I last wrote to you on Saturday explaining how we, as a church community, are responding to the unfolding coronavirus crisis. Things have changed considerably since then. The Archbishops announced on Tuesday that, following government advice, “public worship will have to stop for a season. Our usual pattern of Sunday services and other midweek gatherings must be put on hold”.
This is painful and difficult news for all of us. Our natural instinct at a time of crisis is to want to draw together in worship and to meet each other for mutual comfort and support. Being asked to keep apart physically is almost too much to bear. But it is the right thing to do. The more we understand about the coronavirus, the more we realise that we all need to make changes to our way of life to contain its spread and protect the most vulnerable in our society. Even if we are physically healthy ourselves, we still need to make changes as an act of care and solidarity to others—we are all in this together. We need as far as possible to follow the government advice on hand hygiene, social distancing and self-isolation when needed. I am grateful to those of you who have first hand medical experience of this virus and have written to me in the past days underscoring just how serious the situation is. I am convinced we are taking the right course of action by suspending worship, but that doesn’t make it any less painful.
It will take time to process this announcement and I ask that you please be patient while measures are put in place to enable us to continue together as a worshipping and praying community whilst we observe the guidelines. I will do my best to explain what is happening now, and we will aim to use the church website and twitter account to post more updates as we go along.
Our church building will remain open for private, silent prayer. A light will be kept on in the building to represent the flame of prayer that continues to burn throughout the world and in our local community. (So if you see a light on, please don’t switch it off!). Our building can sometimes seem dark to visitors and keeping at least one light on during the day really transforms it visually. Please treat the building as your spiritual refuge in a time of anxiety. It is a symbol of continuity at a time of great change. We ask that when you enter and leave the church, you use the hand sanitizer provided. Please do not engage in any conversations and please keep a safe distance from others at all times.
This Sunday is Mothering Sunday – a day when many of us would usually be attending worship and spending time with those closest to us. We are prevented from observing this important day in the usual way, but please be assured that we can still worship together. Health depending, Rob and I will be broadcasting a prerecorded service on our parish website at 10am and we plan to post the liturgy there for you to follow. So please gather at home, light a candle, and join us for worship at 10am on Sunday at our usual time. We also hope to post a special worship resource for children and families to use. The Archbishops have declared this Sunday to be a national day of prayer and we are all asked to light a candle at 7pm and display it in our windows. We will ring out the church bell at this time as we pray together.
I will be observing my usual pattern of daily prayer in church, but not at the regular times. Please send me any prayer requests. I invite you all to set a timer and join with me in praying the Lord’s Prayer at 12noon every day. (It’s also a great prayer to say whilst hand washing!). We will be sharing other resources for daily prayer as we go along. Two are attached here below– booklet of prayers and a simple service of spiritual communion. Please do share them with others.
If you are aware of someone in the parish who would benefit from having access to an IPad to help them stay connected during this time, please let me know –we have some contingency funds available to purchase some parish IPads to be used as needed. We would also like to set up a general parish Whatsapp group for mutual support at this time – please email Dave Smith your mobile number and he will add you to the group.
I am conscious that at Holy Trinity Church we have a unique connection with CS Lewis. During the Second World War, he was asked to respond to a wartime situation with a series of radio talks now known as ‘Mere Christianity’. In these talks, he was able to speak plainly and boldly about the Christian faith in a way that brought hope to our nation and our world during a time of great fear and uncertainty. My vision is for us to follow in his footsteps by offering some audio talks and reflections that can address some of the deep questions of faith raised by this crisis. Suggestions for how we might do this are most appreciated, and anyone is welcome to contribute. In the Problem of Pain, Lewis writes: ‘Pain shatters our illusion of self-sufficiency’. I am conscious that, as we become physically separated from one another, we realise that we are not self-sufficient – we all depend on one another and share a core, common humanity.
Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
God of compassion, we offer up in prayer all who are affected by this outbreak. We pray for all healthcare workers and researchers, as well as all who are ill and the family members and friends who care for them. We pray for those whose livelihoods and income are threatened by the outbreak and for all living in uncertainty. We pray for wise decisions, increased compassion, and the recognition that all who are affected share a common humanity as children of the one God. We offer our prayers in the confidence that your perfect love casts out fear, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May God bless us, our parish and our whole world at this time.
Yours in Christ
Revd Dr Laura Biron-Scott
Vicar of Holy Trinity Headington Quarrysmithy_d@btinternet.comYours in Christ
Revd Dr Laura Biron-Scott
Vicar of Holy Trinity Headington Quarry