Author: Graham Stacey

Updates on reopening our buildings

We have now heard that our buildings can be open again for very limited activity; private prayer and small funerals. This is good news, and we hope those spaces will bring comfort and peace to those who enter them. There are, as you can imagine, strict guidelines for reopening, and we will need a host of volunteers to supervise. In the first instance, these are our opening times;

  • Wednesday 10.30-12.30am Holy Trinity, next to the hospital
  • Friday 10.30-12.30am St Laurence, to coincide with the market
  • Saturday 10.30-12.30am St Laurence, to coincide with the market
  • Small Funerals can be held at St Matthew’s

If you are under 70 with no underlying conditions and feel able to volunteer, please do contact Simon; [email protected]

However, I would urge you not to become too focussed on our buildings.
Our buildings may be closed but the church is very much open! I would encourage us to continue to be those who bring salt and light in the places where we are. Keep praying, keep being kind, keep asking how your neighbors are, keep demonstrating the love of God in your conversations, actions, and encounters. And keep noticing where God’s Kingdom is growing beyond the walls of our buildings, and celebrate. Writing in the New Statesman on 24 April Sebastian Shehadi and Miriam Partington say: ‘Recent data shows that others may be engaging more with religion since lockdown. The fact that Bible app downloads shot up in March globally is one indication of this. The top English-language Bible on Google Play and App The store was installed almost two million times, the highest amount ever recorded for March, according to App figures. Similarly, one of the UK’s largest online Christian bookstores, Eden, has seen physical Bible sales rise by 55% in April, while Google searches for ‘prayer’ and ‘Christianity’ have skyrocketed. The pandemic has triggered a ‘historic spiritual moment’, says Dr. Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, who is unsurprised by the growth in Bible-reading. He notes that engagement with online church services is also booming and that it is a response to feelings of disorientation, fragility, and fear caused by the crisis. The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, who is chairing the Church of England Recovery Group, has issued a statement which reads:  ‘We all want to see places of worship open as soon as is safe and practical and we have been very actively planning to that end, drawing up detailed advice to help parishes prepare… We believe it could help bring healing and strength to many who are hurting amid this traumatic time, with our churches acting in so many places at the center of community life, which is now beginning to resume.’

Giving during the crisis

The crisis we are living through has had an impact on almost every facet of our lives, and that includes the finances of our churches. Our Treasurers and Revd Graham Stacey have been working hard to find ways to make giving easy and efficient, not just for now, but into the future. You will hear more from your local Treasurer, and it is now very easy to give through our website, either to the Team or to a specific church, and we are able to collect Gift Aid on those donations where it is applicable. Many thanks for your generosity towards God’s Kingdom in this place – it really does make a difference.

The church is not closed

As our church buildings are closed, it has been suggested that the church, and even God, are closed with them. This is not the case, and we want to make sure we are communicating, and demonstrating that to those in our communities.

We have produced two cards that we have been distributing during this crisis, and it would be great if you were able to distribute some too.

We are praying:

We have a wonderful, dedicated prayer team who faithfully pray for all those who ask for prayer. This is something that we can bring that is unique, and we know from both requests and feedback that it is hugely appreciated. You can drop one of these cards through your neighbour’s door and there is nothing more for you to do, but who knows what a blessing that will be to them.

Just ask:

These cards offer contact and practical help. As we get further into this crisis, there may well be some in your street who feel they simply can’t ask that person to do another favour, and this card, on which you simply write your name and contact number, could come at just the right moment for them.

Reflections update

Our Reflections section of the website is now up and running. I hope that you are mulling over these questions, and formulating your responses. They are so important. I wanted to set out a timeline for this process. We are hoping to have gathered a good number of reflections by mid June, when we will be able to discern some of the themes that are bubbling up. We will then arrange for a whole series of small groups discussions around those to help us prayerfully imagine what our life together may look like in this next season. One thing is certain, we cannot go ‘back to normal’, even if that were desirable. Please be part of this process and encourage others to be too.

Rev’d Kate in lockdown

As ever, no two weeks are the same, but here is a snapshot of what clergy life in lockdown looks like.

Every day we are stopping to pray together at 10.10 am, and I am loving that sense of being ‘together’ in that. I realise how precious this corporate daily prayer is, and know it is something I want us to take into our post-lockdown-life.

Other everyday fixtures are an hour and a half of admin and emails as well as an hour and a half of phone calls. We also have our Open Vicarage which we really appreciate seeing people at.

Alternate weeks, Simon and I prepare and record the service for Sunday. On recording weeks, preparing, filming and editing takes whichever of us are doing it around a full day and a half [much more than ‘normal’ service and sermon prep and delivery, that’s for sure!]. After that, putting the subtitles on and getting it ready for broadcast is another day’s work [huge thanks to Graham for enabling that to happen].

