Coronavirus Updates - St Mary's

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1st August 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

You will have seen in the news that face coverings, which are currently “strongly advised”, will be legally mandatory in places of worship from next week. I’ve been impressed with how St Mary’s seem to be taking the wearing of these things in your stride. I gather many other churches and clergy are resisting it but sadly I think it’s something we have to put up with for a time, and it reminds us all the more strongly that worship will be so much better when we see Jesus face to face!

facecartoon

After a funeral on Monday I am having a holiday with Becky and the boys. I will see you at tomorrow’s service, and lead next week’s for St Nicholas’ only by a recording on YouTube (reached in the normal way at the normal time, as our family will!) but you won’t see me at St Mary’s for three Sundays, and I’m grateful to Joanna Udal and Ian Williams for leading services and giving me a break.  

St Mary’s is now opening for private prayer again on Wednesday afternoons only, which leaves the building closed for over 72 hours before and after the Sunday services, for any virus to die without special cleaning. We are all grateful for Juani’s willingness to open up and lock the church on Wednesdays for that.

I’ve seen some of the Virtually Keswick Convention talks in the last few days and they have been very encouraging. I’d recommend taking a look at the things for adults (and children if you have grandchildren or any around) at https://vkc.keswickministries.org/ – especially  the Bible Readings (talks opening up the Bible) on Hope in Jesus – if  you scroll down to “What’s on” the recordings are still available to watch.

See you tomorrow. God bless,

Jonty

 

18th July 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you for Morning Prayer tomorrow morning at St Mary’s. For those who can’t come, I’d be interested to hear whether you find the recording on YouTube (same channel as the livestream was) helpful. By the time some of you read this, the service itself will have happened; sorry this is going out quite late.

Tomorrow Hugh Cornes will be with us for the last time and will preach from God’s word from Philippians chapter 3, about standing firm with joy. Saying goodbye to Hugh will be a sad but joyful occasion. Some of you have contributed to a gift for him which will be presented at Virtual Coffee for the benefice together, Zoom number 860 2531 2351, at 12.00pm after the Bathampton livestream service.

Face coverings have been in the news. They are increasingly a mark of good manners and are more about protecting others than protecting ourselves. As they will be mandatory in indoor spaces like shops from 24th July, it seems hard to justify not wearing one in church even if not legally required, for those who can. Thank you to those who have been setting a good example and wearing them already; I will try leading the service in one tomorrow and hope the microphone gives enough compensation. Forgive me if on the one hand you feel I should have worn one last week, or on the other hand that I shouldn’t be doing so this week or you find it hard to hear.

The Zoom number again for Virtual Coffee Farewell to Hugh at midday after church:  860 2531 2351.

I hope to see you in one or both ways in the morning

Jonty

10th July 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

One of the things choirs, churches, and many others are missing at the moment is singing together. More research is being done to investigate the effects of different types of singing in different environments on the spread of Covid-19, but there seems to be evidence of some churches elsewhere in the world being spreaders where singing together has happened. Do you want to sing? I hope so. Are you singing in your heart? I hope so. I received an email this morning from Keith & Kirstyn Getty (advertising their “Sing!” conference) which contained this link to a wonderful 6-minute video: https://youtu.be/KBpbOT8EzXc

It is a sermon clip in which John Piper reflects on a story from Acts 16 with piercing honesty: too often we do not sing during our trials. We grumble instead. And yet our sighs can be transformed into songs, for the same power that fuelled Paul and Silas’s hymn in the night is at work in us: the power of the resurrection of Christ. Because Christ is risen, we are never alone. Because Christ lives, our suffering for the gospel is never in vain. Because Christ conquered the grave, we can look ahead in confidence and know that we too will rise. That is why millions of believers around the globe continue to sing, even amidst the deepest trials. We have tasted the power of the resurrection.

The story in Acts 16 comes from Philippi and is the background to our current sermon series on the letter to the church that was founded through the preaching of the Gospel in it.

