|The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters,
he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23 –verse 1-4
A link to Mailchimp – The Bulletin
A message from Bishop Rachel and Bishop Robert
We are aware that everyone will be experiencing a range of thoughts and emotions as a result of the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday evening. There were clear messages about the closure of church buildings, the cessation of weddings and baptisms, and the importance of all of us now staying at home. The only exceptions to this are: infrequent shopping for basic necessities, one form of exercise a day (alone or with members of your household), a medical need; helping or providing care for vulnerable people, and travelling to and from work (but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home).
It is vital that all of us abide by these instructions and urge our communities to do so. Rather than seeing the PM’s announcement as negative prohibition, we need to view it as something proactive as we seek to love our neighbour and keep people as safe and as well as possible.
You can read the latest letter from the Archbishops here —>
A church closure notice has been produced for use on church buildings. It’s available for clergy and churchwardens to adapt. You can download the church closure notice here —>
Please ensure that you make frequent reference to the Church of England website where national guidance is being regularly updated —>
Key points from new guidance that has come out today:
1. Our church buildings are closed for public worship and for private prayer
2. Emergency baptisms can take place in hospital or at home, though subject to strict hygienic precautions and physical distancing as far as possible.
3. There can be no weddings in church buildings until further notice.
4. Funerals can only happen at the Crematorium or at the graveside. Only immediate family members can attend (if the crematorium allows) – that is, spouse or partner, parents and children, keeping their distance in the prescribed way.
5. Foodbanks should continue where possible under strict guidelines and may have to move to be delivery points, not places where people gather. If you can, do consider making a financial contribution to your nearest foodbank.
We will keep clergy and Readers updated with information regarding funerals.
In the midst of all that is painful and turbulent, thank you for all the different ways you are ‘joining together’ in prayer and worship from home, as well as deepening understanding of what it means to be followers of Christ in our everyday lives, Sunday through to Saturday. As we said in a previous letter, this is a poignant time to ‘learn to be God’s people once again’ (from the words of the extended Lent preface in the Eucharistic prayer).
It has been positive to see the ways that many of you have been connecting digitally with your worshipping communities. However, we do also want to stress that whilst live streaming is a creative solution that is enjoyed by many, it is not the only answer and there is no obligation for everyone to do this. It is also important now that any live streaming only takes place from within a home, and should not involve anyone from outside that household. Please do think carefully about what needs to go on public social media. This is not a competition. Furthermore, it is important that in our efforts to be inclusive, we do not find ourselves inadvertently being exclusive. Be aware of those who struggle to connect digitally and don’t abandon all traditional means of communication. There have been some wonderful examples of people saying the daily office or using simple liturgy and scripture readings in their homes, knowing that others are doing so at the same time, without need for digital connection. And do use the telephone – and use it to pray with people.
If we are wanting to learn to ‘be’ the Church in different ways, it is important that from a place of worship we are also thinking creatively about what it means for us to be the ‘sent’ Church, even from the confines of our homes, whilst also noting that in the coming weeks and months we are not looking for busy heroism. This strange new landscape is one of huge challenge, but it also offers us a different rhythm to our lives. So we hope that amid the community outreach and support, you will pay attention to your own well-being and encourage others to do the same. Make time for more prayer, feed your imagination in good and positive ways; share ideas regarding TV, films and books; and in households with people of different ages, do make use of the fabulous Growing Together resources —> and of course take physical exercise.
There is a growing set of resources on the front page of the diocesan website which includes digital media and taking care of your mental health. Please do take a look.
Invitation to pray with us
From our own homes, we will be praying the prayer at the end of our message and the Lord’s Prayer at 8 am every morning. We invite you to join with us.
And finally from us…
Today in the Church’s calendar we remember Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who was martyred for his faith in 1980. He once said “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.”
We, and the Archdeacons, continue to be available to you from our homes. With our love, thanks and prayers.
Bishop Rachel and Bishop Robert.
A prayer in lockdown
The doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked. (John 20.19)
Ever present God,
be with us in our isolation,
be close to us in our distancing,
be healing in our sickness,
be joy in our sadness,
be light in our darkness,
be wisdom in our confusion,
be all that is familiar when all is unfamiliar,
that when the doors reopen
we may with the zeal of Pentecost
inhabit our communities
and speak of your goodness
to an emerging world.
For Jesus’ sake.