Sunday, 20 September 2020

The Parable of the Vineyard - A Vision For The Local Church In A COVID World.


The Prime Minister said recently that a second wave of COVID-19 was inevitable and he will be spending this weekend considering whether to tighten restrictions for at least a time which are being dubbed a ‘circuit breaker’.

I am left wondering who this circuit breaker (designed to protect against a short circuit) is designed to protect? We know that the circumstances we are in as we navigate continuing to live with the coronavirus pandemic will affect different sections of society differently. Children who have been schooled at home may have been supported by good lessons on-line. They may have been able to access computer resources. With parental help a small child might have learned to read, learned their tables, learned computer skills. But some children had no computer and no support. Some people had jobs which were essential, some had jobs which could be done on-line from home, and some found new employment arising out of the crisis. But some felt cast aside and unwanted, with no prospect of returning to a fulfilling employment which they had enjoyed. Some elderly people thrived, with accessible internet access, supportive families. Some are in care homes with no visitors, or dying alone of Covid-19 with no access to family.

The future for many hangs in the balance - the reduction in air travel has a huge knock on for airports and aircraft manufacturers. Much of the arts industry remains closed. Restrictions in gathering in groups bigger than 6 may impact on some work and the future of the care home system hangs in the balance. We live and work and worship in uncertain times. This is true for the church in our parish.

We have seen a decline in numbers of Life Events since the last APCM. This has been exaggerated by the pandemic and restrictions on movement and public worship. We have seen a reduction in our electoral roll and in available financial resources, in group activities and outreach, but we have seen a growth in a sense of isolation as the church became dispersed into homes across our neighbourhoods.

As a response we have sought to innovate  - pushing our worship, study and schoolswork (up until early August) online (with some paper resourcing too) and we have seen people have gain new skills - not least of all learning how to use Facebook and Zoom adn we have established a Pastoral Care Group to ensure that church members are kept in touch are cared for.

Let me talk briefly about worship. Before lockdown we were holding 4 sometimes 5 services across the parish on a Sunday and 2 midweek services. Attendance at those varied enormously. Since lockdown we have grown a Zoom Sunday congregation of up to 30 people, and with the resumption of public worship in some of the parish, we are seeing similar numbers return to our buildings. It is midweek services that have astonished me though. We have offered a service most weekdays with between 30-60 people taking part/watching/interacting which infers two things - the faithful were looking to be sustained in their faith by something they could rely on - the worship of the church and the presence of God - but also our fringe (people on the edges of the church) were looking for the same.

As we continue to co-exist with the coronavirus we need to look afresh at what it means to be the church and how we minister in these days. This morning’s gospel gives us some hints.

The landowner comes to the marketplace looking for workers. God comes patiently looking for us again and again and again over the course of life’s day, and invests in negotiation with those who are there seeking labour. Even those at the end of the day - though they are dubbed ‘idle’, aren’t - they are waiting in the right place for the employer to come - watching, trying catch their eye, being ready to talk about their skills and see their gifts used.

Now it seems to me is the time for us to be waiting in the marketplace of the church. This doesn’t mean that we stand around idle all day, but rather we hone our skills, ensure we are healthy and well nourished and we are attentively looking for the landowner.

In the year that lies ahead of us I’m calling on each and every one of us to pray; to call out to the landowner, offering our employment. Prayer is the privilege we have of offering the world to God, but also of attentively listening for his voice calling us into His employment. We need to know when we are being called and to what. This autumn I will be making contact with you individually and as groups encouraging you to join me in becoming a people of vital prayer.

If we are to be ready for ‘gainful employment’, (to continue the metaphor), our skills need to be honed - prayer is part of that as it intentionally aligns us with God’s life, but immersing ourselves in scripture is the other. Scripture has historically shaped God’s people’ life and actions. We will be spending time together reading scripture and reflecting on it. We will share a passage together over a period of time to allow us to become familiar with it, to grow in it and for God to speak through it to us.

