A Summery Rectory Ramblings
Thursday 10 September
Greetings from the Rectory.
I hope this find you well at the start of another month, another term, another step along our journey through the ever-shifting maze that is 2020.
Our family enjoyed a good break and lots of quality time together.
Jo and I had a very strange experience this week.
For the first time in six months, Ted was back at the Infant School, Gregory was back at his nursery, and we found ourselves standing in an empty house.
It has been so encouraging speaking with teachers at our schools and seeing the enthusiasm – even joy – of the kids being back with their friends and enjoying their classes again.
Everyone has worked so hard to make that return to school safe and welcoming.
I want to begin by thanking everyone who has been working so hard behind the scenes keeping things moving forward, especially whilst our family was away on holiday.
I want to give a special shout out to ... Penny (who has been working tirelessly to help get the St Leonard’s Centre up and running again), Linda and Barbara (who have been building a broad coalition of people across our village in support of Green Week), Sheila and Mike (who are gathering the team to launch our new online Alpha course), Derek (working on lots of fronts, including progressing the Church for Our Time project forward in preparation for our planning permission applications), Helen (who is coordinating plans to recommence our face-to-face Sunday programme for children and young people), Graeme (who is always to hand providing technical support to the Rectory, the Parish Office and, of course, the ever-popular Kids@Home service), Gillian and Caroline (who have heroically worked through every iteration of government guidance to successfully relaunch a new term at the Preschool), Barnaby and the finance team (who are putting in a lot of hours to update our infrastructure and help guide us through this turbulent season), Mark and the building and grounds team (who brought the St Leonard’s roof repair project into land and are now tackling some urgent repairs to the vestry at St Lawrence), Abigail (who is effectively leading/managing daily operations for the OSN), Tina and Tim and the worship/sound team (who are continuing to record new music for C@H), John B-K and Kenneth Robson (who continue to champion the Pilgrimage Walk), Sue and Jamie (who, amongst many other things, are leading and supporting our 8:00 congregation), Christine (who is supporting the recommencing of our baptism ministry this side of lockdown), Katey and the pastoral care team (who are not only coordinating mutual support within our church family, but are also providing care and friendship to many lonely and isolated members of our village community in partnership with the OSN), Dennis (who has completed more COVID risk assessments on behalf of the church than he would like to name), Teresa (who has worked incredibly hard to ensure that we are maintaining best practice with safeguarding vulnerable members of our community), the preschool management committee (who are currently in the process of interviewing candidates for the new manager position at the St Leonard’s Preschool), Naomi (who, in addition to providing brilliant content for Kids@Home, is also helping us strength the partnership between the church and local schools as we move into a strange new term), Marilyn and Rodney (who are working creatively to help support the Evergreen community through this time of social distancing and isolation), all of our small group leaders, all of our PCC members, all of our volunteers supporting people and projects in quiet gentle and often unseen ways ...
And these are just the names off the top of my head!
The tip of the iceberg.
I literally could go on and on and on.
Whenever I pause to consider everything that you are all doing to help, love, and support one another and our community through these difficult times ... I am at a loss for words.
I am so deeply grateful (for those I’ve named and the many, many others I have not) for everything.
Looking ahead to this week, we are very excited to be recommencing services at St Leonard’s on Sunday.
You will have undoubtedly seen reports on the news about recent government restrictions on social gatherings.
Perhaps you’re wondering whether that will disrupt church plans for reopening.
Government and the Church of England have clarified that these new guidelines do not apply to acts worship within our church buildings.
Archbishop Justin Welby tweeted this morning:
“After contact with Government we hear that there is no change to guidance on places of worship. Worship is the work of God - not a social gathering - and gives the strength to love and serve.”
On that basis, all our preparations for this coming Sunday will continue as planned.
We will be offering two services at St Leonard’s at 9:00am and at 10:00am.
Due to limited space, everyone will have needed to book in advance.
Sue and I will be leading these services together. It will be a wonderful time to gather face-to-face, to pray, reflect, and worship.
Though we are not permitted to sing as a congregation, we are grateful that Jo Constantine has offered to lead live music during the services.
We will continue to hold our 8:00am Sunday service on Zoom as well as Church@Home and Kids@Home on YouTube from 10:00am.
As we know, COVID-19 remains an unpredictable foe. If guidance changes, we will always adjust our plans accordingly.
Unless you hear otherwise, we look forward to seeing many of you on Sunday morning.
Looking Further Ahead
Looking beyond this weekend, the team is working hard to establish a new and sustainable rhythm of gathered worship for the months to come.
As you can image, this has not proven straightforward.
So much about the journey that lies ahead remains unknown.
At this stage is difficult to know what the best combination of new services should look like.
The plan is to use the next month or so as a time of exploration and experimentation with different formats, at different times, and in different settings.
All things being equal, the plan is something like this:
- Sunday 13 September – two simple services at St Leonard’s church
- Sunday 20 September – 9:30am a service focusing primarily on parents and families whose children will be attending the first gatherings of children and young people’s groups at the Centre
- Sunday 27 September – Pilgrimage weekend with two simple services at St Leonard’s church
- Sunday 4 October – Harvest festival service at 10:00am at Wootton St Lawrence
Each of these will intentionally look and feel a little bit different from each other as we work to creatively reimagine worship together in such a different context.
St Leonard’s in particular does not have much seating capacity.
But we will endeavour to create space for as many people as we can ... which may mean running additional services where needed.
If you would like to attend any of these services, you are most welcome!
Please come along.
Bring a friend or a neighbour as well!
If you could sign up promptly that will help us know whether we need to adjust the pattern to create more space.
It is critically important that we all take this journey forward together as a whole church community.
I am conscious that many amongst us are either not ready or not able to physically gather with others down in church.
We will not leave anyone behind.
We will continue to provide an online service as well as services in church.
As we develop our technology, it may be possible to stream some of our church services so that everyone who wishes to can participate from home.
In the unfortunate event that we find ourselves in another lockdown situation, we will redouble our efforts to make sure everyone is connected to Church@Home.
It is also important to me that we don’t just do things for the sake of doing them.
As we move forward, we need to work together to develop new ways of being church that enrich and deepen our life with one another and with God.
We really need your feedback to help us navigate these uncharted waters.
If there are things that we could do better or differently – if there are things we’re missing out or new opportunities that we just haven’t considered yet – please, please let us know. We would love to hear from you.
One thing we are hoping to offer at all our gathered services is some form of prayer ministry.
If you would like prayer for yourself or for someone you love, please do sign up and come along.
A member of the prayer team would love to pray with you.
Big things in store
Over the summer we held two church gatherings ... one set of outdoor services at St John’s and a small Communion service at St Leonard’s.
Both occasions were absolutely lovely!
And so, so special to be back together after so many months apart.
I am convinced that God has big things in store for us and that God is doing a profound work in us and around us at this time.
Let us assume a posture of openness and expectancy ... waiting, longing, listening, discerning what the Spirit of God is wanting to say to the church in this moment.
We will find a way to journey forward together. It may look different than we are used to, but there are so many creative opportunities if only we have the eyes to see them.
Jo and I continue to pray for all of you.
I look forward to being ‘with’ you in one way or another on Sunday.
Many blessings to you all.