3rd July 2020
For many of us, the past few months have meant change and sacrifice – separation from loved ones and friends; not going to our favourite places or regular activities and groups; and for many having to manage working from home and / or caring for children or other family members. It is has been painful for those who have been unable to get married or be present at funerals. We continue to pray daily for everyone in our church, school, and local community; and particularly for those affected by illness, those who care for the sick and vulnerable, those who are grieving, those who have to make difficult decisions about our national or community life, and the many key workers who have risked themselves to sustain our society.
A particular wrench for many of us has been the suspension of public worship and the closure of church buildings. We share the pain of not meeting, praying, and worshipping together in our beautiful and well-cared for church, of being unable to share our church as a place of celebration for wedding couples and a place of consolation for the bereaved. Earley St Peter’s is a very visible building and it has played a significant part in many people’s lives, for regular worshippers, occasionally attenders, or as the scene of family events.
Of course, the life of the church is not dependent on the building; we have been trying to care for each other, grow in our faith, and serve our community in all sorts of different ways for the past few months.
- Thanks to our pastoral phone callers we’ve been ringing around 150 households every week to stay in touch and offer support. We will continue to stay in touch by phone, with most of us receiving a call every few weeks, but those in particular need will be called weekly.
- With other local churches we have set up the Earley Help Hub to help match volunteers to people in need of help. Please email email@example.com or ring 07493 784091 if you or someone you know needs some practical help or a listening ear.
- Services and events continue over Zoom and the internet. Do please keep checking our website (earleystpeters.org.uk), Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/EarleySaintPeters), and YouTube channel (www.YouTube.com/c/earleystpeterschurch) to find out more. While we are not yet certain when physical worship can resume, we understand that not everyone will feel able to be present for a service in the church building. Some of us will still be shielding on medical advice, or feel anxious about being in a large group or a public place, worried about ourselves or a loved one getting ill. So, whatever happens in the church building, we are planning that online services and reflections will continue every Sunday and midweek through July and August.
- And if you don’t get our weekly email update, which already goes to over 250 people by email or post, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add you to the list.
Nonetheless, we know the building is important to many of us. The churchwardens and office team have been working hard towards reopening our buildings, including arranging for professional deep cleaning of the church and hall. And now we have some good news which we hope will encourage us as we begin the long, slow process of recovering more of our normal patterns of life.
- Earley St Peter’s will be open for personal prayer on Thursdays from 9th July, 10am-12 noon and 6pm-9pm. You can drop in during these times to just come and sit, say your prayers, find some stillness and peace. There is some guidance at the end of this letter about how this will work, and we really look forward to welcoming those who want to come.
- Weddings, baptisms, and funerals in churches are now possible though there are restrictions on numbers and format. It will be some weeks before we are ready to resume these, but please ring Mary Frank on 0118 966 8575 or email email@example.com and we’ll be glad to discuss how we can help you mark the joyful and sorrowful moments in our lives.
- We are also delighted that the Church Hall will reopen in July and if you or a group would like to make a booking, please ring Judith Bowler on 0118 966 8575 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We may need to limit bookings to meet government guidance, but please be in touch and we will do our best to help.
- We need to digest government and church guidance and it will be August at least before we can resume church services in the building. We’re not yet sure what format services will take and we will not be able to offer our usual pattern for a while. Services will be shorter than usual, we may not be able to celebrate Holy Communion together immediately, and for the moment we cannot sing together. As soon as we can say more about when services will resume, we will write.
We’ll have a lot of thinking to do together as we head towards the autumn – particularly about what we can offer in the church building and what we continue to do digitally. Please pray that we would, together, work out the best pattern of church life for the coming months and continue to deepen our faith, draw other people to know God’s love, and serve our community. Please do speak with the clergy or the churchwardens if you have any questions, concerns, feedback, or suggestions about what we write here or any other aspect of our church life.
Of course, some will be feeling ready to return to whatever activities we can, and may be glad of the chance to be in the building. Some may feel they would rather wait until we can gather for worship together. Some will still be following medical advice to shield and minimise contact with others. Some may feel that, to protect themselves or loved ones, they are not yet ready to be out and about in this way. We sympathise with all those different feelings. We will need to bear with each other in making these very personal decisions both about coming to the building to pray and, in due course, coming to a church service.
We want to end by saying a huge ‘thank you.’ We’ve been so impressed by so many people who have given so much, often under some pressure and at a time of great change, to the life of our church. Our churchwardens, ministry team, office staff, and musicians have been learning new ways of working to sustain our church life. Our pastoral phone callers have been giving huge amounts of time to try and stay in touch with everyone. Our school staff have been working incessantly to try and offer some kind of schooling to as many children as possible – no easy feat trying to teach mixed-age groups in small classrooms while keeping them two metres apart! Many of you have been praying hard and helping each other. We are daily thankful for the effort and care so many of you have offered in God’s service during these difficult days.
And, personally, we are hugely grateful for all the kind words and encouragement which so many of you have offered to us and to our family. We have had to learn fast, and we know we’ve not got everything right. Thank you for your support and your patience and your prayers.
If any of us have discovered new aspects of Christian faith, new ways to pray, new people to connect with, a deeper trust in the God of Jesus Christ or a stronger sense of community, then some good will have come out of our present troubles. We send, as always, our love and prayers to you all.
Hannah & Philip
Earley St Peter’s Church will reopen for personal prayer and reflection
Thursdays from 9th July – 10am-12 noon, 6pm-9pm
If you would like to come to church for personal prayer or reflection, we’d love to welcome you! But please bear in mind the following guidance, which is intended to keep everyone who comes into the building as safe as they can be, and to minimise (though we cannot eliminate) the risk of transmitting the infection.
- You should not come to church if you are have been advised to shield; you should speak to your GP if you need any advice.
- You should not come to church if you have any of the symptoms which are associated with Covid-19, such as: a high temperature; a new, continuous cough; or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. You should self-isolate and ring NHS on 111 or see nhs.uk/coronavirus if you think you may have symptoms.
- You should not come to church if you have been told to self-isolate by any NHS body such as Test and Trace.
- We will take every step we can to keep church as safe as possible, including risk-assessment and cleaning procedures; but deciding to come must be your responsibility.
- To help with cleaning and hygiene quite a lot of equipment and furniture has been removed, particularly from the rear of church.
- There will be a one-way system to enter and leave church, please come in by the normal doors to the north (left-hand) side of the church.
- Please sanitise your hands on the way into church; there will be some hand-sanitiser available but if you can bring your own that will help our supplies!
- Please maintain physical distancing of two metres from anyone who you do not live with. Seats will be marked so that people can stay two metres apart.
- Please catch any coughs and sneezes in tissues or the corner of your elbow – ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’!
- The current guidance does not say that masks or face coverings must be worn in churches, though of course you are welcome to if you wish.
- Please sit as directed by the welcomers and do not go into parts of the church which are cordoned off.
- Unfortunately at the moment we cannot offer refreshments or toilet facilities.
- In the unlikely event there are too many people wanting to come in we may need to ask people to queue for a short time.