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Posts Tagged ‘CofE’

So yesterday the Church of England announced the suspension of all public worship. So things are going to look very different here for a bit. And then today we learnt that schools are closing, so homeschool is looming. And the Queen is up at university, making lockdown lists.

Our Open Church has been running this week, allowing people to see one another and connect briefly, as well as pray and seek help if they need it. And we’re thinking through how to keep everyone connected online. We’re not a very techie community – many people don’t have broadband at home, and some don’t even have a mobile phone, not even a text and dial one. So we are going to try and get creative, maybe delivering paper service sheets and looking into a dial a sermon/podcast service, as well as looking at other stuff that many churches are doing – Facebook Live and YouTube services and general online things.

But although we’re going to be doing things differently, we serve a God who never changes. Tonight, in a fit of Anglicanism, the Vicar and I prayed Evening Prayer from the 1662 BCP together. The set Psalm for this evening was Psalm 93 – The Lord Reigns – a truth to hold onto when everything else is different.

[Yellow text on background of grey slate roofing tiles] Psalm 93 The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty! Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O Lord, for evermore.

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It’s really not normal, is it? Such strange times we are living through now. We had a PCC meeting tonight and were discussing some issues with our services, and timings for the APCM (the annual meeting), as I checked in on Facebook to see what Matt Hancock had said in the House of Commons about whether churches should continue to meet. My FB feed told me that they shouldn’t, but the Church of England guidance isn’t out yet. So we are in limbo. This level of uncertainty is something pretty unsettling to be living with. And making any plans feels a bit pointless. But we have to keep on looking ahead, even if things are cancelled in the morning.

So I’m going to leave my worries with Jesus and try and get to sleep before midnight. PCC was enough trouble for today. Jesus said so.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:34/picture of church and Victorian terraces across metro line, blue sky with clouds behind

A view of our church from the other side of the metro line

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This coronavirus crisis feels a bit like election season did – there’s just so much news. Every half an hour something new is cancelled. There are graphs all over the internet giving a fresh perspective and interesting and learned experts giving opinions which help you feel like you might get a grip on what’s happening. It’s a big global event with huge repercussions and it’s also a close to home personal one, with some disruption and changes in view for our family.

I’m staying with my mum at the moment and we’re discussing various planned holidays and family events over the next few months and wondering which ones, if any, will go ahead. The Queen’s university (I know! How can she be that old?!) has suspended face to face lectures, and she thinks the exams next week might be cancelled. (So she rather regrets staying up very late last night to study the genetics of viruses for the biology test. Although, who knows if it might come in handy some time soon?) I get an email from the boys’ schools every day with an update of cancelled events, and I send messages to the family Whatsapp group with handwashing reminders.

The Church of England is updating its guidance to churches frequently – no cup at communion, no full immersion baptisms, standing for communion and other procedures to help us to protect people from infection. Behind the scenes clergy and laity are energetically debating how to serve and guard their flocks and parishes and bring God’s grace into a frequently overwhelming situation. My timelines are awash with random pundits asking what the government or the church are up to and making alternative pronouncements. It’s confusing and stressful, and there’s so little I can do about it all.

So I’ve made some decisions about what to pay attention to, although the drama of the frequent announcements will probably keep distracting me. But I’m going to read some things by proper scientists, and I’m going to keep on washing my hands often and for 20 seconds (whilst praying the Lord’s Prayer, which fits). I’m going to try and read things written by Christians who lived through plagues previously, and say some of their prayers. I’m going to pray about how I can serve those who will be in need because of this crisis, especially in our parish. And I’m going to pray the Church of England’s Collect provided to be prayed In the Time of any Common Plague of Sickness. Pray with me?

In the time of any common Plague of Sickness. O ALMIGHTY God, who in thy wrath didst send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness, for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also, in the time of king David, didst slay with the plague of pestilence threescore and ten thousand, and yet remembering thy mercy didst save the rest: Have pity upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality; that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angel to cease from punishing, so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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We’re off to camp in a couple of days. No, we’re not actually camping. But we call it that because it’s always been called that. Maybe because people used tents when they took young people away in the 1950s. Who knows? We’re actually off on a CPAS Pathfinder Venture – taking 76 11-14 year olds from youth groups round the country to a boarding school in Devon for a week of fun, adventure, beach trips, crafts and learning about Jesus. The whole of the Vicarage are going, even the Engineer, who is still too young to be an official Pathfinder, but will buddy along with the rest of us and join in where he can and hang out with the Task Force team (who do all the practical stuff) when he can’t.

Also round the country are about 40 leaders of all shapes and sizes getting prepared. Here in the Vicarage we have our part to play. So what essential things do we need to get done before we leave?

1. Reply to the gazillion emails about transport, bible studies, menus, equipment. The inbox tends to heat up red hot in the days before we land in Devon.

2. Concoct suitable costumes for the theme. (France this year). Personally I’m hoping that stripey t-shirts will cut it. Although I know that there will be a few people dressed as baguettes and the Eiffel Tower – the team is a pretty creative bunch. Me, not so much.

