Revd Gary's Pastoral Letter June 2020
Listed Under: Vicars Blog
Among the words which we have recently heard and, perhaps, used much more frequently over the last eight weeks is the word ‘unprecedented’. How have you uttered or heard that word?
The times are unprecedented.
Government measures are unprecedented.
Anxiety is at unprecedented levels.
Disruption our communities, our churches and our individual lives are unprecedented.
As I write this in mid-May, the day after the Prime Minister’s announcement that lockdown will, unexpectedly, be relaxed, the full ramification of this and the supplementary 50 page “project plan” are still be inwardly digested by many. Some of the issues I will have to contemplate will be unprecedented tomorrow, as they are today:
· The thought of the lack of weddings this year
· No sight of a baptism on the radar as yet
· A serious increase in the number of funerals (13 at last count since lockdown)
· What will worship look like?
· Who will return to church?
· Will I ever master Zoom or FaceTime? Has anyone used the material I produced?
What is also unprecedented is the determination being demonstrated by our village communities across Powick, Callow End, Guarlford, Madresfield and Newland - all the individuals and families working together to engage in acts of goodness, kindness and generosity which, even when at a distance, offer much-needed support to those who are vulnerable, needy and fearful. The number of people who have responded to Cllr Tom Wells’ call for volunteers is remarkable, whilst NHS, Social Care and other frontline professionals face the challenge of COVID19 head-on, day in and out, with our love and gratitude. Apparently, the Government definition of frontline workers includes “religious workers”. Not sure I would call myself that……
Loving God’s ways, and demonstrating this by loving one’s neighbour is a fundamental foundation of our faith and its practice, so I thank you for all that you are doing to help in whatever ways you are able. With lockdown supposedly easing, we must be on our guard (or use the new strap line “be alert”) to ensure that all that we are doing to isolate the vulnerable and social distance ourselves doesn’t unravel because we all decide to pile off to a garden centre, barbers or kebab van - as nice as any of those things would be.
Church buildings are still closed and likely to remain so for some time to come. The problem with the church is that we look at issues from all sorts of perspectives, but over-look what the individual church or individual wants or needs. Opportunities for private reflection, prayer and contemplation are open to us all anytime. Use our prayer time (you can do it to, dear reader) and focus upon the precious nature of life and just how fragile it can be in the face of illness. Focus, too, upon these beautiful words from Isaiah 43:
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
You are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
At times of personal anxiety and in the present unprecedented circumstances, such words of comfort are vitally important for us to reflect upon and absorb. They provide us with assurance that we matter and that other people matter; and they both can and should encourage us to face challenges with personal courage and a commitment to the good of others.
Any act, however small, of kindness, generosity, compassionate service and love shown to another person in need demonstrates that we have heeded the words of Jesus from the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan, to ‘go and do likewise’.
I pray that you will feel encouraged and valued, that you will remember that you matter. I pray that you will recognise that others matter too, and that following the example of Jesus and his faithful disciples down the ages, you will be a supporter, a helper and a comforter now as well as into the villages’ future.
Take Care, Keep Well and Stay Safe and Remained Blessed
Message from Rev Gary regarding Magazine Distribution during the COVID19 Outbreak
For the last two months, the magazine has still been printed as a resource for the villages. The Powick Parish Magazine has additionally been put on the church website for all to read. The decision to suspend home deliveries by our volunteer distribution team was taken to comply with national Church of England advice given to me as The Vicar. All parish related material should not be hand delivered by volunteers, irrespective whether distributors were ready and able to deliver it or not due to the potential for infection transmission. Locally, the West Mercia Police have strongly advised against home delivery of mailshots and leaflets etc from charities, the council and churches. So, it was with those advice sources in mind, the Editor and Distributor of the magazine were consulted to suspend distribution for the foreseeable future. Instead, we have tried to make copies available for collection only. The situation will be kept open to review, especially as we enter a phase of lock down easing. I am sorry if you did not get a magazine. We all tried very hard to get it out there, in one form or another.
Church Services during the COVID19 Outbreak Lockdown Easing Stages
At the date of writing, the situation as regards church worship is as follows: all churches in the parishes are closed to public worship. The only service permitted in the churchyard is a graveside funeral. With the release of the Government’s Lockdown Easing Plan, speculation is rife about what this means for all aspects of our life, including opening the churches for worship and to support “births, deaths and marriages”. There is talk of churches being open from the 4th July. This is just talk. We will need to assess what the guidance and advice is and act on it accordingly. It will take time to develop and consider it justly from our local context. Due to our size of buildings, social distancing might not be an issue but the regular cleaning of the churches, the lack of handwashing opportunities, the resources we might need to open safely and worship together, the availability of unshielded volunteers to support the mission of the church are all issues that cannot be easily overcome. We will have to wait and move at a pace that maintains our faith in a safe manner.