our funds of information. In fact, we turn away from our usual information-gathering and sorting as we turn to a knowledge that is not quantifiable, a knowing that unifies rather than analyses.
The feeling of foolishness or of being unproductive is a positive sign that we are being led by the “spiritual powers of wisdom and vision, by which there comes the knowledge of God” (Ephesians 1:17). This redemptive and recreative knowledge is the wisdom our age lacks. We can recognize it and discriminate between it and its counterfeits because it neither claims nor parades any possessive pronoun. No one claims it as their own.
It is the consciousness of the Holy Spirit and therefore it is the womb of all truly loving action. In the face of the most disheartening tragedy it is as close to us as we are to our true selves.
History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.
The following from the Bishop’s recent Covid -19 Updates also speak to our current situation:
New laws on face coverings in churches
The prime minister outlined plans on Friday to make face coverings mandatory in places of worship from 8th August – and has withdrawn guidance to permit indoor professional performances with immediate effect. The Church of England is studying government regulations and will update its guidance accordingly.
You will be able to find this on the Church of England’s Covid-19 guidance pages once it is updated.
In the meantime, it is strongly advised that face coverings should be worn by all those attending a place of worship, including ministers, worshippers, staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors, where there may be other people present; remembering that they are mainly intended to protect other people, not the wearer, from coronavirus and that they are not a replacement for physical distancing and regular hand washing.
Thoughts on hope (From Stephen)
“Hope is called the anchor of the soul (Heb 6. 19) because it gives stability to the Christian life. But hope is not simply a ‘wish’ (I wish that such-and-such would take place); rather, it is that which latches on to the certainty of the promises of the future that God has made.” -RC Sproul
“The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity–the hope of pardon, the hope of peace with God, the hope of glory–because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross.” -J.I. Packer
“Without Christ, there is no hope.” -Charles Spurgeon
“Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand.” -Thomas Aquinas
“Our righteousness is in Him, and our hope depends, not upon the exercise of grace in us, but upon the fullness of grace and love in Him, and upon His obedience unto death.” -John Newton
Points for prayer
Let us hold before God, those who are ill, recovering from illness or in end of life care.
Let us hold in prayer all those who care for the sick and the dying. Remembering all carers and also all who work for the NHS.
Let us pray for our communities; all who live and work here and those who are visiting here for a holiday.
Let us pray for our opening of the churches for private prayer and also for when we open our churches for public worship.
When we pray, we must be totally open to the God of all hope and promises. “True faith means holding nothing back. It means putting every hope in God’s fidelity to His Promises.” -Francis Chan Let us pray with faith. Faith that God walks this path with us.
Reflected Faith: a ‘Holding Cross’
Many churches today are using social media to hold public services – either together at the same time or uploaded so you can listen and watch at any time and worship in your home when it is convenient for you.
I find that having a ‘prayer space’ when I join, as well as when I pray alone, enables me to enter into that time of holiness quicker and more fruitfully. It’s like when you physically go to a church building for a service. Your hand holds the door handle and you choose to enter into a sacred space.
Not many of us have the luxury of a separate space where we currently live, and in many ways, I prefer not to distinguish prayer life from everyday life. After all, where does one end and the other begin? God is everywhere; in every room in the house. He’s no less in my home or yours than He is in our locked church buildings. He’s with me when I pray and when I eat, or cook, or watch TV and so on.
One item I appreciate is a cross that I can hold. Ideally one that completely fits into my hand.
There are wooden ‘Holding Crosses’ that you can make or buy especially for this purpose, but you can use any material. Perhaps you could make one out of felt and stuff it, to give it form and solidity.
I have one made from an old plastic book binding strip, which I cut to size. One piece slots into the other, to form the cross shape.
What I appreciate about the holding cross is its firmness, it reminds me that Christ is my firm foundation; that God is solid and dependable. It reminds me also that whatever happens I will cling to Him. And it tells me that as I hold that cross in my hand so I pray that He will hold me forever, never letting me go or fall.
See what materials you have from which you could make a Holding Cross. What feelings and thoughts come to you as you use it in your prayer and worship time?
