... a view from the Vicarage
I write to you as Lockdown Mark 2 begins. I had feared that we were heading for a second lockdown, but had not thought it would come so soon. Though just (just?!) for a month it could easily be extended and even cover Christmas and New Year. Indeed I had feared that Lockdown 2 would cover this period – it seemed to me that if this were not the case we would have the equivalent to a national ‘freshers’ week’ with all the consequences that this could involve.
Sadly, public worship is casualty of Lockdown 2. There appears to be little or no evidence that churches have been responsible for corona outbreaks. In the light of this church leaders have written to the Prime Minister asking for church closure to be reconsidered.
The loss of Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day services and observations is particularly sad. Even though the government offered some concessions, it is difficult to take advantage of these. It is much more challenging to ensure safety outside than in church. On November 11th Cathrine and I (we are in a bubble) will conduct private acts of commemoration at Holy Cross and all five churches of the Pilgrims’ Way.
During Lockdown 2 church will be open for private prayer. Monday to Saturday this will usually be from 10am to 5.30pm. On Sunday church will open at about 11am. Please do take up this opportunity which we did not have during the first stage of Lockdown 1.
At our 2018 flower festival there was a representation of our parish logo in front of the east window. This has been re-erected and place behind the altar. Do visit church to see it.
Cathrine and I will continue to say Morning Prayer Monday to Friday at 9.15am. As during Lockdown 1, I will privately offer the Eucharist in church on Sundays at our usual time of 9.45am. Fr Anthony or I will offer the Eucharist in the 3 parishes churches of the Pilgrims’ Way each week on weekdays.
Online services led by Mark Pavey and assisted by team staff will continue during lockdown 2. They are first streamed at 10am on Sunday and remain available after being live streamed to be watched at a convenient time.
Nichola, our Children and Youth Worker has now ceased to work with us. In September she came back from furlough for 4 days to explore what she could do if she returned to work. She came up with proposals to work for 20 hours a week. After some discussion this proposal was accepted. However, on the day I phoned to her to arrange when she would start back, she informed me she was to be interviewed for a new job. She subsequently was offered and accepted this job, as a therapeutic care worker at a small children’s unit. She came back to work for two days this last week to print out the sessions she had planned during the earlier part of Lockdown 1 before she went on furlough and to do a handover session. She and I had hoped that she would have been able to be at the New Way service which was due on November 8th but this is not now possible. I am sure I speak for many in thanking her for her work across the last two or so years. She brought huge energy and enthusiasm to her work. We wish her well in her new work.
Bishop Rose wrote a letter from which this is an extract
Our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, together with the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, have written a letter, which I urge you all - clergy and lay - to read and reflect on. As well as addressing some specific issues for our churches, the letter is an invitation for us all to fast (in a way appropriate to you) and pray for our nation every Thursday - for our leaders, our health and essential services and all those who suffer. I will be joining them in this call, and I ask you to do the same in whatever way makes sense for you. You may find this Beginner's Guide to Fasting from the 24/7 Prayer network helpful.
As our scripture above reminds us, if we show love for one another, God lives in us. I am confident that God will be in and with us through this crisis and that - whether our church buildings are open or closed - our Church has a unique ministry to offer during this time. We must demonstrate our love for our communities, both by following all government and Church guidance and by taking this call to prayer seriously. Thank you for joining me in this.
The Archbishops letter can be found here
The guide to fasting can be found here
I had given some consideration to Christmas arrangements prior to Lockdown 2. I had planned for us to keep Advent on just the first Sunday of Advent and then to observe the December Sundays as the third, second and first Sundays before Christmas with Christmas themes and music. The was in case we lost Christmas to lockdown and to provide increased capacity for Christmas themed services. If we are allowed services in December it will be my intention to do as much of this as possible.
Clearly, we cannot do our usual Christmas services. Whatever we do, we will only be able to welcome a small fraction of those who normally attend. I will communicate to you about this further when things are clearer. The North Downs Team staff have been giving thought to Christmas for some weeks. Currently we plan to make available a Crib Service and a Carol Service. Hopefully, there will be broadcast services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Whatever the changes to our celebration of Christmas, the fact of Christ’s birth remains. And whether or not we are able to be present in church, Christ is present in our hearts and lives. We need to hold on to this truth and hope during these difficult times.
Your friend and pastor,
Vicar of Bearsted
Rector of North Downs Team.