If we are to be sustained in what God calls us to we need to stay healthy. We need to be fed by the Sacraments of the church. By participating in the Eucharist or a Service of the Word and making our Holy Communion, Christ dwells in each of us, transforming us more into His likeness. 

I’ve never ministered in a global pandemic and in some ways,what it means for us to be the church in (and I suspect) beyond these days, will be unknown. Our world is a different place, but by waiting attentively in the marketplace of the church - we are in the right place to seek His call to work, we need to be physically and spiritually ready to work when the landlord’s call comes.

Service of the Word - 18/09/20


Monday, 14 September 2020

Worship at Home - 14/09/20 - Holy Cross Day


Bible Reading Group

In a few weeks we are going to begin a simple Monday evening Bible reading group online using zoom. It will be an opportunity ti listen to the words of scripture together and to try to discern what they mat be saying to us.

We will work our way through one of the Gospels. No experience is necessary. 3 people have already indicated they'd be keen to join, how about you? Contact me directly if you'd like to!


Monday, 7 September 2020

AGM - 20/09/20

Our delayed annual meetings will take place on Zoom on 20 September at 12.30pm for an hour.

These are important meetings for members of the electoral roll - to elect various people to serve in key roles for the year and to review and give thanks for the last year of ministry as we look to the future.

Please commit yourselves to attending as we navigate these strange days.


Worship At Home - 07/09/20


Thursday, 13 August 2020

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Morning Prayer - 29/07/20

The video for this morning's Eucharist failed because the webcam packed up. Apols.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Recommencing Public Worship - 2nd August 2020

Dear all,

‘... My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all day long.…’ Psalm 71:8

Since the Archbishop of Canterbury called for the closure of church buildings in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have, with other parishes, been offering worship and support in different ways. We are now in a position to trial worship in our church buildings once more.

At the time of writing, we are looking to offer worship in St Peter’s initially, with worship in St Thomas’ and St John’s to follow when practically possible.

Our worship in St Peter’s will be at 11.00am.

 Before arriving for worship. 
We want us all to be safe as we worship together. As a result, we are asking you to book a space to come. This will feel really strange, but I hope you understand. This will normally need to be done using links available on the pewsheet, on the parish Facebook page and on the parish website. Under usual circumstances, you will need to have done this by the Thursday before the Sunday you intend coming and we hope you may be able to book a few services in advance. Booking can also be made over the phone with Elaine in the Parish Office. 

For this week, please book your space by ringing Elaine on 01923 772785. She will be in the office Wednesday-Friday, 9.30 am-12.30 pm Booking will be on a first-come, first-served basis as we have limited capacity.

 What to expect.

As you arrive at church, a sidesperson outside will greet you. You will need to queue, physically distanced, down the side of the building. The Church of England has now issued clear guidance that face coverings should be worn to attend worship (following revised Government advice.) I am looking forward to seeing you all arriving wearing one, bringing some lovely Summer colour to our worship! Your face covering will need to be worn during the service.

As you enter (and leave) the building, please use the alcohol gel provided in the porch. Once inside, please pick up an order of service and a pew sheet (plus an activity sheet for children.) These are yours to keep so please take them home with you and bring back the service booklet next time you come.

A second sidesperson will ask you to make your way to your seat. Please remain in your seat for the whole of the act of worship. At the end of the service, clear in instructions will be given about leaving the building. Sadly we cannot offer refreshments at the moment.

We will be sharing in the Eucharist together. This will be a source of joy for us all as most of us haven’t been able to make our Holy Communion for many months. You will receive the fullness of Christ in the consecrated bread administered to you in our worship.

The clergy and sidespeople will be wearing face-coverings and PPE at various points, so some familiar people will look a bit unfamiliar at the moment.

There will also be some necessary notices given out in the service, but as I’ve said before, it wouldn’t be an authentically Anglican service without some notices in the service.

 Online Worship 

Worship live-streamed on Facebook and ‘live’ on Zoom has been such an important part of our life over these last months. Worship online is a strange phenomenon and yet has been vital and lifegiving for ministers and those ministered to alike.

Our online worship on Sundays and in the week, will continue to hold a familiar pattern going forward.