3. Prepare the Bible study for the dorm. Although miraculously this year I have done mine already *smug face*.

4. Receive, check, price up and then repack the bookstall. This will take a day or so. There are a lot of books (I just counted and I think we have ordered 251). It will involve post-it notes and patience. It’s arriving from 10ofthose tomorrow!

5. Acquire all the sweeties, craft items and other bits and bobs I have agreed to bring for our dorm times. After first checking through the email that itemises them. If I can locate the email in amongst the gazillion.

6. Sleep for as many hours as possible. Sleep is in short supply in Devon what with early morning leaders’ meetings and late night dorm patrol. My aim is to arrive there *not* completely shattered.

7. Find my shorts with the capacious pockets. And the flip flops. And a raincoat and a couple of fleeces. Doncha just love a summer holiday in the UK?

8. Fill out all the health forms. For me, for the Vicar, for the children. And possibly for the cat aswell; I’m losing track.

9. Obsessively monitor the weather forecast for Barnstaple, praying that we won’t have to book out an entire cinema for an afternoon like we had to that year that Devon was subjected to sheet rain for the almost the entire week of camp.

10. Pray for the team, the kids, the families who send them, the home churches and the Ventures team at CPAS, who all work together to provide a fantastic week of holiday and happiness that can be so important in the Christian walk for so many. My own faith came alive on a CPAS venture in 1981 and I’m praying that all our Pathfinders will grow in faith in Christ next week.

Thankfully we have people staying in the Vicarage whilst we’re away, so we don’t have to work out who’s going to feed (and clear up after) our arthritic cat. I’m leaving early on Friday with Dreamer and we’ll be with the advance troops setting everything up before the kids arrive on Saturday. Then it’s all go until we land home on the following Friday, filled with tales of faith and fun and starting the plans for next year.

We get to go to a lovely beach on camp. We make it a lot busier than this one though…

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And training, and the opportunity to preach and to lead youth work, school assemblies and Sunday services, the experience of living in a busy inner city vicarage with a messy family which includes a couple of teenagers (and a younger one), and a year or two seeing what God is up to in multi cultural West Bromwich? Anyone?

The Shropshire Lad is moving away next month to a new job and to be closer to his beloved. King is spending another year in the attic and so now we are looking for an attic mate for him. Maybe you? Or someone you know?

Our Ministry Trainee scheme has produced three ordinands to date, two of whom are now curates. Another is waiting to hear about his BAP. So it’s a great way to explore vocation in the Church of England – and our Diocesan Director of Ordinands is very friendly and helpful. But you don’t have to be thinking about ordination and others have joined us and taken the skills they’ve learnt into other fields. There are many opportunities to serve in the church – music, technology, visiting, evangelism, teaching the Bible to all sorts of people in all sorts of ways. There is great flexibility for development of existing gifts and discovery of ones you never even knew you had. And it’s lots of fun. And there is cake.

Generally our MTs attend the Midlands Ministry Training Course one day a week and there are opportunities to attend other training conferences and courses through the year. The Vicar meets with the MTs for supervision and there is also training in youth and children’s work with Dreamer, our Families and Community worker. Our church website is a bit undeveloped at the moment after it fell over a few months ago, but details of the post can be found there (and if you can do websites well that would be great too!).

And did I mention the cake?

Muffins and cheese straws NB Church hall table cloth!

Muffins and cheese straws (please excuse the church hall table cloth)

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I had a fun week last week tweeting on behalf of the Church of England as @OurCofE. I managed to capture my tweets on Storify, so if you missed it, you can check it out over at Storify (I can’t upload it on here because WordPress block it). There are lots of pictures from the parish and tales of day to day life here. It was a great experience to try and share a little of our Vicarage life and what the Church of England looks like in action in the multicultural inner city. The @OurCofE project continues every week with a Christian from somewhere in the CofE tweeting. It makes for a fascinating insight into the wide variety of parishes and ministries within the church.

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The Vicar planned to take a couple of days off this half term to hang out with the family. Today however, he has been talking to insurance people and building people about a little incident in church on Sunday. In the morning the early birds arrived to a bit of plaster dust on the floor of the chancel. We’d had a problem with ants in the roof last year, so we assumed it was the same thing, and the area where the plaster had landed was taped off. It seemed appropriate timing, since the Vicar and our PCC Health and Safety rep had only just attended a Health and Safety training event on Saturday.

Our Sunday services (10.30am & 6.30pm for us, 12.30am for the other church that shares our building, plus our 4.30pm SOUL course) all went along without a hitch. Then, as the final folk were milling around at the end of the evening service and the organist was playing a closing voluntary, there was a massive BANG. And plaster showered down over the chancel and into the nave. A huge chunk had broken off the decorative plasterwork in the ceiling and it dropped down, breaking into pieces and damaging lights and a microphone in its descent.

We are very thankful that the plaster disaster happened after everything had finished. If it had exploded when communion was happening on Sunday morning, there could easily have been injuries. As it is, the Vicar’s holiday has been a little disrupted, and there’s a bit of work ahead to sort out (and pay for) but otherwise we’re fine. Things falling off our church, inside and out, happens almost annually. We love our old building, but sometimes it gives us a bit of a fright. Who’d have thought they only made the plasterwork to last 173 years, eh?

The hazards of Victorian plasterwork

The hazards of Victorian plasterwork

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