Covid-19 Update

Dear all,

I wanted to write to you to let you know some of the things that we are doing in response to the current situation regarding COVID19 (the coronavirus outbreak).

This is a challenging situation, which is, of course, rapidly evolving.

For many people it is a scary situation: people are justifiably and understandably afraid for themselves and for family members. It reminds us just how vulnerable each one of us is and of how much in our lives is outside of our control, which frightens us. There are, of course, various things that we can all do to reduce the risk both to ourselves and to others (some of which are below), but for almost all of us, this looks to be an incredibly difficult time.

Three things occur to me from the Bible in terms of how to respond to this:

First, as the virus reminds us of our vulnerability and mortality (as I write, I see that the number of UK deaths from the virus have doubled today), we are reminded that this is precisely the need that Jesus addresses. The most famous verse in the Bible reads, "for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life" (John 3:16). Again I am struck by how relevant the message of the Bible is. There is something here that meets our deepest need: life, for all who will come to Jesus with the empty hand of faith. Perhaps if you are self-isolating, take this time to read through one of the Gospels, the eye-witness accounts of Jesus ministry and see what you make of the evidence that He has overcome death.

Second, as the virus reminds us of our frailty and powerlessness, we are reminded of the care that the Lord Jesus promises and provides. "The Lord is my shepherd" Psalm 23 reminds us. That means that if we are His, we can know that He cares for us and orders all things. That is true even when we "walk through the valley of the shadow of death". He is with us, He will lead us, and so we shall "dwell in the house of the Lord forever". One of the great problems many of us face is the challenge of anxiety. Why not take time to memorise this familiar psalm as one way to combat that anxiety?

Third, the Bible reminds us that we need not only to be looking after ourselves, but also others. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He answered that it is to love God and that the second greatest was "love your neighbour as yourself". This challenging situation provides many opportunities to demonstrate love for our neighbours in all sorts of practical ways (some of which I mention below).

So, what are we doing as churches?

  1. Church is still happening as normal. While certain things will not be happening as usual, the expert advice is not for churches etcetera to suspend meeting at this time. Indeed, meeting together for encouragement and support for many of us is even more necessary. So, tomorrow there will be our regular 8am BCP Holy Communion and 9am Early Birds services at St Katharine's and our regular 10:30am Sung Communion service at St Margaret's. I hope to see many of you there. Our midweek Bible study group (Tuesday 1pm/7:30pm @ the Rectory) will also be going ahead as normal.
  2. Please do not come to church, however, if you should be self-isolating to protect yourself and – just as importantly – others. This is one of the key ways that we can demonstrate effect love for our neighbours: by not risking passing on the virus to them. NHS advice can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ - the key point is that if you have a high temperature or a new continuous cough, you should stay at home for 7 days. Please also consider staying at home if you are especially vulnerable (for example, because your immune system is weakened).
  3. Because we are aware that an increasing number of people will have to avoid gatherings like church, we are working on improving ways that people can connect online. Let me highlight two things for now (but watch this space for more):
    1. Sermons will continue to be recorded and available online at https://soundcloud.com/timothy-edwards-9
    2. Starting 6pm tomorrow (Sunday, 15 March) I will be doing a weekly Facebook live-cast ("From the Rector's Study"), where people can hear from God's Word from their own homes
  4. Wash your hands. By now, most of us should have absorbed this message. Attached is a guide giving a helpful reminder of how to do that most effectively. 
  5. How will our church services look different? For the time being, we will no long be sharing the Peace, nor will we be sharing the wine at Holy Communion (we will still be sharing the bread, but if you would rather only come forward to receive a blessing, that is fine). At Communion, we will not be kneeling at the rail, but standing to receive. During our service, we will not be taking a collection (there will be a plate at the door – please also consider giving by a regular standing order and gift-aiding (both churches need regular giving to be able to continue providing support to our communities)).
  6. After the service, we will not be providing refreshments. You may want to bring your own tea/coffee etcetera with you.
  7. On Mothering Sunday, we would normally give flowers to all the women in the church family as a way of honouring them (we do something equivalent for the men on Father's Day). This year we shall not be doing that. That does not, of course, indicate any reduction in how much we value them. I trust that, like me, you will still be doing something to honour your own mothers on that day.
  8. Our popular 'Men, Curry, Beer, Chat' will not now be happening on Sunday, 29 March.
  9. Although we are not providing refreshments, there will be a Bring-Your-Own Lunch after the United Songs of Praise Service at St Margaret's on Sunday, 29 March. (This will, of course, be dependent on changes in the developing situation and will be contingent on the latest official guidance).
  10. Our Good Friday Children's Holiday Club will not be happening this year. Other services over the Easter weekend are, at the moment, expected to go ahead as planned (Good Friday Service of Readings and Reflection @ St Margaret's, 3pm; Easter Day All-Age Communion @ St Katharine's, 9am & St Margaret's, 10:30am).
  11. I am talking with our Parish Councils and others about how we can most effectively care for the vulnerable in our parishes. We are looking at potentially having people who can act as 'corona-buddies' to help fetch shopping or medicines. If you would like to help as part of that, please get in touch. More importantly, if you (or someone you know of) could do with assistance, please get in touch.
  12. Many people have been panic buying over recent days. Please think of those in greatest need and, if you are able, support the Food Bank. Items most needed at the moment include: long life fruit juice, UHT milk, tinned spaghetti, large tins of carrots, chocolate, peanut butter, egg noodles, squash, tomato ketchup, tinned rice pudding, tinned custard, anti-bacterial spray, feminine hygiene products, shaving foam gel, scourers, washing powder/capsules/liquid, 4 pack toilet rolls. Collection boxes can be found in both of our church buildings and at the Rectory.
  13. Communication is, of course, key. Please do like and follow our Facebook page for updates. You can also expect to get emails like this from me more often than normal.
  14. Lastly, pray! I shall be setting an alarm on my phone to remind me to stop at 12 noon and pray. Will you join me?

Every blessing,

Tim