I’m sure you’ve picked up over the weekend the disappointing news that churches, once again, are to be closed during ‘Lockdown 2’ from 5 November until 2 December – except for private prayer. We’re hoping that St Marys in the High Street ill be open for private prayer at set times during the week.  I’ll let you have the days / times when finalised.

Emmanuel will re-open on Sunday 6 December for both 8.30 and 10.30 am services and evening prayer at 8.00 pm.

We plan to continue livestreaming our 10.30 am service (guidelines allow for this) which will be a hybrid mixture of live and videos.  I will lead these from church and Ben and Beth will play when available (we’re in the same household) and so it means the current November schedule of those involved in services may change.  If you are unable to video your Bible reading or prayers please let me know and I’ll make other arrangements.

During lockdown we enjoyed a Zoom ‘virtual’ coffee after the pre-recorded services at 11.45 am.  It seems that going back to this would be a good thing to do during lockdown 2. I’m probably not in a position to lead these if I’m still packing up in church, however, I’m wondering if anyone would like volunteer to ‘host’ this event starting from Sunday 8 November? I’ll join in as soon as I can.

The latest guidelines mean the Act of Remembrance won’t take place at the War Memorial on Sunday 8 November and Messy Church won’t be able to take place on 15 November – such a disappointment.  It maybe that there will be a Messy Church Zoom and a video released – but I’ve not spoken to any Messy Church leaders about this yet.

At the moment, it seems Christmas events will take place – I’m certainly planning that they will be and see what happens nearer the time and you can read all about what we have planned, virtual and physical here I’ve not publicised these events just yet and wanted to give you the first opportunity to book your place.  Don’t delay in doing so, I have a feeling many of these will end up full – especially the outdoor carol service (!!) and the Christingle services.

The Archbishops sent an email to clergy this morning and included these words – they echo what Pauline Woolnough said at the ADCM:

Bearing in mind our primary vocation as the Church of Jesus Christ to pray and to serve we call upon the Church of England to make this month of lockdown a month of prayer. More than anything else, whatever the nation thinks, we know that we are in the faithful hands of the risen Christ who knows our weaknesses, tiredness and struggles and whose steadfast love endures for ever.

I’m sure there are many ways we can do this – reverting back to Zoom prayers could an option.

There’s no doubt we continue to live in challenging times as a nation with social distancing, quarantine, self-isolation and the increasing concerns around the  Coronavirus pandemic. Some of you will be feeling frightened and anxious. And it’s OK to lament and to be angry and sad and to rage. You don’t have to make the ‘best of it’ every minute of every day.  The Bible says:

In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again … because we know that God raised the Lord Jesus to life
(2 Corinthians 4:8, 14 CEV).

I pray you will know the continued love and peace that God promises through the difficult times of life. There’s no doubt we will come through this and will be all the stronger for it.

In the meantime, look out for those who are on their own and could do with some practical support and the odd phone call.  Caring is what we do best in challenging times. Do try and stay in touch through your home groups – can I ask you to make a special effort to do so?  It’s not about following the study series, but about pastoral care and prayer – that seems to me to most important in the weeks ahead.

Do read this article (again) by Krish Kandiah 10 ways churches can help during the coronavirus pandemic

Whilst many of you will be on ‘lockdown’ at home, some members of our church family continue to work as normal but do so under additional stress. I’m thinking of those of who are ‘Key Workers’ – do remember them in your prayers at this time. I guess we need to add teachers and ancillary staff to this list too.

Be sure to let me, or another member of our church family, know if there is anything  I/we can do for you at any time. I’m more than happy to have a Skype or Zoom with you, speak on the phone or have a conversation on your doorstep (at 2.0 m distance of course).

Be safe and be blessed