Monday, 30 March 2020

Mental Wellbeing and COVID -19


The Church of England has produced an excellent resource for us to be aware of our mental health in these days of social isolation.

You can find the resource to download here and it's also available in the resources section of this site.

Mass - Monday 30th March

Saturday, 28 March 2020

As we stand on the cusp of Passiontide...



I wonder how you are in these strange days? I wonder how you are ensuring you keep yourself healthy mentally and physically?

By now you hopefully will have had contact with members of our new Pastoral Network. If not, I know you will be in the coming days. I am confident that this will be an important way we keep up with one another as communities as we are dispersed to our homes.

I have also established a private Facebook group called Parish Prayers which I hope we will treat this as a place where we can pray for each other in lieu of a sick list on the pew sheet each week. You can find the group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1487445011430424. I know that not all of us are on Facebook or will want to be, but for those of us who are, I hope it will be a place of prayer for us to support and encourage each other.

You will find two resources that you might find helpful going forward under the 'Resources for use during the COVID-19 outbreak' tab. There is a resource to aid your worship at home in Holy Week. You can use this from Palm Sunday onwards alongside the Spiritual Communion liturgy you already have in the Lent booklet you have received.

Secondly, you'll find a sheet of readings for Morning and Evening prayer for the next fortnight. I hope these will sustain you as you engage with the scriptures.

I have updated the parish website with a dedicated page of resources for us to use as a dispersed church community. This will be updated as regularly as I can. You can find the page here: https://www.theparishofmillendandheronsgatewithwesthyde.org…

Lastly a couple of practical things: firstly, please remember that the clocks for forward tonight; and, secondly, please find enclosed a link to a video message from the Bishop of St Albans which I hope you will find encouraging as we move into this most holy time for us as Christians. You can watch his message here: https://twitter.com/BishopStAlb…/status/1243886371057664003…

Please be assured of my love and prayer for you, and for God's blessing on us this Passiontide.

Fr Simon.

Said Mass - 28/3/20

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Bible Reflection: The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)

I found this Bible Study remarkable and contextually relevant in these days. I am so grateful to the Bishop of Liverpool for sharing these hopeful words.



Monday, 23 March 2020

Following the Prime Minister's Statement

Following the Prime Minister's statement this evening, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and all of our Bishops have released the following joint statement:

The Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England have urged everyone to follow the instructions given by the Prime Minister to stay in their homes in a national effort to limit the transmission of the coronavirus (COVID-19). But they called on the Church to “continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable”.

It follows the announcement by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson of sweeping restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

It means all Church of England churches will close with immediate effect in line with the Government’s instructions. There will also be no Church weddings or baptisms.

Funerals at the graveside or in crematoriums can still take place, but only in line with the Prime minister’s Statement.

In a joint statement the bishops said: “In the light of the Government’s measures, announced by the Prime Minister this evening, we urge everyone to follow the instructions given.

“We will give a fuller statement of advice as soon as possible. Let us continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable, and build our communities, even while separated.”

This will be difficult news for all of us to hear.

I will be in touch with you again in a day or so with fuller details about how a team of us will be in checking in with you over the weeks to come.

For now, please join me and Sam and our Wardens and Readers in following this advice; to committing ourselves to acts of loving service to our neighbours where we can; and to praying for hope - for each other, our neighbourhoods, our nation and our world at challenging time.

Fr Simon

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Day of Prayer


The Archbishops have called on the church to keep 22/3 as a day of prayer and action for our nation and her people in these days as COVID-19 makes its home amongst us.

We keep a day to pray as a dispersed community in our homes and wherever we are. We will offer the anxiety to the God of hope. We will offer our fear to the God of who loves us all. We will pray for the sick and our healthcare professions to the God of wholeness and peace.

The order of the day looks like this

8.45am Morning Prayer
9.30am Mass (please us the Act of Spiritual Communion)
12noon Prayer during the Day
5.00pm Evening Prayer
7.00pm Light a Candle - place a lit candle in your window as part of a Wave of Light and Hope.
9.00pm Compline (Night Prayer)


Resources for the day can be found here.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Prayer and Pastoral Care

Last night the PCC met for the last time for a while because of our current circumstances. One of the results of that meeting is that I am confident that we have robust systems in place to ensure the continuity of ministry going forward in these strange days.

When I wrote to you last I mentioned that I wanted to ensure that we had good systems of pastoral care in place. Whilst we cannot replicate the community we become gathered around Christ's table, there are several things that I'd like you to know about that will help us keep and build community as a church and with others at this time.


