Dear friendsI continue to pray for you each day, and hope that in your rest, work, school run, chores, gardening, or being still with God - all of those moments in your week - you know God's presence with you.
I have begun a new venture this week - the "Couch to 5K" programme, which should, if I follow the guidance, mean that within a few weeks I should be able to run 5km. It begins with a gentle combination of walking and running in short bursts, and each week the duration of running increases gradually until (I believe) I am running for the whole guided time allocation.
I realised after the first run how incredibly unfit I have become - I think lockdown was more like 5K to couch in terms of my activity levels. I am in awe of those of you who have continued to exercise over the last 18 months. Having done a couple of runs now, very early in the morning, I realise what a blessing it is to be out in our community, what a blessing Redcatch Park is, and what a blessing it is to finish the run!
I also realise that if I had tried to run 5 kilometres straight away, I would have failed. I would have probably pulled a few muscles along the way, and my stamina most definitely wouldn't have allowed me to finish. It would have done more harm than good to rush to the final stage without gradually building up my energy, fitness and confidence. I may still not get to the final stage, but I am stepping (running) forward in faith, and I will let you know how I progress!
I believe we must take a similar approach to our recovery from the pandemic, particularly in the way we gather in our worship space. Slow and steady incremental changes, holding wisdom and caution together, are, I believe, much more important than rushing to a removal of all restrictions. The book of Wisdom features in the Church of England Morning Prayer liturgy each day in this current season, and we're cautioned again and again in this book against rushing into decisions or behaviours without considering the way of God.
And so in considering the way of God, particularly the way that Jesus teaches us to love each other, as a PCC we have considered our next stage of recovery in the way we worship. To that end, we will continue with all regulations in place for the 8.30am Holy Communion service. Masks will be required at all times unless you are exempt, social distancing will be maintained, and the congregation will remain in place for the whole service, including for the distribution of communion. One change is that we will introduce a second bible reading, which a member of the congregation will be invited to read each week.
For the 10.30am Holy Communion service, we will continue to ask you to wear a mask when moving around the building, with the option to remove your mask when seated. We will invite you to now come forward to receive communion, which will still be distributed in one kind, and you will be guided forward when it is your turn. We will still bring communion to those who need to receive from their seat.
We will no longer be streaming the service on Sunday mornings. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, the number of people engaging 'live' has reduced significantly. Although we appreciate that within the space of a week we get a high number of views, and it has been wonderful to see how far our services have been reaching on a geographical basis, our primary call is to be the parish church of St Martin Knowle, and to be the Lord's people gathered around the Lord's table. Secondly, it has relied on Laura and I to facilitate the live stream, and we no longer have the capacity to do this, particularly when we are also celebrating the Eucharist and having to keep one eye on whether the signal is still maintaining the live stream! Thirdly, we haven't streamed for the last 2 weeks, and have had no feedback that it has been missed, so as a PCC we feel that the season of live streaming, whilst incredibly valuable when the church was closed, has now come to an end.
We also have some exciting plans for additional opportunities to gather. Messy Church launches this month, which is a national initiative that aims to introduce families and young children to faith in a creative way. Do please pray for Chris and the team as they begin this. We also launch the "4th @ 4" - a gathering at 4pm on the 4th Sunday of each month, which provides a space to explore matters of life and faith in an informal way.
Looking further ahead we will be exploring creative ways to gather on the 2nd Sunday of each month in the morning. The first of these will be when we celebrate Harvest on Sunday 10th October, when we are holding a pet service at 10.00. More details to follow, but please put the date in your pets diary! We will also hold a Harvest bring and share lunch that day.
So as I continue with my gradual progression towards fitness, I continue to pray for our whole parish as we make gradual progression towards our regular pattern of gathering and belonging as a Christian community, with wisdom and caution.
I pray you will also continue with those steps of faith, and that you will know God's love, peace and mercy at all times.
With every blessing, as ever,