Alleluia Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
This is an opening not heard in our closed churches this Easter. Unlike the tomb on Easter morning, our churches remain locked and silent. But, the first Easter, with its account of the disciples emerging from the empty tomb blinking into the sunlight, perhaps more than many Easters we have known, reflects our own journey this year. Things are different and it is taking us time to adjust our eyes to the new light, to understand just what we are witnessing on our screens, in scripture and our lives. Perhaps, it took some time for the resurrection of Jesus Christ to become the ‘new normal‘, not just as a call and response in church, but also how we are called to be church in the world in, and beyond, the present crisis.
Like the first disciples, we have had the 40 day Easter pilgrimage to begin to come to terms with all that the resurrection and the new normal might mean for us. Things are certainly different in the strangeness ushered in by the Cornavirus, where personal faith, national health and global economy have all been challenged by the pandemic. Being church has become different too. It has been hard keeping the church closed, as instructed. It has been harder not seeing friends on Sunday, especially as this change came so abruptly, before Mothering Sunday. Palm Crosses remain in the drawer, Holy Week and Easter came and went without services being held in public. After Ascension Day, the disciples are guided to return to the city and wait and pray in focussed isolation, until the gift of the Holy Spirit (Whitsun / Pentecost May 31 2020) enables them to understand and speak with new confidence to one another and the world. That’s where we are now as a church, I think, seeking guidance about the best way to communicate that of God at this time all around us.
Prayer in action (see TKC article below) after the example of Jesus Christ, is vital. I know that you are engaged this, even in isolation, with phone calls to friends, as well as family. Thank you for keeping in touch. St John’s Centre has been doing so too as a community hub, making sure that vulnerable people have access to food and support.
Many are busy keeping in touch using online platforms, but this newsletter is being sent, with permission, recognizing many of our congregation are not yet confident going online. If that’s true for you, you might like to know about a new landline prayer resource:
The line – which is available 24 hours a day on 0800 804 8044 – has been set up particularly with those unable to join online church services during the period of restrictions in mind.
“With many in our country on lockdown, it’s important that we support those who are feeling lonely and isolated, whatever age they are." Archbishop Justin Welby
Options available include materials also available digitally by the Church of England’s Communications team such as Prayer During the Day and Night Prayer updated daily, from Common Worship, and a recording of the Church of England weekly national online service.
Daily Hope offers music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England at the end of a telephone line. A section called Hymn Line offers callers a small selection of hymns, updated daily. An option entitled ‘Hymns We Love’, provides a hymn and reflection and is based on an initiative by the Connections group.
‘Come Holy Spirit and kindle in us the fire of your love’ is a prayer I particularly associate with this the season of Ascensiontide. It speaks out the help we seek. In this 10 day period, as in recent years, we are also invited to pray ‘thy kingdom come’ I’ll be doing so on the church steps at 12 noon.
This message from Reverend Canon Chris Russell, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Advisor on Evangelism and Witness, explores this year’s plans including a new element introduced this year.
Every single day hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters around the world say the prayer Jesus put on our lips, praying ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. In the past few years, the focus of our prayers in these days between Ascension and Pentecost has been for the coming of the God’s Kingdom in the lives of family and friends, neighbours and colleagues that they might come to faith.
But TKC is not a slogan and it is vital we aren’t tone deaf to what is occurring around us. The Holy Spirit always has an address, speaking in our mother tongue, and so earthing the work of Jesus Christ to certain individuals in different locations at distinct times. So, when we pray ‘Come Holy Spirit’ during Thy Kingdom Come 2020 we pray in this specific context of the COVID crisis, with all that we face, all that is unknown and all we are helpless before.
Haven’t we sensed more than ever the longing for the Kingdom of God – where there is no pain or crying, no injustice or loneliness? Haven’t we longed for God’s ways to be seen in the world? Haven’t we been most moved by those who give their lives to serve all that the Kingdom of God stands for? We long for signs of the Kingdom. And as a church do all we can to serve that Kingdom.
