Dear members of all four PCCs and many parishioners,
I very much hope that this email finds you in good health. You are all very much in my thoughts and prayers.
OPEN FOR PRIVATE PRAYER, CLOSED FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP
In the light of the coronavirus we are committed to keeping everyone safe in our four church buildings across the benefice. In the light of this, as I’m sure you all now know, we have been directed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to put all public worship on hold for a season.
Meanwhile our church buildings need to remain open for private prayer and reflection during the day. (More on this in a moment).
We understand that it will still be possible to conduct weddings and funerals in our church buildings although with very limited number of people present, observing strict hygiene guidelines.
Three funerals came to me from Kemp & Stevens only this morning. Sadly two are from Lasham – Robbie Robinson and Ruth Martin, and I know how sad many of that community will be. Both have been faithful members of the church over many past years. In addition, Colin Fuller, Carol Fuller’s husband, has died. Such a wonderful gentleman. All three funerals are to be at the Crematorium with very limited numbers present. Most are opting for a church based memorial service at a later date.
We have 8 weddings and services of blessings booked across Bentworth, Lasham and Medstead at the moment – the couples are all very concerned about what will happen. I am exploring how we best read the banns of marriage. In addition, we have 3 baptisms (Medstead and Lasham).
The message is very firmly that while the church is closed for public worship we are very much open for private prayer.
I am making posters to this effect, and we need to find ways to spread the word as much as possible.
PRIVATE PRAYER & WORSHIP
Increasingly people are fearful for the future, with rents not being possible to pay, businesses laying off staff, travel restrictions, and most of all, the very real threat of illness or death.
We have an opportunity to offer care as the parish church in the community.
It is also an opportunity for creativity – lets get creative!
Medstead church is already looking to make simple Prayer Stations. I’m sure you have all seen such things in other churches. There are lots of ideas we could think about. See examples and ideas : https://www.thykingdomcome.global/resources/ideas-creative-prayer-stations. Also: https://theresaecho.com/interactive-prayer-stations/
I very much hope to be able to offer a weekly short service of worship and reflection on our website. The link for this will be made available through this website shortly.
It has already been wonderful to see so many people offering help, checking on neighbours who are isolated, and offering to lock and unlock the church, do shopping for others etc.
Thank you so much. It may well be that each parish could consider identifying someone to co-ordinate this.
I have started to telephone those whom I know are alone or self-isolating. As we all know, the months ahead, with no visitors, could be a desperate time for many.
All that is happening can be alarming for children and I am including a pastoral note and contact details to all families via the school newsletters.
The benefice website is our main most accessible form of communication. Please pass this on to everyone you can: www.blmsbenefice.org.
There you will find the latest news, our own weekly Sunday video of prayer, reflection and music, pew sheets (which will continue), sermon scripts, prayers and links to live streaming from other churches including the Cathedral.
Jane Shirvell has an excellent email ministry promoting the services at Shalden. Likewise, we are planning to use the online social media link: “Next-door Medstead” in that part of the benefice.
Medstead and Bentworth have had to cancel all use of their Halls. This is because we have been directed to close all gatherings held in the name of the church. Should we choose to overrule this and hold gatherings we would not be covered by insurance. This means that we are losing rental income at Medstead.
Treasurers will each have a plan on how best to maintain our income. Wilma is writing to all those on the Medstead Electoral Roll as a way to encourage direct giving at this time when collections are not so easy to arrange.
OTHER WAYS OF GIVING
This coming Sunday, Mothering Sunday, we are setting up Food Bank boxes at Medstead. All the Food Banks are deeply concerned that just at a time when they are increasingly needed food, cleaning products and nappies, the giving has gone down. As a benefice we might be able to set up local collection points as a matter of some urgency. The person who has volunteered to deliver to the Foodbank is aware of the necessity to use personal protection methods to resist infection.
PCC MEETINGS AND APCMs
We have been advised that PCC meetings are not considered essential, unless there is a particularly urgent item to resolve. However, this coming week we had planned to have all four of our APCMs. The Archdeacon has advised me that we are to postpone them for the time being as we await national guidance from the wider church. The final date for an APCM had already been extended into May of this year.
Although public gatherings for worship will not be taking place in the immediate future, we are as a church, nationally, regionally and locally, developing new ways of ensuring that acts of worship are accessible by other means. And our love of God and neighbour will be expressed in new ways, responding to the challenge of the coronavirus, and focusing on our closest and most vulnerable neighbours.
Please check the website and advertise it widely.
Please remember the Food Bank.
Please keep the church open during the day, with a light on if needed, and together we can make signs of welcome.
Above all, keep well,
With love and prayers,
Rev’d Canon Edward Pruen
[Please note that this message is not posted on behalf of Bentworth Parish Council and does not necessarily reflect the Parish Council’s policy]