In my last letter on Wednesday I wrote of the church reopening and tried to give a picture of what worship will look like for the foreseeable future until more restrictions are lifted. Since then I have a had quite a few conversations with people about their concerns and anxieties about returning to church. I just want to emphasise that I fully appreciate and understand those concerns, in fact I share some of them! Please do not feel under any pressure to return immediately if you are not comfortable with doing so. We are continuing with mailings and on-line worship on a Sunday during July with this in mind. But I also want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to ensure that we can worship safely and with appropriate social distancing. I do not envisage us being overwhelmed with congregation at first but we will only allow in what we deem to be a safe number.
I also want to reiterate what I said in my last letter that there will also be a Eucharist on a Wednesday morning at 10am and that some may feel more comfortable coming to that service. It will take place in the main body of the church, and it will be the same format as on a Sunday without a sermon – it may prove popular!
I just want to stress a couple of points ahead of opening the doors tomorrow. We will open the church at 9.45am. We will ask folk to come in, sanitise their hands, and take a seat as instructed by the church wardens. Please do not stand up, walk around and chat because this will obstruct the flow of people entering and keeping an appropriate social distance. I am sure folk will want to catch up with people they have not seen for a while but please do this outside the church after the service, so people can safely distance at all times and not feel uncomfortable.
Writing this I feel a bit like a community policeman! I am sure you will understand that we are just trying to make this a safe and joyful experience for everyone. Beyond the concerns of getting this right I am looking forward very much to welcoming you home and sharing this special moment with you. I am sure it will all feel a bit more relaxed as time goes on.
If any of you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.
I will still continue to send out a pastoral letter each week for the time being, but now restrictions have been relaxed a little more they will come out once a week rather than twice, so you will receive them each Saturday.
Attached to this letter are the readings etc. for this coming Sunday along with the reflection.
Wherever we join in our worship, whether it be on Sunday, Wednesday, or in our own homes, my love and prayers are with you.
Every Blessing to you all.
Introduction, Collect, Readings, and Blessing for Trinity 4
In our Eucharist this morning we give thanks for, and celebrate, the gift of faith that we share.
We ask God’s renewal of that gift, that it may shine through the ministry of this church as a light of hope in the community that we serve.
O God the protector of all who put their trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
Increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that we may so pass through things temporal
that we lose not our hold on things eternal;
Grant this, we pray, through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
A reading from Colossians 1: 3-12
In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all,
because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
You have heard of this hope in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you.
Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world,
so it has been bearing fruit among you from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power,
and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew
"But to what will I compare this generation?
It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.'
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon';
the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say,
'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'
Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."
At that time Jesus said,
"I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
May the arm of Christ be around us
May the heart of Christ be within us
May the way of Christ always unfold before us
And the Blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Be with us, and with our community, this day and always.
Reflection for Trinity 4
Today our church is open for worship, which fills me with great Joy.
I thank God that we can slowly begin to gather together again, though I realise and fully understand that some will be reluctant to do this immediately. Hence this will homily will be available both on our recorded worship, and in printed form, as well as being preached in church.
But I want it to have a theme of thanksgiving.
I want to thank the many people who have worked to bring the worship to our homes, and for the joy and comfort that has brought. For the music, the photography, the readers, and intercessors and all who have contributed in different ways. Also to Jane and her team for Saturday Morning Prayer.
A particular thanks to Martin who has worked hours to make it all happen and put together something I think has been quite extraordinary. That dedication is very much appreciated. We have been blessed.
I want to say a massive than you to Jean and Alison our church wardens who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes in so many different ways; and also for the support they have given me, especially in preparing the church for our return. Thank you.
I want to thank Louise, who not only has had to put up with me in Lockdown, but has also done so much in the church, also in supporting me in daily prayers and at the Eucharists.
And thanks to you all for emails, for conversations on the street, for your prayers, your thoughts and your love in all of this. It has all been greatly appreciated.
Today is also the 75th Anniversary of the White Paper that launched the vision which became the National Health Service. Oh boy, have we been reminded of how much we are indebted to that! It is an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for our wonderful NHS, and all who have worked so tirelessly and unconditionally over the last few months. But not only the last few months, also over the many years of its existence.
Our Health service has been the envy of many countries in our world and yet we have so easily taken it for granted. It was an incredible vision and one that has given ceaselessly to all aspects of our society. If ever there was a time for working hard on ways of maintaining that vision and keeping this standard of health care within the reach of all it is now.
I notice that the government’s latest slogan is Build, Build, Build.
All people of Faith and all religious organisations have a responsibility to lend their voice and prayer that we Build, Build, Build, in the right way.
That we build infrastructure that will strengthen and develop our health care system, so that it continues to remain within the reach of all.
To return to a theme of my reflection a couple of weeks ago -
we need to also ensure that we Build, Build, Build bridges that bring people together; Bridges that heal division and prejudice; that pave the way for justice, equality, and reconciliation.
I’ve not been convinced that the church has been the voice of hope it could have been during the last few months, it has been a bit of a missed opportunity. But do you know what? When religious organisations become preoccupied with themselves, God has a tendency to use other means. And there are great signs of hope in our world.
As restrictions are lifted it gives us all an opportunity to begin again.
To relook at our values and our visions and be open to God’s Spirit that is moving in our world. So let us begin with gratitude. Let’s move forward with humility. And work together as one to make God’s kingdom of love, care, and justice a reality.