We are looking forward, despite having no singing (out loud), to meeting together for church on Sunday at St Mary’s. I hope you can make it. If not, please don’t feel under pressure. I aim to have a recording available on the YouTube Channel at 6.00pm, and you will be very welcome to come to the St Nicholas’ livestream at 10.45am. For those of us that are able to come, Stella has marked the places to sit with books: please go only in one of those places and leave the books tidily in the same place at the end. If you come as a couple from the same household, please sit together and share a book. Then everybody can be 2m distant from others. If you want to make sure your face doesn’t appear in the video, please say so on arrival; otherwise it will be nice for those watching from home to see your smile at some point. We will have doors open at the front and back for ventilation and to help with social distancing. The toilet will be available if you need it. I look forward to the special moment gathered there to share the Lord’s Supper together. Special hygiene measures will of course have to be observed. I will distribute the wafers – and no wine – in silence (apart from some lovely organ music) to avoid speaking over uncovered food, and we will have a one-way system for approaching the rail and remain standing to receive.

In the unlikely event that too many people come (I think Stella has made space for about 15 places), we will sadly have to turn some away, taking names to reserve a place at the next service, and inviting everyone to follow the livestream 10.45 St Nicholas’ service or tune in from 6.00pm for the St Mary’s recording.

St Nicholas’ is starting a monthly 6.00pm physical service on 26th July, and the building in Bathampton will continue to open for private individual prayer on Sunday afternoons (2-5) and Thursday mornings (9.30-12.30). It may be unattended for some of the time, as the signage and system have been judged safe enough in the current environment; we have a rota of volunteers to be present some of the time as more of a welcoming hospitality outreach initiative than a hygiene security one.

God bless you

Jonty

3rd July 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

As you know, the church will be open for private individual prayer for a second time on Sunday 5th July, from 11.00am-12.30pm. That will be the last time for a while though, because that morning’s 9.00am livestreamed service will be our last and from Sunday 12th July we plan to be having real physical services in the church building again.

Please be assured that we are taking the advice and precautions very seriously to minimise the risk of virus transmission. This will sadly have an impact on our corporate worship. There will be no singing, although we are very glad that Harry will be playing the organ before and after the service. The service will be quite short, although we are planning to have Communion very carefully together (wafers only, socially-distanced). Hand sanitiser will be available and two doors open for a separate entrance and exit. No collection will be taken but there will be a plate for an offering. The toilet will be available.

It will be so good to see each other face to face and celebrate the Eucharist together. I am sorry that some will not be able to come and some will not want to take the risk. That is fine – we are all in different situations and don’t judge each other. There is no pressure to come. I am also sorry that there will then be no St Mary’s livestream. There will, however, be two useful substitutes: the St Nicholas’ livestream at 1045, or a recording of the St Mary’s service which should be available later in the day on our YouTube channel or on the telephone service 01225 697200.

Before that I look forward to seeing some of you, from a suitable distance, outside Rodger and Diane’s house, this Saturday at 11.00am, sadly to say goodbye to them but with much gratitude for all that they have meant to us.

Jonty

29th June 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

It’s been lovely to see folk rally round to get the church ready for individual private prayer, and 8 people came to pray yesterday. The current plan is to open every Sunday from 11.00am to 12.30pm with strict social distancing, hand sanitiser, two doors open (for ventilation and a one-way system), all Bibles, kneelers etc out of the way, a volunteer present as steward, and silence inside the building, although conversation is permissible outside, of course, with appropriate distancing. But it may not be many weeks before that plan changes! The good news is that we may be able to start holding short services very soon. The Government has given permission; we await further direction from the Bishops later this week.

As I have mentioned, there will be no singing, although Harry has offered to play something on the organ before and after the service. The live stream will have to stop, although it will continue at 10.45am for St Nicholas’, and it should be possible to upload a recording of the St Mary’s service to YouTube by the end of the day. Before I and the PCC decide how to move forward on this, it would be helpful to have some information about how everybody is affected.

Please will you REPLY to this email with brief answers to the following? I take it as read that none of us wants our own wishes to override the needs of others (Philippians 2:3-4) so please feel free to answer honestly about your own feelings rather than trying to reflect what you sense to be the corporate mood – and then we can take everyone’s needs into account.

  1. If we started services in church soon, would you come?
  2. Have you been using the livestream / dial-a-service facility?
  3. Is your feeling that we should err on the side of caution, or get on with this as soon as possible?