Sunday 10.00 am Parish Eucharist on Zoom

Monday       8.30am Morning prayer on Zoom
        9.30am Said Eucharist on Facebook Live
Tuesday      8.30am Morning Prayer on Zoom
Wednesday 8.30am Morning Prayer on Zoom
        9.30am Said Eucharist on Facebook Live
Thursday     8.30am Morning Prayer on Zoom
        9.30am Said Eucharist on Facebook Live
Friday         11.00am Service of the Word

Evening Prayer is held daily at 4pm on Zoom.

Obviously, all of this will continue to be a bit trial and error at the moment (especially as we return to using our buildings) and all of it is subject to revision as we learn from our experiences and as Government guidance and advice from the Church of England is updated.

A copy of this letter will be sent out in the post tomorrow.

Our learning curve remains steep.

Please pray for me as I continue to pray for you.

Fr Simon.

Healing Eucharist - Trinity 7 - 26/07/20

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Thought For The Week

This week our video gets to think a bit about what it means to love your neighbour as yourself?

What do you think?

Worship at Home 21/07/20

Virtual Coffee Morning

Tomorrow (Wedensday) morning around 10am we are holding another online coffee morning on Zoom. We have found it a great way to catch up with one another in these strange days. It is open to all.

Drop the Vicar a message if you'd like to join us!

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Thought For the Week

Describing who God is or what God is like is hard, even for people of faith? Watch the video below to hear what some people think.

What would you say?

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Thought for the Week

This week's thought raises an issue often challenging to faith - how do you respond to issues of evil and injustice as a Christian?

Watch the video to hear what others think. What's your experience, practice or thinking?

Morning Prayer - 07/07/20

Monday, 6 July 2020

Two Events This Week

On Sunday 12th at 7.30pm we hold our next The Big Think and we welcome a familiar face - Dean Pusey - our former Diocesan Youth Officer. Dean is an ordinand at St Melitus College and he is going to get us to think deeply about a very current and essential issue.

The event takes place on Zoom. Please contact the Vicar directly if you'd like to be there.

On Wednesday (08/07/20) we are holidng another Zoom coffee morning at 10am. Again message the Vicar if you'd like to join us!

Worship at Home - 06/07/20

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Always Winter, Never Christmas

Image result for the lion the witch and the wardrobe
I love the line from the book 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' by C.S. Lewis where the land of Narnia is described as being perpetually 'winter but never Christmas.' For me, that describes a little of how our own daily reality is too.

We live with the 'winter' reality of COVID-19 as part of our everyday living (we are at level 3 of Lockdown which, according to the government, means that the virus is in general circulation and that the handwashing rules and 2 metre distancing still apply) but are also being encouraged to look and live towards 'Christmas' where the impact of this very dangerous virus has less and less hold on us, to the point where we can live a new normal again. Until that time we live betwixt and between.

This is true for us as church communities. Our buildings are open as places to pray and contemplate again, despite having been closed earlier in the year to all worship and activity. In our parish that means that you are warmly welcome to come to pray in your church on the following occasions:

St Peter's Mill End                                                                                        St Thomas' West Hyde
Sundays - 12noon-4pm                                                                                      Fridays - 1pm-3pm
Thursdays - 10am- 12noon

We are working towards opening St John's too.

Please take note of the clear instructions as you enter the buildings and inside, to ensure the safety of both you and others.

We are of course also looking forward to 'Christmas', where public worship and community activities will resume. The government and the Church of England's Recovery group have allowed church communities to gather for public worship again as of July 4th, please be aware that we are *not* in a position yet to enable that to happen as there will be more preparation that needs to be undertaken.

When we do return to worshipping together it will be *very different* for some time going forward. When I am in a position to give you a sense of what worship together will look like and when it might happen I will be in touch again. As we continue to live with the reality of COVID 19 in our communities, our worship will remain on Facebook, Zoom and the Parish website so we can worship 'together apart.'