Our Morning Prayer is specific to the day, and another 3 hours, alternate weeks, goes into preparing and recording those.

Communication is always important, and never more so than now. The weekly email communication is a joint effort, with things being flagged up by clergy, Fiona, churchwardens and others, compiled into a bite-size [we hope!] communication. Of course, there is a great deal of ‘backroom’ work making sure the information we refer to is available on the website.

I am still involved in Illuminate, our work with Young People, and we have a weekly ‘meeting’ with them. We are ramping this up and Barrie has found that there are things we can do to support secondary schools in the delivery of the curriculum by offering prayer spaces for all year 7s to engage with. A small team of us are recording those, as well as a ‘thought for the week’ which will go out across the diocese.

Diocese wide, I am also involved in facilitating Ministerial Development Reviews, which are still taking place, though rather differently, and need to be prepared for and followed up. 

There is training going on both locally in Gloucester Diocese and Nationally around our response at this time and into the future.

Whilst we haven’t been able to have our usual meetings, things have still had to be addressed and progressed, that is just happening in different, and not always so efficient ways.

Our anxious wedding couples need care and support, and we have been conducting around 2 funerals per week since lockdown began.

This time has also meant I can get to some of the important rather than just the urgent too. So I have finally finished constructing our Profile for our new Team Vicar, Fiona and I have been thinking through various aspects of our administration and processes, which she has done a spectacular job implementing despite the difficulties of this time. I have been in regular contact with our curate to be and will be involved in around 20 hours of training ready for her arrival over the next few weeks.

This is by no means exhaustive, but I hope gives an insight into life under lockdown as clergy. When it first happened, and in the run-up to Easter, the learning curve was immense, and the workload and hours were relentless. However, we now have some systems in place, and I have to say, it is wonderful experiencing this thing we have heard rumour of, ‘evenings’, so much more! On the whole, since Easter, I have been managing to keep work hours down to around 50 per week, which has had a brilliant knock-on effect on my sleep and general wellbeing. So yes, things are a little easier, but a long way from the clergy having nothing to do in lockdown. Please do pray for us, as we pray for you.

Feedback from Still Moving

This was such a wonderful ending to Sunday evening last week, and great to be together with a diverse group from across the churches and beyond. Beautifully led by Milly, with sensitively chosen music from Clay. With technology there are always things to learn, so when we come together next time the speaking and the music will sit alongside each other. Why not come and see next month?

Funeral booklets

It’s hard to avoid our own mortality in these times when we have daily reminders of how fragile life can be. If you would like to do something positive, both as a spiritual exercise for yourself and as a compassionate exercise for those we will leave behind, you may like to fill in one of the ‘ideas for my funeral service’ booklets produced by the Church of England. They will help you think and talk through everything from where you would like your service to be and what type of service through hymns and readings to coffins and donations. If you would like one of these, please get in touch with Kate and she will make sure you get one.

Progress on Clergy 100k in May Challenge

Kate: 

‘I’m chipping away with a 30min run 4 mornings a week – 17.2k so far…’ 

Mathew: 

Since the commencement of lockdown I have had to forgo other forms of exercise which have been replaced by a daily walk. Walking in the woods at the end of a long day in my NHS work is proving vital in restoring mental, spiritual  and physical wellbeing. I have walked about 25km in the first 4 days of May.

Simon:

‘2 miles a day everyday – alternating running and cycling – feeling pretty good & energised about it…’

Graham: 

This gives me extra motivation to get out and do some exercise knowing it will be some good somewhere. 

Randwick are looking for a Foundation Governor

Randwick Primary School is looking for someone to join our governing body as a Foundation Governor. 

This is an exciting volunteering opportunity to join our friendly and enthusiastic team, responsible for strategic management of the school, and to act as a “critical friend”, supporting the work of the headteacher and other staff.  The governing body is responsible for managing the budget to cover salaries, running costs, maintenance and equipment.  Foundation Governors in particular help to ensure that the school remains a church school with all that that implies.

In a voluntary controlled school like ours there are two Foundation Governors and they are there to see that the school takes account of its church foundation.  The governing board has a vital role to play in making sure every child at Randwick receives the best possible education. This is achieved by ensuring that governors have the necessary skills and commitment to contribute to the effective governance and success of the school.

The particular skills that governing boards need will vary and will include personal qualities and capabilities, such as the capacity and willingness to learn and work as part of a team.  Governors can make use of the various training opportunities available to them and play a full part in the work of the governing board.  We welcome nominations from members of our local community.

Please do email [email protected] for more information or our Chair of Governors, Mrs Alison Inwood, at [email protected].  Many thanks.  David Poad, Headteacher.