I am writing to reassure you of thoughts and prayers in these unprecedented times. I echo the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury and our own Bishop which suggest that the church is not closed but changing. Whilst we are not able to meet together physically, we are able to be together in prayer and service to one another in various ways. Technology has helped us, and I am beginning to “visit via the telephone”. I am so encouraged by people’s resilience at this difficult time and their sense of humour. I am also exploring technology to post a Sunday service and will let you know how to access that when I have it working well. I do encourage you to make yourself aware of the World Health organisation advice on mental health and wellbeing as we all experience isolation in one way or another. This is included in this magazine but is also posted on our website. There is also an order of service which I will be using at 8.00 am every morning and if you would like to join in, it would be good to be together in prayer in this way. These are all available in church and the church will be open on Saturday and Sunday but Not for public worship. If you do visit the church for a quiet moment, please do keep your distance from others and adhere to the hygiene protocol which is sign posted in church. Orders of service and information is available on our website. I am aware of community efforts to serve those who are self-isolating and do take advantage of offers to shop etc, if you are in this position.
Do stay safe and healthy and know that I am praying for you daily.
To end this letter, I include some words from our Bishop Viv.
The Church of God has depths of wisdom. We continue our journey through Lent following Jesus who isolated himself in the desert and emerging stronger from the demands of those 40 days. We know the stories of the earliest Christians living in acute political and economic uncertainty and through these times deepened their faith in the Christ who died, has risen and who will come again. Our own people have endured times of pandemic illness and have emerged from the shaking of social foundations with new life and with hope.
Throughout my ministry I have carried in my cassock pocket a hazelnut (I think I am now on my tenth) to remind me of Julian’s vision of the tiny hazelnut in the palm of her hand, and of God’s love for the world held which ‘lasts and lasts for ever because God loves it’. Julian self-isolated herself during a time of pandemic and from that isolation wrote of the assurance she had been given that “God said not 'Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased', but he said, 'Thou shalt not be overcome.” May we, too, notice tiny details of God’s re-creative care for us and the world. May we journey together in these tempestuous and dis-eased times confident in Christ in whom all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.
Yours in Christ
Notes prepared to help you look after yourself during the COVID-19 outbreak
World Health Organisation
Mental Health Considerations during COVID-19 Outbreak
6 March 2020
Try to avoid listening to the news if it is just causing you anxiety – listen often enough to know what you should be trying to do, but no more.
Share any reports of good news – those recovering from COVID-19 or looking after someone who has.
Remember all the individuals working to help you, and all of us, keep well and looked after – friends, family health care workers.
Keep in touch with your friends and social contacts – USE THE TELEPHONE or the internet. Don’t wait for someone to call you – they may be doing exactly the same, and feel just as isolated.
Make sure the news and information you read make sense to you. If they don’t, pick up the phone and check it out with someone you trust to help make it clear.
Keep busy doing the things you usually do to keep your mind occupied and yourself as active as you can be in the circumstances.
In January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus disease in Hubei Province, China to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. WHO stated there is a high risk of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreading to other countries around the world.
WHO and public health authorities around the world are taking action to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. However, this time of crisis is generating stress in the population. These mental health considerations were developed by the Mental Health Department as support for mental and psychological well-being during COVID-19 outbreak.
1. COVID-19 has and is likely to affect people from many countries, in many geographical locations. Don’t attach it to any ethnicity or nationality. Be empathetic to those who got affected, in and from any country, those with the disease have not done anything wrong.
2. Don’t - refer to people with the disease as “COVID-19 cases”, “victims” “COVID-19 families” or the “diseased”. They are “people who have COVID-19”, “people who are being treated for COVID-19”, “people who are recovering from COVID-19” and after recovering from COVID19 their life will go on with their jobs, families and loved ones.
3. Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that cause you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried. Get the facts. Gather information at regular intervals, from WHO website and local health authorities’ platforms, in order to help you distinguish facts from rumours.
4. Protect yourself and be supportive to others. Assisting others in their time of need can benefit the person receiving support as well as the helper.
5. Find opportunities to amplify the voices, positive stories and positive images of local people who have experienced the new coronavirus (COVID-19) and have recovered or who have supported a loved one through recovery and are willing to share their experience.
6. Honour caretakers and healthcare workers supporting people affected with COVID-19 in your community. Acknowledge the role they play to save lives and keep your loved ones safe.