Firstly, I am in the process of drawing a team together consisting of members of the Ministry Team, Wardens and others. Together we are going to take on keeping in contact with you by phone. One of the members of this pastoral team will call you every few days to see how you are faring and to see if there are any practical things that need doing and any prayer requests that you have. This information will be confidentially shared to provide the support you need if we can and to pray for you. If you feel you could give some time to this important ministry, could you call or text me on my mobile.

In relation to pastoral care, could I remind you of the cards that I mentioned then I wrote to you last. If you are well and not self-isolating you will find a stack of these cards in each church building. Please take one and fill in your name and your contact details and tick what you can offer to support a near neighbour and drop it through their door. Jesus said, 'love your neighbour as you love yourself.' As a Christian community, the Body of Christ in our communities, it is more vital than ever that the moment to show love and care against the current backdrop of fear and anxiety.

Secondly, it will feel very strange for us not being able to gather for worship. We often talk of church as somewhere we go or something to which we belong. In these days we need to rediscover that we are the church.

Being church is about loving our neighbour, but it is also being a praying people. Many within our communities are anxious and fearful for the present and the future. As Christians, our vocation is to bring these people, their anxieties and fears and ourselves to the God who loves us so much.


Over the next few days we will be sharing with you a range of resources to enable you to worship God at home and to pray. You will find a couple of other good resources here and here. Some of these reasources will also be available in our churches. You could also check out this regularly updated page

Other resources for families to use together will be made available in a couple of days on our website (www.theparishofmillendandheronsgatewithwesthyde.org) and our parish Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/ParishofMillEnd) both of which will be worth checking in the days ahead.

I'd like all of us to become people of prayer in these days, taking that vocation seriously, and offer our communities to the God who loves us.

The Archbishops have asked the church to keep this coming Sunday (22 March) as a Day of Prayer. Elaine will be sending you tomorrow resources to enable you to share in the prayer and worship of the day, the timings of which look like this:
8.45am Morning Prayer
9.30am Said Eucharist (please use the Spiritual Communion liturgy)
12noon Prayer During the Day
5.00pm Evening Prayer
9.00pm Compline (Night Prayer)
I look forward to sharing in this worship with you.


Thirdly, all three of our church buildings are open every day in daylight hours as places of sanctuary, peace, and prayer. Please feel free to spend time in them in the days and weeks that lie ahead.

Fourthly, there will be some of you who are not self-isolating and well currently. If you are and would like to find other ways of loving others, the Primary Schools we work most closely with - St Peter's School and Maple Cross School - will be remaining open in a very pared-down way. The teaching staff who are continuing to work will need support which might mean doing craft, project work, and reading with children for example. If you are able to play a part in that please contact me directly. Similarly, we are looking to partner with the Rickmansworth Foodbank in in work such as distributing food parcels to self-isolating people in need in our communities. There are bound to be other ways to serve others. I am looking for people willing to give a little time to love and support others in practical ways. Please be in touch.

These are dark and disorienting days indeed, but I am confident that we as the church, alongside many others, can bring a little light to the communities we are called to serve.
Today is the Feast of St Joseph. I was deeply moved by the prayer of blessing that I prayed at the end of the Eucharist this morning. I enclose it here to bless you as you read this, but I encourage you to pray it, blessing yourselves, your families and friends and our community that Christ loves.

May the love of the Holy Family surround us.
May the joy that was Mary’s refresh us.
May the faithfulness that was Joseph’s encourage us.
May the peace of the Christ-child fill our lives.
And the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among us and remain with us always. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Pastoral Letter - 17/3/20

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

With a heavy heart, today's guidance from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, leaves me with no alternative but to announce that all Public Worship, home groups, lent study activities and other social gatherings organised by the parish - are hereby suspended until further notice.

Where possible our church buildings will remain open during daylight hours to hold a holy space for people to rest, think, reflect and pray in.

As the Archbishops have wisely said, these precautions are taken because of our responsibility to love our neighbours (not to contribute in any way to the spreading of the COVID-19 corona virus). It does not mean, however, that we stop being ‘The church'. Rather, we are invited to experiment - and be creative - with praying, worshipping and serving differently.

Going forward, Sam and I will be meeting to say Morning Prayer and the Eucharist every day for as long as we can in accordance with the new guidelines. We will make sure those details are made available to you to so you can join us in prayer at home.