Thank you so much. A couple of other things to say:

We are sadly going to say goodbye to Rodger and Diane who move away in just over two weeks’ time. We’re going to have a small outdoor socially-distanced gathering on Saturday 4th July at 11.00am around their drive. We would have so liked to have a proper party to send them off and express the appreciation of St Mary’s for all that they have been and brought to the church, but of course this is not possible, so we want to do the best we can to bid them a warm farewell. Diane has kindly offered to provide tea and coffee. In these strange times there may be people who would like to come but are worried about the virus and worried about causing offence. Everybody is different. Let’s be generous with one another, keep a sense of humour, and be clear that nobody will be offended if anybody feels it’s better to do any of the following: Stay away and perhaps send a private message to Diane and Rodger; Wear a face mask; Stand at a greater distance than the required 2 metres; Decline a drink, bring your own, or bring your own mug to accept a hot drink. Things like that will not be interpreted as a judgment on others’ hygiene standards in this extraordinary environment.

Speaking of face coverings, it seems they are becoming the next great fashion accessory. Margaret Askew from St Nicholas’ is making rather good ones. Margaret says:  They are washable, outer and lining made of cotton fabric with an inner layer of non-woven bonded interfacing.  They have soft elastic for the ear loops.  There are options for a hidden piece of pipe-cleaner that can be moulded across the bridge of the nose – good for spec wearers; and for a neck loop so that the mask can be lowered without being totally removed.  I am making them for £2.50 each – 50p for costs and donating £2 to Water Aid so that others can have clean water for washing hands. 

If you’re interested, please email margaret.askew@gmail.com and say that you’re a member of St Mary’s. Here is a photo of some of the masks she has made so far:

MA

And finally, I hope to see you on Zoom this week. Apologies that Wednesday’s Virtual Coffee Morning has been on and off, if you’ve been following the Notices in the last couple of livestreams. But tomorrow evening is a Turn-up Tuesday date and I’ve offered a Zoom meeting to the village for that. So come on Tuesday evening instead and join in with others from the village, and perhaps see you in 3D on Saturday morning as well.

God bless you

Jonty

24th June 2020

Dear friends at St Nicholas’ Bathampton and St Mary’s Claverton

Things seem to be changing quickly – not quickly enough for some and worryingly or confusingly fast for others. Do let me know how you’re feeling about things generally and whether you’re optimistic or worried about the future. I have been encouraged by some words of the apostle Peter:

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.’

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. [1 Peter 5:5-11]

The original readers were probably suffering because of empire-wide persecution of Christian believers rather than because of a pandemic, but we can still heed the instruction as applying to us.

The Government announcement about easing of restrictions yesterday may have raised questions for you about the re-opening of churches. I had a message last night saying that it had taken the bishops by surprise and that they would be meeting today and then communicating, so we shouldn’t ask questions until then. I haven’t heard any more yet so I thought I would let you know the situation.

I and both PCCs had anticipated churches being allowed to start services in some form soon, with the likelihood that they would have to be without singing, with social distance, and that a significant number of our congregations would have to stay away. So we have been expecting to continue livestreamed services from the Vicarage for some time beyond when they are first allowed in church. At some point (not as soon as possible) we expect to start streaming from St Nicholas’ with a congregation that will be a “studio audience” because many members would be watching from home, and probably no children’s groups during the service. I don’t think streaming from St Mary’s building will be possible because there is no broadband there, so starting to meet in church again might exclude some members who are currently able to tune into the live stream or phone in for the recording. So for the next few weeks at least, both services will continue to come from the Vicarage. It’s all under regular review, and I’ll try and keep you in the picture.

As regards private prayer for individuals in the churches, I am very pleased to say St Mary’s (Thanks Stella, Margaret, Harry and Ray) is all set for opening in this way just once a week, on Sundays at 11.00am for 90 minutes. If you would like to drop in and pray there individually, you are more than welcome. Do follow the signs and be careful about hand sanitiser and keeping a distance from others. Conversation with others should be outdoors. St Nicholas’ is still in the process of sorting out a risk-assessed plan but it looks as though we will also be able to open there for limited times fairly soon. Part of the building (the vestry) is presently being dried out after the heavy rain caused some ingress leading to damp and mould.