I have been thinking much about what the church offers our community when so many other people of faith and none are engaged in fantastic community and pastoral work in these days of pandemic. The thing that the faith community does uniquely is we are called to offer our world, our community, all people, and the church to God in prayer. As the church, if we do nothing else in these days, we should do what we always have done, and that is pray.

With one eye on a future opening up before us, I am in the process of writing a parish prayer for each of us to use every day going forward, so that we as individuals and as a church can voice the hopes of others and bring ourselves and the whole church into the loving presence of God.

As we live in this present 'winter' looking forward to 'Christmas' whenever it comes, in this inbetween time, please join me in living our call as the church - to pray, and especially to pray that that 'Christmas' does indeed come - in our own lives, the lives of our neighbours and friends, communities and world. For it is in praying and as a result of our prayer that we, our communities, church, and world are renewed in the love and fellowship of Aslan as C.S. Lewis calls him, Jesus our friend and brother.

Said Eucharist - 02/07/20

Monday, 29 June 2020

A Sermon for St Peter - Paul Palmer - 28/06/20

Through the written word and the spoken word, may we know your living word, even Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  

I don’t know about you but Peter, whose patronal festival we celebrate today, fascinates me.  I look at Peter’s story and I am inspired, intrigued, confused and astounded.
Take a look at Peter’s experiences in the first few chapters of the book of the Acts of the Apostles;
Peter is there on the day of Pentecost, speaking in tongues and addressing the crowd; he’s preaching and healing and getting arrested.  He spreads the good news, speaks out, gets arrested again, is flogged by the authorities, his friend Stephen is killed, he travels, raises the dead, preaches to the gentiles, baptizes in Jesus’ name and then gets arrested again.
You can’t say he’s lacking in experience!  Yet even now, after all that’s happened to him, in our reading from Acts today Peter still can’t believe his own senses.  Imprisoned, he is woken by an angel and thinks that he is having a vision as he escapes.  I can just see him, scuttling along the darkened streets and alleyways, guided to freedom as if invisible, and still not believing that what is happening to him is real.  Then the angel disappears, and Peter comes to himself with a moment of realisation and surety.
And this is what I find so reassuring about Peter – despite his incredible experience he has times when he doesn’t understand and often gets it wrong.
Let’s have a look at our passage from Matthew – we’re right in the middle of Matthew’s Gospel and we have Peter’s declaration about Jesus; “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”  Peter has got it right!  The first definitive recognition of who Jesus is.  But then, just a few verses later, Peter gets it wrong as he rebukes Jesus for foretelling his death.  Jesus responds; “Get behind me Satan!”
Peter getting it right then wrong then right again appears throughout the Gospels; 
He shows remarkable faith and obedience in following Jesus in the first place – tick!
He tries to walk on the water – tick – but then starts to sink and Jesus reaches out to rescue him.
He understands the need for forgiveness – tick – but then asks how many times he should forgive – seventy times seven!
Peter is with Jesus at the transfiguration but then misses the point and wants to build an altar.
He falls asleep in the garden at Gethsemane when Jesus asks him to stay awake and he denies Christ three times on the night before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.
So, in our Gospel reading today we have Jesus, identified as the Messiah and Son of God, founding his church on a person who he knows is fallible, human and, some of the time, gets it wrong.  Why does Jesus choose someone who, according to Acts 4:13 is “uneducated and ordinary” to be the rock on which he will build his church?  