In the next 24 hours or so we will make available some extensive resources to enable you to sustain your prayer life at home. We will also share craft activities following the Sunday lectionary to enable children and families to continue to explore their faith in the days ahead. There will also be resources to be used in the lead up to Passiontide, Holy Week and the season of Easter. For now, you can find a link to the Church of England's liturgy for Morning and Evening Prayer here: https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-service-daily-prayer

Our overall aim will be to offer support to those who need it, and the opportunity to continue connecting with God through the ministry of the church throughout the coming crisis. I will be updating details as they arise or change.

Please do contact me or Sam, our Readers and Wardens if there are things we can do or organise to support you if possible. We will be working to draw together a wider group of people to keep in touch with you all in the coming days.

Please also take note of the cards that have been printed for you to distribute to neighbours in need offering practical support. These will be available in our church buildings. Please fill the card with what you are prepared to offer in terms of help, but only offer if you are not at risk yourself.

This coming Sunday I invite you to join me in a Day of Prayer and Action for all those who are ill, fearful, socially-isolated and their families and friends and all healthcare workers, and at 7pm to place a lit candle safely in your window as an act of solidarity and love. Full details of this will be available in the comings days

Please join me in praying regularly for all who may feel anxious at this time and all of our healthcare professionals.


With love and every blessing through this unprecedented time,

Simon

Vicar of the Parish of Mill End and Heronsgate with West Hyde.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID 19) Advice

This afternoon Bishop Alan contacted all clergy and wardens with the following advice affective immediate:

"...I am writing to let you know that the Church of England's advice on Coronavirus (Covid-19) has been updated this afternoon, Tuesday 10/3/2020.

The updated advice, from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York includes these points:

 .....It is our view, in light of the continued increase of Covid-19 cases in the United Kingdom, that it is now necessary to suspend the administration of the chalice as well as physical contact during the sharing of the peace, blessing or "laying on of hands". 

We therefore advise that all priests should:- 

•Offer Communion in one kind only to all communicants i.e. the consecrated bread/wafer/host, with the priest alone taking the wine;
•suspend handshaking or other direct physical contact during the sharing of the peace;
•suspend direct physical contact as part of a blessing or ‘laying on of hands’..."

Monday, 3 February 2020

Wilderness Lenten Renewal

I have often wondered what Jesus’ experience in the wilderness might actually have been like. The account of this is read at the beginning of our Lenten observance and acts as background to the church's call to do what Jesus did: to pray, to enter a period of self examination and to listen for the leading voice of God.



In the early 2000s I remember reading Jim Crace’s novel, ‘Quarantine’ which retells this story, but in the novel, Jesus is one of a handful of people who have retreated to the Judean wilderness in search of enlightenment. On his way into the desert, Jesus stumbles across the tent of Musa, a selfish and brutal trader who has fallen ill and been abandoned by all but his long-suffering and pregnant wife. Musa’s health revives; the ‘miracle’ is credited to the mysterious Galilean, who has hidden himself in an almost inaccessible cave to pray and fast. Musa lingers in the area, hoping for another encounter with the holy man while shrewdly exploiting the quarantiners and recovering his strength.


Later Musa, abandoned and alone in the desert, encouraged by a fleeting vision of a resurrected Jesus, sets off once more along the caravan ways and ‘trades the word’ of the man in the desert who ‘defeated death’.

The original meaning of ‘quarantine’ is ‘a period of forty days’, hence the title of Crace’s novel of a forty-day sojourn in the desert. But the word’s modern English significance – a period of isolation imposed on people to prevent the spread of disease – is timely in the light of the coronavirus epidemic in China. Musa’s sickness and recovery set the novel in motion. The Christian message as summarised by Musa at the end of the novel is not ‘Love thy neighbour’ but ‘Be well’. Having starved himself to death, Jesus gives rise in Musa’s shadowed mind to the notion that death itself can be defeated. ‘ "Be well," he told me. And I am well.’




Lent is calling to us, beginning on 26th February this year. During the season we will have the opportunity to 'be well' with God through prayer, as Jesus did, and to grow in confidence in our praying.



As our study this year we will be using 'The Prayer Course' by Pete Grieg, which will give us resources to develop a growing confidence in and an invitation to explore styles to enrich our praying. The material all centres around the Lord's Prayer so there will be some familiarity. There is also an excellent accompanying book called 'How To Pray' and I commend both highly to you. Please look for days and times of when the groups are meeting and do join us.


