Update 22 March 2020: As of this evening the Bishop of London, in an effort to help stop the spread of Covid-19 (Coronavirus), has ordered that all churches are closed. The building may be shut, but the church is still alive and all around us. If you need any help, or would like us to say a prayer for you or somebody you love, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Dear all,

You may have heard rumours that the church is closed – it is not. Not least of all because we, each of us individually and together, are the church, but also because the building is being kept open for private prayer.

The Archbishops have announced that all public worship is being placed on hold in an effort to stop gatherings and the spreading of COVID-19.

However, in everything we do we worship God, in the way we love our neighbours, in the way we maintain a sense of trust in God. Jesus tells us ‘Be not afraid, for I go with you always, to the end of the age.’ In 2000 years many tragedies have struck the world, but God’s church goes on. In these days we, with our faith in an unchanging, compassionate God, can be a voice of hope and a tonic for the fear and anxiety which many people may be feeling.

After All Saints was destroyed by fire in 1940 the community protected the main building by blocking off the chapel and worshipping there for 12 years while the funds were raised and the work was done to re-open the main body of the church. Times were hard – but we adapt and find new ways to be the church. We may be blocked off from being together as the body of the church now but we will adapt and we will find new ways of being church – some which will be heartbreaking and difficult and some which may well enrich our lives together in the future

National Day of Prayer and Action – 22nd March 2020
The Archbishops along with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland have called for this Sunday (Mothering Sunday) to be a National Day of Prayer and Action. Inviting everybody to light a candle in their window as a sign of their prayer. Sunset is at 6.20, so I am going to suggest that everybody join in with a short prayer in their home sometime between 6 and 7pm and light a candle. Use the order of service on our website.

Practicalities
In practical terms, all events in church will need to be cancelled.

  • There will be no soup lunches,
  • Knit and Natterers will have to knit and natter from home,
  • Quizzes and all other social events will have to be cancelled for some time,
  • Stay and Play will be cancelled,
  • Youth Group will be cancelled,
  • No Sunday Club,
  • Book Club won’t be able to meet in person,
  • Silver Screen movie club won’t take place,
  • No public worship

But the church will remain open for personal prayer. The loo is open for hand washing and hand gel will be available as well. Candles are in the candle stand so that they can be lit with minimal physical contact (please only touch the candle you are lighting) and I ask that you remain two meters away from one another in the church. You can leave prayers in the basket in the lady chapel, or email or tweet or phone me with them, so they can be added to our corporate prayer.

Meetings and some gatherings could be conducted by video-conferencing technology – I will be discussing the possibility of doing this for PCC and committee meetings as well as for the Book Club.

Prayers of the Church
I invite you to help me in maintaining the rhythm of prayer of the church at home. I will be live streaming Morning, Evening or the Eucharist Sunday through Thursday via our facebook page  (note, you don’t need to sign up to facebook to watch the live stream, simply visit the page on your computer). Orders of service are available online or I can drop them off to your house. If you can’t watch online, you can still join in the prayers of the church. I will be devising an additional prayer book with prayers you can use at home. In the meantime there are resources on the Church of England Website, including morning prayer, prayer during the day, evening prayer and night prayer

I encourage you please not to come to church when you know there is a service on, in order that there is no temptation to gather in person the doors will be closed at those times. Even if the doors had been open when I am saying the Eucharist, as it is not an act of ‘public’ worship, I would not have been able to share the sacrament with you. I am, however, exploring ways that the sacrament can be safely distributed to people in their homes if they wish. If you would like to receive the Eucharist at home – which I would be delighted to facilitate, then please let me know by email or a phone call.

I am planning to circulate some material for us to use with our children and young people to help them engage with prayer and the scriptures at home. If you would be interested in receiving this or contributing to it, please do let me know.

Holy Week and Easter are among the most sacred days in our calendar and will clearly fall within the time that we are unable to gather. I am exploring some creative ways for us to mark these Holy Days remotely or without gathering as a group. I will be in touch with a plan and resources as this time approaches.

Service to our Community
I have also put up posters saying ‘You may be self-isolating, but you are not alone’ and asking people to ring the church phone number or email me if they are in need of a chat or need supplies bringing to them. If you are willing to participate in either of these acts of service to our parish, please let me know by email or a phone call. I will be trying to ring all those on our electoral roll in the next few days to check how you are and see what help you need.

Finally, if you have any ideas on how we can support one another in these times, then please do get in touch.

Your servant in Christ.
Robin.

The Lord bless you, and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace, both now and evermore. Amen.