Perhaps it is exactly that ordinariness that Jesus needs.  Jesus makes sure that the foundation of our faith is in his shared humanity with Peter.  Jesus knows that we will get it wrong and through Peter’s example, shows that it is OK to do so; time and time again if necessary; as he will always be there to pull us out of the mire or rescue us from the waves – all we need to do is grasp Christ’s outstretched hand, just like Peter did when he became frightened and started to sink.  Jesus will still the waves and bring us to our desired haven.
I have found, in these difficult and testing times, that it is so easy to get it wrong, even when I think I’ve got it right.  I’ve got grumpy with family and friends when I should have been understanding.  I’ve been impatient with people for whom social distancing seems to mean nothing when I could have spoken with them and tried to talk.  I’ve found it difficult to engage with challenges to the Black Lives Matter movement when what is needed is conversation, understanding, education and sympathy.  I’ve procrastinated and delayed and not called friends up when I should have.  I’ve not always followed God’s call to me.
How have we got it wrong in the last few weeks?  Have we made assumptions without trying to see both sides of the issue?  Have we ignored someone we know we should have called but just can’t be bothered?  Have we forgotten to pray?  Have we become too self-reliant?  Have we forgotten that God has us in his hands every second of every day?  
Now, when I sat down to write today’s talk, that’s where it ended.  And then on Friday night I watched the news and saw the pictures from Yemen where the civil war is killing thousands, where starvation is a daily threat and where the WHO say that COVID19 could kill more than the 100,000 who have died in the war due to the almost non-existent health-care system.  I watched images of a little five-year-old girl being fed sugar and water by her father.  He’d already managed to save her from the conflict and now has to save her all over again – this time from hunger.  And I also saw pictures of packed beaches and people ignoring pandemic.  And I listened to stories about the Pride events that are cancelled this weekend and of the people who have been and still are persecuted for their sexuality.  And I saw that the ecological disaster in the Brazilian Amazon is likely to be even worse this year than last.  And I started thinking about discipleship.  
Peter’s reaction to the challenges that he faced as a disciple of Jesus was to step up and make a difference.  He showed strength, he showed courage.  He was ready to go places that were dangerous.  He was ready to walk into the lion’s den.  How can we be more like Peter?  How can we express our discipleship with commitment?  I’d suggest that we need to take a look at what we can do, not what we can’t.  If you see a situation where there is injustice, speak and act.  If you see discrimination - speak against it.  Don’t leave it up to someone else.  If you’re shielding at the moment, write to your MP or Councillor.  If there’s a situation you’re passionate about join an organisation; make a donation, no matter how small; become an activist; even if it’s from your armchair for the moment.  I’m not encouraging you do go out and get arrested, but to do something!    As Peter has shown us - if you want to walk on water you’ve got to get out of the boat!         
I have a last question; why does Jesus give Peter the keys to Heaven?  I don’t ascribe to the image of Peter at the pearly gates letting people into heaven.  Keys unlock doors and the keys that Peter holds unlock the doors to a life with Jesus; a life of love, acceptance and inclusion – a life of prayer and support and action.  A life of outreach and social justice.  Peter, in his ability to get it wrong and yet still remain faithful, shows us the way.  The keys to heaven are in Peter’s and Jesus’ humanity.  If we can recognise when we get it wrong, bring that up to God and then learn in loving faithfulness then, surely, we are growing in the way God means us to grow.  We can all be stirred, strengthened, taught and inspired to actively live God’s love with generosity, joy, imagination and courage,
I’d like to close with a poem.  Malcolm Guite has been a psalmist of the times with his poems in the Church Times and I’d like to read his sonnet dedicated to St. Peter. 