Later in the year I will have time to 'be well' as I have been invited to take some extended time away from the parish to pray, reflect and listen for the leading of the voice of God. I have been given the opportunity to take Extended Study Leave by the Bishop. This period of time used to be called a 'sabbatical' and it is an extended block of time which is offered to clergy every ten years under certain circumstances. I am very grateful to be able to take this time.



I will be away from parish ministry from the beginning of September and returning in time for Advent. This time is a gift. It is not an extended holiday or a jolly, but the opportunity to do a number of things: to rest, to renew relationships with others and with God, and to be refreshed in one's own study, learning and experience.


I have plans for the time: I will be exploring silence in different contexts - monastic, on pilgrimage and in solitude. I have an extensive reading list to work through and I  will be blogging about the impact of extended silence on me and on my faith and prayer. I will also be spending time with family and friends.


I will be at home at the Vicarage off and on during this time. I know you will, but please respect that I will be off duty, so any day to day parish questions can as usual be dealt with by Elaine in the office, by the Wardens and of course by Sam. Please don't quarantine me though! Do stop and chat if you see me around.


Sam will be covering much of the parochial ministry during that time with the wider ministry team, the PCC and by you all. Please do pray for him and support him especially during that time.


Following His time in the wilderness, Jesus began His public ministry with a fresh vision of the Kingdom of God. I know I will return from this time refreshed and renewed but I also hope that I return with a fresh vision of the Kingdom of God in this parish and to see it being revealed by, to and through each of us.

Snowdrops, Brexit, that statement and the Light...

I just noticed the snowdrops in the front garden the other day, already in full bloom. The appeared almost unnoticed. They are the first heralds of spring. Something of beauty; so precious and small, yet steely enough to burst through earth as hard as iron. For centuries, Christian folk have seen in the snowdrop a sign of hope and new life, and also something bitter-sweet. Their beauty is fading and fleeting. When each flower raises its head above the earth there is no fanfare, no great trumpeting of spring like the loud and confident daffodils. The snowdrop emerges somewhat forlorn, bowing her pale head, almost unnoticed. They were once commonly known as ‘Candlemas Bells’, and in one folk rhyme we are told that ‘The Snowdrop, in purest white array, First rears her head on Candlemas day.’ 


As we pack away the crib with the figures of the wise men and the Holy Family for another year, do the community living and working around our church buildings and us as church people, notice? As our celebrations of Christmas formally end today - the world shaping news that God has left His heaven and quietly, almost unnoticed come and dwelt among us, has it made a jot of difference to the landscape of our lives or to our community?

As Mary and Joseph made their way into the Temple with the child Jesus to do for him what was right under the Law, I suspect that they too wanted to remain unnoticed - a child born out of marriage, having had angelic, and then Gentile visitors, with much being said about their son - I suspect the Holy Family were happy to be nameless and faceless in the crowds. Yet like all of the poor and downtrodden, the nameless and faceless in society, the Holy Family were seen by God through the eyes of Anna and Simeon.

What was it that made Anna come rushing up? What was it that made Simeon and Anna notice this one child in the middle of the crowd? What was it that made Simeon sing his song?

We have to remember as we try to answer these questions that Simeon and Anna had been there for years, praying and getting themselves ready.  Ready for the Kingdom to come. They were waiting, watching and looking for something to happen. For God to happen. They waited with open eyes. Eyes searching the crowded temple, eyes, though old still looking for a greater revelation of God’s love.


And what did they see? Well, they saw a baby. Just a baby. An ordinary baby.  Yet, the readiness that Anna and Simeon came with that day, helped them to see that this was something special.  They saw that the king of heaven had been born into an ordinary family who could barely afford the right sacrifice.

They saw because they were looking. They saw it because they were the ones with open eyes.

Remember the heart of Simeon’s song – “My eyes have seen the salvation which you have made ready” My eyes have seen… They say that seeing is believing, and for these two elderly believers, it was true. They saw through open, expectant hearts.

The drama of this morning’s Gospel, the revelation of God born as one of us, meets us in the midst of the worship of the Temple.


In the East, this feast that we celebrate together is not called the Presentation of Christ, nor Candlemas, it has a name which is simple and in a way more profound. It is called “The Meeting”, or “The Encounter”.

I have found this last week really tough what with the House of Bishop's supposedly Pastoral Statement about sexual ethics and whose legally acknowledged love is allowed to be blessed by God and Brexit which pains me to the core, and both have left me asking about where I belong. And yet I have found myself wanting to be here, because here we gather from a whole mixture of views and viewpoints and we meet together to share scripture and sacrament and encounter the One who entered our world unnoticed but does not leave it unchanged.

