On Tuesday 17th March the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are calling for Church of England churches to put public worship on hold and become a “different sort of church” in the coming months to face the challenge of coronavirus. They are calling for Church of England churches to put public worship on hold and become a “different sort of church” in the coming months to face the challenge of coronavirus. If you would like to read the full Church of England press release, you can find that here. Following this advice, we are immediately suspending all public worship, and all other church events, including choir and Sunday Stars.
First and foremost, we would like to stress that this is not the church 'closing down'. The church has always been a movement of people, it just happens to have for a period used certain buildings at certain times. We are still those people, the people of God, and we are still called to witness to him in how we live, how speak, and how we act. We are still a people of faith, hope, and love, and each of us is still very much open, to the Spirit, and to his activity in the world.
But whilst we continue to 'be' church, we do need to change how we 'do' church for the time being. It may even be that the things we discover forced upon us serve us so well that we continue in them when the crisis has passed.
We have spent a lot of time thinking about what we might be able to provide over the coming days - to support ourselves as a faith community, and also to support those around us.
Until further notice, therefore, whilst all public worship is suspended, we will from tomorrow:
- Be livestreaming Morning Prayer Mon-Thu on our Facebook page (fb.com/ourfivechurches)
- On Sunday mornings the eucharist will, whilst possible, be celebrated by a priest in at least one church in our Benefice, on behalf of our benefice.
- On Sunday mornings we will post to our new 'Engage!' page a reflection on the readings for the week. There is the possibility on this page for people to post comments, and engage in discussion around the theme. On a Sunday morning, from 10am until 11am, this page will be monitored by a member of the leadership team so they can join in with any discussion.
Our churches will remain as open places for people to visit for quiet prayer and contemplation. But please be aware we do not have the resource to deep clean, or wipe handles etc. so please do make use of handwashing facilities where they are available, and touch only what's necessary.
Over the next few days:
- we will be exploring how we might be able to provide audio recordings of the weekly reflections, and means by which these might be transmitted.
- we would be interested in exploring ways of establishing virtual cell groups, for conversation and mutual spiritual support. Our current plan is to use WhatsApp groups, starting initially with two, one with Linda as an administrator, and one with myself. If you would be interested in being in one of these groups, please do be in touch and let us know.
- As advice is received on how to manage booked baptisms, weddings, and funerals, this will be implemented. I'm expecting that over the next 24-48 hours, so will shortly be in touch with people directly.
- Exploring how other technologies such as virtual conferencing can support what we do.
We would also remind people that there are other easily accessible ways to remain a part of the worshipping part of the church at a distance - for instance:
- BBC Radio 4's Sunday Morning Worship, at 8.10am on Sundays;
- BBC's Songs of Praise (BBC1, 1.15pm this coming Sunday)
- BBC Choral Evensong (BBC Radio 3, 3.30pm on Wednesday and again 3pm Sunday)
- Using the Church of England's Daily Prayer, either from the website (https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-service-daily...), or through the app.
- Subscribing to daily bible study notes - there are many out there. I personally quite like Our Daily Bread www.odb.org, 01539 564149,apps also available.
- You can also access resources from the Church of England through your smart speaker ("Alexa, open the Church of England" or "Hey Google, talk to the Church of England" to get started)