St. Peter.
Impulsive master of misunderstanding
You comfort me with all your big mistakes;
Jumping the ship before you make the landing,
Placing the bet before you know the stakes.
I love the way you step out without knowing,
The way you sometimes speak before you think,
The way your broken faith is always growing,
The way he holds you even when you sink.
Born to a world that always tried to shame you,
Your shaky ego vulnerable to shame,
I love the way that Jesus chose to name you,
Before you knew how to deserve that name.
And in the end your Saviour let you  prove
That each denial is undone by love.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Personal Prayer and Contemplation

As you will have seen in the media, church buildings are now able to be opened for 'private prayer.'

Following a PCC meeting recently, a decision was made to try to get this to happen as soon as we can. Following that meeting I am very grateful to Anne Short, Elaine Dobbs, Alex Cutmore, John Clifford, Tony Funnell and no doubt others who have worked had to risk assess opening and the necessary cleaning in preparation for this happening.

Initially, we are opening St Peter's in Mill End on the following days only:
Sundays 12noon-4.00pm
Thursdays 10.00am-12noon.
You are warmly welcome to come!

When you enter the building, you should only enter and leave the church via the main doors. Both main sets of doors will be open allowing you to walk straight in. The will be no water in the stoup in the porch for the time being. Please read the notices on the main door and in the porch.

Hand gel & tissues will be on the cupboard as you walk into church. Please use the gel on entry and exit.

You will notice areas that have been blocked off with chairs. These are out of bounds areas and must not be crossed. These areas are: the North Transept, the Lady Chapel, the Choir & Organ and the children's area at back of church.

You are welcome to pray and contemplate in the main body of the church building. To ensure social distancing for individual prayer and to make sure that the same spot isn't used twice during the hours of opening. Notices will be placed on the pew which *must be removed* after you have sat there and put into a box at the back of the church as you leave.

On the pews in the main body of the church will be green paper seat notices; one on each pew. This is where individuals are to sit or can kneel (on the kneelers) for private prayer, nowhere else.
When you are ready to leave, please pick up the green sheet and put it in the box provided at the back of the church. This means that this area will be 'quarantined' and not used again during that session or until after the area has been cleaned.

We cannot ensure social distancing in the aisle and therefore we ask you to give way where possible and use some common sense if moving around the church. Kneelers around the altar rail have been removed.

Lighting candles will not be possible but please light a virtual candle using the QR code on the poster on the main door.

This is not a return to public worship; that will come in time. This is enabling the church in this parish to offer the wider community we are called to serve the gift of space and time to express their longings to the God who loves them.

All of these arrangements will be under constant review as we look to open St Thomas' too, I hope within a week or so.

Please feel welcome to use the space and the time in these special places, and do receive them as a gift to you and the wider community.

Worship at Home - 25/06/20

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Thought for the Week

is your favourite of Jesus' parables, and why? Why does it sustain or challenge you?

Monday, 22 June 2020

Windrush Day

Today is National Windrush Day celebrating the contribution made by the Windrush Generation and their descendants. Britain has been wonderfully enriched by the arrival of people from the Caribbean, many of whom came to live here in the diocese. Yet this was also a generation who faced terrible prejudice and racism, not just in the early years but also recently when many were threatened with deportation. 

In recent days the Covid-19 pandemic has given us a glimpse of the amazing contribution of so many Black and Minority Ethnic people who work, for example, in the NHS and the extent to which they have been disproportionately affected by the virus. Ironically, the Covid-19 lockdown will now prevent some of the cultural and educational events which had been planned in different parts of the country to take place 72 years after the arrival of the Empire Windrush in Tilbury Docks.

Tonight at 7.30pm there is a Windrush Celebration on zoom - details above. All are welcome to attend.

Worship at Home - The Feast of St Albans - 22/06/20

Sung Eucharist with Prayer for Healing - Trinity 2 - 21/06/20

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Ring for Grenfell

This Sunday evening at 6pm church bells across London and the nation are going to toll 72 times, one for each life lost in the Grenfell Tower tragedy on its 3rd anniversary.

Join us in pausing and remembering and hoping that nothing like this happens again.

Monday, 8 June 2020

Evening Prayer - 08/06/20

Virtual Coffee Morning

We're holding another catch up over coffee on Wednesday 10th June at 10am, immediately following the 9.30am Eucharist on Facebook live.

The coffee morning will be on Zoom. If you'd like to take part, please make contact with the Vicar directly.

It would be lovely to see you!

Worship at Home - 08/06/20

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Virtual Coffee Morning

We are holding another Zoom coffee morning on Wednesday 03/06/20 at 10am and we'd love to see you. Drop me an email/text/facebook message for details of how to take part.

This info has been sent on an email in recent days but be in touch if you've misplaced the info!

Sung Eucharist for Pentecost Sunday - 31/05/20

Service of the Word - 29/05/20

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Sermon - Bishop of St Albans - 24/05/20

Last Sunday, the Bishop of St Albans, preached, and encouraged us to think about how we could be people who are generous and joyful even in these days of lockdown. He did recognise that this might take much imagination and courage. You can hear what he said again below.