EPIPHANY TO LENT 2021
New year, new lockdown, but our parish will continue to offer whatever we can to support you during these difficult days. Here on this site you will find online resources for worship every Sunday and reflections for during the week. Please also get in touch if you want to speak to someone, ask for prayer or need practical help of any kind.
If we continue to be able to offer in-person worship in our churches, you can find our latest risk assessment on this site - and remember to book your place in advance. Please consider carefully your own risk and the advice to stay at home as far as possible. The safest place to worship is at home for now.
Please keep our NHS and all those working on the frontline of our hospitals, vaccinations and supply chains in your prayers - as well as teachers and students, factory and supermarket workers, and our emergency services, councils and political representatives too. They need our prayers right now - along with all who may be sick or ill in any way, their relatives and friends, and anyone mourning the loss of loved ones. These are dark days, but in our hearts and our lives may the light of Christ shine in the darkness. And the darkness will not overcome it!
CHRISTMAS 2020 AND BEYOND
Following the end of the second lockdown, our churches re-opened for onsite public worship on Sunday 6th December. We continue to offer weekly online services for Sundays available on this site, with recorded music by our wonderful musicians, Barry and Anne. Please join us in whatever way is most comfortable and appropriate for you, as we want to help everyone make the right decisions for them as we negotiate these winter months of the Pandemic.
Please do let us know if we can help or support you in any way - and please get in touch if you have any questions or would just like a chat. Our plans for onsite and online services for Christmas are for an Online Christingle on Christmas Eve available on this site, and an Online Christmas Service also available on this site! At our churches there will be Communion Services by booking only - please contact Simon the Vicar to find out more.
There will be onsite services at St James on Christmas Eve Thursday 24th at 3pm, then at All Saints at 7.30pm and 11.30pm, and on Christmas Day Friday at 10am at All Saints. Book early to avoid disappointment.
Please stay safe, be kind to yourselves and one another, and keep our communities, friends, strangers and all who are serving the needs of others in any way in your prayers this Advent, Christmastide and beyond.
UPDATE - JULY - TOWARDS RE-OPENING OUR CHURCHES
Following the publication of government and CofE guidance on re-opening for public worship, and on reflection with the PCC, we are aiming to re-open our buildings for public worship for Sunday 12th July with specific limits on numbers and guidelines to follow. Our online services and provision on this site will continue for the foreseeable future alongside any physical services.
This is for a number of reasons, including ensuring we have sufficient time to take all due precautions, and because the guidance was sent out so late, which might lead us to rush something which needs to be handled carefully and sensibly. Above all, as I said at the start of the lockdown, this is a marathon not a sprint, and it is important to build up what we are doing rather than rushing and having to scale back because we can't keep things going. As St Paul reminds us, 'All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.'
Many of you are continuing to shield or to remain at home for the moment, and please remember in all of this that you haven't been forgotten! For some of you hoping to come back into church sooner, I recognise this may be a disappointment, but your safety and that of everyone has to be paramount in making the decision to re-open. When we are ready, we will send out guidance and some pictures to help you see what coming back will look like, and to explain how it will work in practice - as it will be very different in some regards, at least to begin with.
UPDATE - TRINITY SEASON 2020
We're back to that Church season called 'Ordinary Time' - although this year it's anything but ordinary! And just when we may have settled into our forced isolation and found a routine to make it more bearable, now we face the re-starting of the world, and the return to what people are calling the 'new normal'.
It's a bit like watching a toddler taking their first steps, lurching one way suddenly, and righting themselves or sometimes toppling over, picking themselves up against the furniture and toddling on. There is trial and error, but also trepidation and nervousness - on the part of governments and diocese concerned about not moving too far too fast - and the inevitable reluctance of insurance companies and senior folk to accept liability or responsibility for local situations. None of this is surprising, nor should it worry us too much. What is more important is our own response to coming back out into the world - and for each of us that response will be different.
For some, the sheer delight of coming back out will outweigh other concerns, at least initially; for others, stepping away from home and the rules of shielding may be very unsettling and even frightening to begin with - especially as for many people social distancing seems to have gone out of the window. Threats of a second wave only heighten the tension.
In this feverish atmosphere, I don't know how you are feeling in yourself, or how you feel about the easing of lockdown restrictions. But what I can say is that as your church, we will be there with you and for you throughout. Even as we begin to consider how we might reopen our church buildings as a PCC, our priority is to make sure it is as safe as it can be, while also encouraging everyone to make their own decisions for themselves - around risk, around what you are or aren't prepared to do, around what feels right at this or any other stage. This isn't just about following rules or regulations - there is of course guidance, but the true responsibility and, ultimately, the risk, rests with each one of us as individuals.
As Christians, though, this has always been the way our faith teaches. Jesus doesn't just give blanket rules to say 'do this, do that, and you'll go to heaven'. He teaches his followers to step out in faith, mindful of his teachings and his own example - to follow in his way, as best we can. But he also teaches that sometimes we will stumble and fall, and mess things up. And when we do, God's love and forgiveness is still there for us, and not only that, but God's love is with us all the time as we try to walk, like the arms of a parent and their encouraging voice as a toddler takes their first steps.
God loves us, and wants us to know we are loved, even in this hard situation. It will not magically disappear, and as we have done already, we will need to learn to live with our new and changing circumstances for some time to come. But if we stay close to Jesus, listening to his voice, and remembering he loves us, then when we are ready, we can take our next steps of faith knowing he is with us, as he has been throughout this strange year so far.
BUILDINGS MAY CLOSE BUT CHURCH GOES ON...
Following yesterday's new measures, our buildings will now be closed completely until further notice. We are all advised to stay at home as far as we can, except for essential journeys such as to buy food or medicine, for medical treatments or for work if it cannot be done at home. But the Church will continue in its ministry and mission of love, worshipping God and serving others as it has always done.
PLAYING OUR PART - HOLDING ON TO HOPE!
As Christians we believe God loves us and is faithful to us, even in the hardest of times. God's Church is not for perfect people, but those who strive to do their best, to be better, more loving and more generous in our lives. Through years of plague and times of war and civil strife, and through days of confusion, terror and sorrow, the Church has continued to trust in God and his faithfulness, and He has always been with us, even when we may have messed up. And through God's love, men and women have done wonderful, loving, hopeful things in the name of Jesus - some well known, others known only to God.
This is because we believe there is always hope, always love, always God with us. Right now it may be hard - and it may get harder before the end. But if the Church has learnt anything in its 2000 years of existence, it is that this too shall pass. Now is not the end of time, however much it may feel that way. All of us, Christian or not, are called to play our part in shaping this time and the new world in which we live in ways we couldn't have expected even a few months ago. That may even be by staying at home.
HOW YOU CAN HELP!
The poet John Milton was a passionate Christian in the time of the Civil War and the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. He was a political writer and activist as well as a poet, but unexpectedly found himself going blind in the prime of his life. Believing himself useless and without purpose, he became increasingly depressed, until reflecting on his faith, he came to a profound insight. In his poem, 'On his blindness', Milton expresses his anguish to God at feeling so helpless and inadequate, but then reflects on the immense power at God's disposal and the great hosts of God's servants. He comes to see that God's love for him isn't about what he can do for God, but that he trusts in him and simply does what he has been asked to do. As he says at the end of the poem, 'They also serve who only stand and wait.'
Right now, please remember you also serve who stay at home and pray... Please keep an eye on this site for resources, advice and encouragement - and remember to stay in touch with family, friends and anyone you think might like a call. Thank you for your service!