But however important prayer is we know the pray-er is called to action. So, this year we will be encouraging all not simply to pray that friends and family, colleagues and neighbours might encounter the love of God in Christ, but that they would experience that love in action. We are calling this ‘Prayer and Care’. Of course in churches up and down the country doing this is a daily reality, and this time of prayer gives itself to an even deeper engagement with the needs around us. There are a whole load of ways we are suggesting this could happen; by care, by contact, by service – but serving as Christ serves.
This year as we pray for others, we pray that they would come to know Christ so that they may come to give their lives to serve God’s Kingdom. We will once again encourage every person taking part in TKC to pray for 5 others who don’t know the love of Christ and then to resolve to invite them along to something appropriate once our church buildings are reopened. All this prayer is reliant and expectant that the Holy Spirit would draw more and more to encounter God’s love in Christ, so we might be and bring the difference in the world he sends us to stake everything on.
Yours in Christ,
The Revd Canon Chris Russell, Archbishop of Canterbury’s Advisor on Evangelism and Witness
St John’s Centre
The Centre continues to make sure that food is delivered to those who are vulnerable, self isolating or shielding. It is one of six such community hubs in the Borough of Trafford and we are proud of the staff and volunteers that enable us to play this vital role during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Classes, Groups and Activities
The hall remains closed for all other group activities but we are still trying to plan for the future, and the possibility of activities commencing again later in the year.
We are currently spending twice as much money, as we are receiving. This is not surprising, as we have been unable to deliver or collect the envelopes for regular giving. Apologies for this, but again we have been following national guidelines about reducing the risk of infection. The Diocese of Manchester have encouraged people to switch from envelope giving to paying by standing order / direct debit. If you would like to do so, these are the church account details: Barclays bank St John’s Church PCC Account: 40778419; sort code:20-26-20. BUT, if you prefer to carry on giving by envelope, we will get these to you as soon as safely possible.
We held our first PCC meeting using a video conferencing facility in May, but our Annual Parochial Church Meeting has been postponed til later in the year.
If you would like to join our video conference prayer and share services, Christine Aspinall will send you an invite: [email protected] There will also be an online Sunday service on May 31st. Contact John if you want to join in: [email protected] John will also saying daily prayers at 12 outside the closed front door of the church, by the fallen rainbow!
Services in church
The church remains closed for public worship, but the latest advice we have received suggests that we may be able to open the building for private prayer in July. Smaller church services may then follow.
Before the church is open for private prayer, Grace Valentine is offering to provide a candle for us to light at 6.30 when some of us meet for online prayer. In this way we can be connected and united in prayer whether online or not. Contact John on 0161 872 0500, if you would like a prayer candle and he’ll find a safe way of getting it to you..
There have been no funerals in church since the middle of March (Renaza Peter Duhaney 80) All such services have since gone directly to the crematorium or the graveside. These include services for Mone Gray, who died before birth, Ruttie Bell, long associated with Christchurch, Brunswick St; Edrick Clarke, 79, long associated with Christ Church, Moss Side; Pearl Livingston, 87, long associated with St Margaret’s Whalley Range; Barry Walters,61. Please keep their families in your prayers as the nature of funeral services is very different at the moment, and this adds to the pain of letting go.
Baptisms + Weddings
All 7 baptisms planned for the first half of this year have had to be postponed. We hope all the children and their families will be able to gather safely in church soon. Weddings are also on hold for the time being.
The coronavirus Covid-19 has radically affected our life in church, in our families and in our world. With rainbow in mind, we continue to pray for each other, those we love and especially for those most affected by ill health, loss, and caring for the sick: ‘Come Holy Spirit and kindle in us the fire of your Love’. May the Holy Spirit enable and equip us to share with all God’s love in times of trial and sorrow as in times of triumph and joy. Amen.