Dear all, I'm not sure that I should wish you a happy new year as we enter 2021, as our nation enters another nation-wide lockdown. That, coupled with my decision to close our church buildings to public worship due to the exponential rise in this new strain of COVID in the communities of our parish. Many of us feel disheartened and uncertain about our present and our imminent future. At the heart of this season of Epiphany lies the mystery of our faith - that with the birth of the Christ Child, God is revealed, in a comprehensible way, to the nations of the world. Images of light in darkness are often used in worship at this time of year and amid the bleakness of our current experience, we need to know that God is with us and the Light of the World shines still in the midst of our present darkness. As you all know, my family and I all contracted COVID-19 in the weeks leading up to Christmas. None of us are symptomatic now but Alex and I are both really struggling with ongoing tiredness. Under the instruction of both the Bishop and the Archdeacon, I am only ministering part-time at the moment. The most I am doing is 2-3 hours a day. Please be in touch with me if you need me - mobile is the best way to get hold of me. A word about worship. Currently, our church buildings are closed to public worship until at least 24 January. Our worship each week looks like this: Weekdays (not Friday) 8.30am Morning Prayer on zoom. Wednesdays 9.30am Eucharist on Facebook live. In time I hope we might rebuild a more regular pattern. Fridays 11.00am Service of the Word on Facebook live led by Anne Peat Sundays 10.00am Sung Parish Eucharist on Zoom Baptism of Christ. This Sunday (10/01/21) we recall Jesus' own baptism by John in the Jordan river. As part of that service I will be blessing holy water for you to bless your homes with. Our homes should be our safest spaces in these days and I hope that you might, on your daily exercise, come and collect some holy water and a prayer card to do just that. I enclose an activity sheet for any children who would value that. If anyone would be willing to read on Sunday, please can you contact Elaine directly in the parish office. I am hoping that in time the Reading the Bible Together group might reconvene and I hope also we might enjoy a zoom coffee morning. I will be in touch with you all with details about both when I am stronger. Please can I ask you to consider joining us for morning prayer and the Eucharist. These are important ways that our faith can be sustained. In time I will share with you some other resources. These will also be available on the parish website as are all of our services. Please can encourage you to use the parish prayer daily - praying for each other, our churches, and the wider community. I enclose it below. Please also pray for those on the front line responding to this pandemic - the NHS especially and our local funeral directors. Lastly, I am aware that many residents in our local Nursing and Care Homes are missing visits from their families. I wonder if you might consider sending a card to teh residents and staff of Meresworth, Dapplemere and Colne Lodge. The addresses are as follows: Mereseworth Dellwood Field Way, Rickmansworth WD3 7EJ Dapplemere Shepherds Ln, Chorleywood, Rickmansworth WD3 5HA Colne Lodge Springwell Avenue, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, WD3 8UG Let staff and residents know you are writing from the local church, assure them of your prayers, try to encourage them in the invaluable work they do. Please be assured of my ongoing prayers for you all. Fr Simon ~~~ Parish Prayer Loving God, You are with us in good times and in bad, in health and in sickness, in light and in darkness; be with us [as members of …] through the difficulties of this pandemic and as we look to the future. May we hear your voice guiding us, May we know your Spirit inspiring us, May we feel your strength upholding us. Show us how to act on what you have taught us through this time, that our ministry and mission may reveal your love to all we meet. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.