For those caring for children
15. Help children find positive ways to express disturbing feelings such as fear and sadness. Every child has his/her own way to express emotions. Sometimes, engaging in a creative activity, such as playing, and drawing can facilitate this process. Children feel relieved if they can express and communicate their disturbing feelings in a safe and supportive environment.
16. Keep children close to their parents and family, if considered safe for the child, and avoid separating children and their caregivers as much as possible. If a child needs to be separated from his/her primary caregiver, ensure that appropriate alternative care is and that a social worker, or equivalent, will regularly follow up on the child. Further, ensure that during periods of separation, regular contact with parents and caregivers is maintained, such as twice-daily scheduled phone or video calls or other age-appropriate communication (e.g., social media depending on the age of the child).
17. Maintain familiar routines in daily life as much as possible, especially if children are confined to home. Provide engaging age appropriate activities for children. As much as possible, encourage children to continue to play and socialize with others, even if only within the family when advised to restrict social contract.
18. During times of stress and crisis, it is common for children to seek more attachment and be more demanding on parents Discuss the COVID-19 with your Children in honest and age appropriate information. If your children have concerns, addressing those together may ease their anxiety. Children will observe adults’ behaviours and emotions for cues on how to manage their own emotions during difficult times.
For those caring for older adults
19. Older adults, especially in isolation and those with cognitive decline/dementia, may become more anxious, angry, stressed, agitated, and withdrawn during the outbreak/while in quarantine. Provide practical and emotional support through informal networks (families) and health professionals.
20. Share simple facts about what is going on and give clear information about how to reduce risk of infection in words older people with/without cognitive impairment can understand. Repeat the information whenever necessary. Instructions need to be communicated in a clear, concise, respectful and patient way and it may also be helpful for information to be displayed in writing or pictures. Engage their family and other support networks in providing information and helping them practice prevention measures (e.g. handwashing etc.)
21. Encourage older adults with expertise, experiences and strengths to volunteer in community efforts to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak (for example the well/healthy retired older population can provide peer support, neighbour checking, and childcare for medical personnel restricted in hospitals fighting against COVID-19.)
People in isolation
22. Stay connected and maintain your social networks. Even in situations of isolations, try as much as possible to keep your personal daily routines. If health authorities have recommended limiting your physical social contact to contain the outbreak, you can stay connected via e-mail, social media, video conference and telephone.
23. During times of stress, pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly, keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy food. Keep things in perspective. Public health agencies and experts in all countries are working on the outbreak to ensure the availability of the best care to those affected.
24. A near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel anxious or distressed. Seek information updates and practical guidance at specific times during the day from health professionals and WHO website and avoid listening to or following rumours that make you feel uncomfortable.
Advice and guidance from WHO on COVID-19
A shortened version of the full WHO update found at https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf?sfvrsn=6d3578af_2 17/03/2020
Prepared by M Fletcher for St Barnabas Warmley 17/03/2020
Coronavirus Golden Rules
Not official advice: – but this is food-for-thought about our attitudes.
Golden Rule One. Each one of us can think about how we can protect and support our neighbours. So much of the public rhetoric is sowing fear about the danger of other people. So, taking all the official precautions, offer help and reassurance to others – and don’t demonise anyone or any group.
Golden Rule Two: Think about who may be suffering more than me. For those of us who are healthy there is much less to worry about but the elderly, the housebound and those with chronic health conditions may be very anxious. How about each church undertaking an audit of all the vulnerable people they know and sharing out the responsibility to phone them each day. There’s nothing like a friendly voice to offer solace when someone is worried. A smile can bring cheer, even on the phone. If you visit, follow all the official precautions or don’t go.
Golder Rule Three. Don’t give into panic and start hoarding food. There is plenty to go around, so practise the Christian discipline of sharing. Ask your neighbours what they need and do you best to help them get it. If you are self-isolating you will of course need some supplies.
Golden Rule Four. Live today to the full. None of us ever know what the future holds. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6. 25 – 34), Jesus challenged his followers to live each day fully and not be afraid. Every time we are tempted to give in to fear we need to make a conscious choice to respond in trust and openness.
And, along with just over half the adults in the UK, don’t forget to pray. Here’s a suggestion from the Revd Louise Collins, a Team Vicar in Borehamwood, Herts:
Dear God our Shield and our Defender, guide and protect my neighbour in this time of health emergency; deliver them from all harm and may your love and care ever grow in this place. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.
+Alan St Albans