Revd. Jo White (from the Parish Pump)
More killings in Nigeria
A recent report from Nigeria claims the latest attacks by Fulani militants killed 620 Christians in the first five months of 2020.
The report, by the International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law (ISCLRL), follows an attack on the Christian village of Gonan Rogo, which claimed 17 lives, including a father, mother and their three young children.
The report supports claims by partners of UK-based Release International that the attacks are growing and have the characteristics of an undeclared jihad against Christians.
The ISCLRL, an NGO, claims 32,000 Christians have been killed by Islamist militants since 2009. The United Nation puts the figure killed in the conflict in northern Nigeria at 27,000.
One of the latest attacks was against the Baptist village of Gonan Rogo in Kaduna State. Armed Fulani militants waited until around midnight on May 12 until the villagers were asleep then set upon them with guns and knives.
According to Release’s sister organisation Voice of the Martyrs (USA), the attack on Gonan Rogo was part of a wave of 13 assaults by Fulani militants on villages in Kaduna and Plateau states.
‘The Nigerian government is at best ineffective, at worst reluctant, to prevent these attacks,’ says Release CEO Paul Robinson. ‘Christians in Nigeria have faced an onslaught by Boko Haram terrorists. Now they are having to endure even more deadly attacks by armed Fulani militants. How many more Christian villagers have to die before Nigeria’s military and police take effective action?”
Taken from Diocese of Derby eNews
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Individual prayer in churches – what are the rules?
The Government has allowed churches to open for individual prayer.
However, it is not compulsory for churches to open and, in the Diocese of Derby, it remains a decision for each church to decide what it can achieve within the guidelines and regulations.
Some churches are already opening for private prayer; others will do so soon – and there are some that may not be able to open for some weeks, or even months.
Individual prayer within a place of worship is defined as a person or household entering the venue to pray on their own and not as part of a group, led prayer or communal act. They should be socially distanced from other individuals or households.
Collective or communal prayer and regular scheduled services are not yet permitted.
Members of the public are advised to check a church’s website or check with the vicar before going to a church to pray.
Quote from Duncan Ballard’s newsletter:
Churches MAY open for private individual prayer. However, churches can only open after a full risk assessment has been undertaken, because the safety of the public is paramount. We also need to ensure there is an adequate cleaning regime in place, and the church can be stewarded.”
Services in Church
Churches are now allowed to open for services. However, just because they are permitted to open, just like opening for private prayer, it does not mean they have to. A lot of measures have to be put in place to ensure the safety of all and the churches in the United Benefice are not opening for services at the moment. Please look at the newsletter / magazine / and this website for further updates when decisions have been made. Hand sanitizer has been bought along with masks and gloves for stewards, posters are being made ready and our churches are being looked at to see how we may ensure social distancing. Careful planning is needed and it is important not to rush into anything.
Our United Benefice income has been really hit these past few months. Many of the parishes in our Diocese are really hit because people have sadly lost jobs or are on furlough and very worried about the future.
We are in a slightly different situation where most of our community are on pensions etc so I’d ask you please could you continue to make your offerings sending them to Mr Ian Sutton our UB Treasurer. Remember the offerings you give are to God’s greater glory and for His Service. When our churches are getting ready to be up and running, we’ll really need as much money as people can afford. Those who know me know that I don’t like asking for funds but the reality is to keep going when this pandemic is more stable, we need the funds to move forward.
Coming to Church
When it’s safe to come into our church buildings, there will be new members who have been hit by the big questions in life. This often happens after a national or international crisis. So, I ask you to please pray for those who are thinking of coming to church in our United Benefice. When we finally return please be welcoming.
Together while apart
- Sunday 10.30am sharing in a service – outline as suggested by Stephen or using the one in Pandemic Prayers.
- Sunday 7.00pm lighting a candle and sharing in the prayers sent out by Audrey and a short service – the Compline in Pandemic prayers or one on the CofE website for example.
- Printing this off for folk without the internet or forwarding it to those who do.
- Prayer needs – let me know to circulate to prayer team