The impact of our worship on our lives must not go unnoticed. For as we hear the Scriptures read, as we sing and pray and as we share bread and wine, we encounter God in Christ Himself in our midst and that encounter cannot leave us unchanged if we come to him as Simeon and Anna did, patiently waiting to encounter Him with expectant, open hearts.

You see, there's no point in worshipping at all, if we don’t encounter Christ. It doesn’t matter what time or day, what we say or sing, if we leave that time not changed or challenged by something God has said to us as we have prayed, heard or sung. If we leave the church door, the same person as we entered it - we need to ask what have we been worshipping?

As Christmas formally ends today we need to remember that there is no point in worshipping Christ in the manger if we ignore him in the streets, no point in celebrating the coming of Light into the world, if we still choose to linger in darkness, no point in hoping for changed lives or communities if our life and world is not transformed by the life of Christ in Word and Sacrament.

We can't do anything to take away that darkness, even for those whom we most love... but we can shine the light of Jesus into all those dark situations, our PCC said something about that this week, and I believe that's what today is about. It's what being Christian is about.


Today at the end of the service we will carry our candles, and fill the church with their light as a reminder that Christ the light has come into the world.

But when we leave this building, - that's when the light we carry must really begin to shine. It's the light of faith and the light of good works.....the things we believe and the ways in which they lead us to live a different kind of life.

Light to be kindled with the flame of love...our love for God and God's love for us.

Light to show up whatever is grubby or broken or sad...but light that also, gradually, pushes back the darkness so that it is as if it had never been there.

That's the light we are each given to carry in our lives.  Light that shines through our own acts of love and kindness.  Light passed on to others in a kind of loving relay, just as when we light our candles here we send the flame from one to another til at last the whole place is full of love and light again.

That's quite a goal - for us, and for our community. But I truly believe this is the point of our being here, the outcome of our worship of God, to build a community together where Christ fills us - people who may otherwise go unnoticed - with light to shine with the love of God so that our friends and neighbours can't help but notice, and be drawn in their turn to the light and love of God beyond anything that we could imagine or attain on our own.

Today Christmas is over – but the light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never put it out. The light from the stable is indeed, as Simeon proclaimed, a light to show God to the nations, and to bring glory to God's people... And that light is ours to carry into God's world every day of our lives, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A Pastoral Statement from the PCC

The House of Bishops of the Church of England recently issued a Pastoral Statement which addressed issued of sexual ethics and who's legally acknowledged relationships could be blessed by the church. The statement can be read here.

The PCC met recently and expressed our sorrow that such a statement could be released; we recognised the hurt that it will cause many; and the damage that it will do to the way that church is viewed by the people of our nation.

We resolved to state clearly who we are as a parish in the statement enclosed below:


Monday, 6 January 2020

New Year - Christingle!

We hold our final Christingle service on Sunday morning. It's a popular service for all ages where we will celebrate Jesus the Light of the World - quite apt when the world feels quite dark at the moment.

Why not join us? It would be lovely to see you!


Happy Prayer Year!

Welcome to 2020!

Many people like to begin the year with a New Year's Resolution. How about beginning the year differently and pray!

Start the New Year well and join us in prayer!

There are opportunities to pray and worship during the week that may be more convenient than, or in addition to Sunday:

Monday7.30am Morning Prayer at St Peter's
4.00pm Evening Prayer (often at St Thomas')
Tuesday8.45 Prayer for our schools and the wider community (informal) at St Peter's.
4.00pm Quiet prayer (style varies) at St Peter's.
Wednesday8.45am Morning Prayer at St Peter's
9.30am Quiet Holy Communion service at St Peter's
Thursday7.30am Morning Prayer at St Peter's
Saturday9.30am The Rosary is prayed at St Peter's
When Morning/Evening prayer is prayed we use a free app from the Church of England which you can download and use at home or wherever you are.



All are welcome to join us for these services


Maybe though you are someone wanting to learn more about what prayer is and how to do it?
If so, we are looking to run a simple 8 session course called The Prayer Course based around a familiar prayer - The Lords Prayer. You can watch an introductory video here: https://youtu.be/uNLIFykoBfY.
The course is aimed at those new to praying and those who have been praying for many years but want to learn more or grow in confidence or experience. In the comments below, give us an idea what works best for you.

  1.  Monday Evenings
  2. Tuesday lunchtimes
  3. Wednesday lunchtimes
  4. Thursday evenings
  5. Saturday morning