Parish Update - 27th January 2021
Dave Walker – www.cartoonchurch.com
Following a very challenging Christmas, it has been an extraordinarily difficult start to 2021. Whilst the ever-increasing number of vaccinations against Covid-19 should encourage us, it is clear that we are going to be living with strict restrictions for many more weeks, if not months. If the first lockdown was met with community spirit and the second lockdown with stoic resignation, it seems as if this third lockdown is being met with disappointment and even despair. Many people, ourselves included, are running low on energy, drained by the emotional rollercoaster of the past year, bored by the confines of their homes, and desperate for contact with family and friends.
The fundamental Christian message of hope and transformation should still be at the centre of our personal response to this crisis. Just as the darkness of the crucifixion was transformed on Easter Day, so we will emerge from this pandemic into new life. The longer lockdown goes on, however, this message of hope seems to fade into the background. In these dark, winter days, we also need to draw on perseverance to keep ourselves going. Here, we might remind ourselves of St Paul’s own perseverance in spreading the Gospel and overcoming many obstacles. Caught in a storm off Crete, ‘when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of being saved was at last abandoned’ (Acts 27.20). Yet Paul survived his shipwreck to preach to the Christians in Rome. We might also remind ourselves of how the Hebrews wandered aimlessly through the wilderness for forty years after their escape from Egypt. They persevered in their hope of reaching the Promised Land, keeping their vision of their own land alive through every twist and turn of their journey.
Places of worship were required to close for public services during the prolonged, original lockdown last Spring and again during the shorter lockdown in November. They have not, however, been required to close during the current lockdown. This decision has been left to local clergy, in consultation with their churchwardens. Even though we have stringent precautions in place in our churches, we no longer felt that we could provide sufficient protection from infection in our buildings. In addition, following the Prime Minister’s announcement of the current lockdown, the Mayor of London, the Police Commissioner, and the group of London Councils specifically requested that places of worship close. As a result, with the support of the Bishop of Southwark, we decided that we should close our churches at least up to and including Sunday 21st February (the day before any changes to current restrictions will take effect).
It is excellent to see that the rate of infection is decreasing in our area and it is wonderful to hear that many of our parishioners have now received their first dose of the vaccine. The situation, however, remains serious. Hospital admissions and deaths are still high, and schools are likely to be closed for some weeks to come. As a result, we do not anticipate opening our churches in Cheam Parish until after Easter, although we will keep the situation under constant review.
Ever present God,
be with us in our isolation,
be close to us in our distancing,
be healing in our sickness,
be joy in our sadness,
be light in our darkness,
be wisdom in our confusion,
be all that is familiar when all is unfamiliar,
that when the doors reopen
we may with the zeal of Pentecost
inhabit our communities
and speak of your goodness
to an emerging world.
For Jesus’ sake.
(Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark Cathedral)
With love and prayers to you all.
The Reverend Dr Nicholas Peacock The Reverend Beth Lewis
Team Rector Team Vicar
Our pattern of online worship on our YouTube channel will continue each week as follows:
Sundays at 9.30am – Parish Eucharist livestreamed from St Dunstan’s (also available to watch during the week).
Midweek Worship – pre-recorded and available to view from Wednesday each week.
For those who are unable to attend our own weekly online services, we also recommend:
· The Church of England weekly worship, available online each Sunday here.
· Worship broadcast from Southwark Cathedral, details of which can be found here.
· The ‘Daily Hope’ phoneline (0800 804 8044), which has been set up specifically for those unable to join online services.
The family services planned for 21st February and 21st March will still take place. These will be either on Zoom or pre-recorded and uploaded to YouTube. More information will follow.
Lent, Holy Week, and Easter
Whilst we do not expect to be able to meet together during Lent, we have several services and activities available to help mark this season of penitence and preparation for Easter:
Ash Wednesday (17th February): a pre-recorded service for Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent, will be available on YouTube on 17th February to watch in your own time.
Lent Group: From Separation To Restoration – The Exile As A Lens For Life
The Babylonian Exile is one of the most important events in the Hebrew Bible. Like the Exodus, the Exile was key in shaping an Old Testament understanding of God. It is at the centre of many of the prophetic writings, psalms, and histories. Trying to understand the biblical voices of faith from the Exile can help us to understand our own experiences of God today. Our Lent Group will explore four themes that emerge from the Exile – separation, lament, hope, and restoration.
The group will take place on Zoom at 8pm on four consecutive Tuesday evenings – 23rd February, 2nd March, 9thMarch, and 16th March. Please email Nick, our Rector, if you would like to take part (email@example.com). He will send you the Zoom meeting details.
Midweek Worship: our midweek worship during Lent will be particularly reflective and will use selected psalms to focus on the themes of the Lent Group. This will be available on YouTube from Wednesday each week.
Holy Week and Easter: we are planning for a virtual Holy Week and Easter and will publicise details in the coming weeks.
Ministry Team Announcement
On Sunday 24th January, it was announced during our online service that the Reverend Bethany Lewis, presently Team Vicar at Cheam Team Ministry, has been appointed half time Vicar at Belmont, St John The Baptist and half time Team Vicar at Cheam Team Ministry, subject to completion of the necessary procedures. Further details, including the date of the licensing service, will follow in due course.
It is inevitable that this will raise a lot of questions about what this means for our own parish. For reasons of confidentiality, however, such questions cannot be answered yet. This will be discussed with our three DCCs and the PCC at their upcoming meetings in February. We hope that we can reveal our exciting plans for ministry in the near future. In the meantime, please keep Beth, our own parish, and the parish of St John, Belmont in your prayers.
Prayers and Pastoral Conversations
If you would like us to pray for someone or something, or would like to have a conversation with Nick or Beth, please email them directly (firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com) or through the office (firstname.lastname@example.org / 07928 833324). We will compile a weekly prayer list to be used at our services. For reasons of privacy, we will use first names only and the person for whom you are asking us to pray should be happy for you to do this.