Take care and God bless you

Jonty

16th June 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

I hope you’re well. Since my Update last Friday (which followed initial consultation with PCC) and my repeating the expectations in the livestream about a delay to opening the church for private prayer, we have had a groundswell of enthusiasm for moving to make the church accessible to the community in that kind of way as soon as we can. We’re not there yet – there are signs to be made and hand sanitiser to be obtained and plans for a one-way system, ventilation, locking and unlocking as well as cleaning – but it looks as though fairly soon the PCC will approve a risk-assessed way of opening the building, probably once or twice a week so that it can be left locked for 72 hours between times, and everyone will be welcome to come and pray privately whilst observing the rules about social distance and so on. I’ll keep you updated through this email system. On behalf of everyone, thank you to all who have offered help with the above.

We are delighted at this small step towards “normal life”. Our hope in Christ is unaffected:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. Hebrews 6:19

But being able to go into our special earthly “sanctuary” in Claverton can be a picture for us of the real heavenly one we look forward to, and a reminder to all that the Lord is ready to hear our prayers whenever we come to him. It has always been our aim to keep the building as a welcoming place for those who might not come to Sunday services but are curious or seeking peace. May this be a help to them as well.

Don’t forget the opportunity to catch up with one another with a virtual coffee morning tomorrow at 10.00am. We’ll use the same meeting details as before (contact Hugh or Jonty if you don't have the details). It will be a good chance to see one another and discuss the opening of the church as well as any other news or developments, and keep encouraging one another. I hope to see you there, and do invite others into our gently-growing Zoom community.

God bless you

Jonty

12th June 2020

Dear friends at St Nick’s and St Mary’s

You may have heard news that the Government has announced that as from Monday it will no longer be illegal for churches to allow people in for private prayer (not for tourism). Of course this does not mean that many churches must or will necessarily open soon. There are serious questions of public liability and risk assessments, of the need for daily deep cleaning and supervision to ensure social distancing, together with protection of volunteers, which mean that for some time into the future we won’t be able to open St Mary’s or St Nicholas’. We do of course want to help and encourage those who are looking for a place to pray and feel the impulse to come into the church. We need to try and provide help to everyone to pray at home or outside, on a walk or perhaps particularly in the churchyard, and to spread the reassurance and understanding that God hears our prayers wherever we are, whether we are in a special church building or not. So we will look at giving more guidance on the website and, for those who turn up at the church door, a physical sign giving encouragement and ideas for praying outside the church.  

I expect that before long it will become legal again for churches to allow some kind of corporate worship to take place in the building as well. But it will be very restricted. Many people, especially those over the age of 70 or vulnerable for other reasons, will need to stay away. Social distancing will have to be observed. Numbers will be seriously restricted. Nobody will touch a Bible, hymn book or notice sheet. And perhaps one of the most serious restrictions is that singing together will be forbidden for a long time to come. So again, we won’t jump to do as much as is allowed as soon as is allowed. Livestreaming in the kind of way that we have been doing since March will need to continue. Why is singing such an important part of our getting together as church? That’s a question I’m going to begin my sermon with on Sunday, because I’ve been finding that Isaiah 25 gives some answers…

Looking forward to “seeing” you in the livestream then, with something to sing about. God bless,

Jonty

6th June 2020

Dear church family,

I've set up a phone line where you can listen to the most recent recordings from St Nicholas or St Mary's: 01225 697200.

You can choose between the whole service or just the sermon (with the reading). It costs whatever it would for you to call a Bath landline - so free for most. When you call you first select the option you want by keying in the right number, and then there's a wait of around 30 seconds before the recording starts. I recommend listening on speaker-phone to avoid arm ache!

Sadly it isn't live. It will be updated sometime after the service stream has finished. NB You can't pause it once it's started, and if you end the call and ring again then you'll have to start from the beginning, so find a time where you'll be free from distraction. As a result, you'd be much better off going to our youtube channel, but this is for those without the internet!

That means it's most useful for people who won't be reading this email. We need to get the word out to them. Please think about who you could call to let them know about it - that's a good excuse to ring for a catch up anyway!

With love in Christ to you all,

Hugh

4th June 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

 I hope you are well. Do keep in touch. I have 5 things to say in this Update.

  1. The Bathampton Church prayer meeting this evening on Zoom is for everyone who considers themself a member of St Nicholas’, and we welcome anyone from St Mary’s Claverton who would like to come as well. It’s at 7.30pm for an hour, on Zoom. Please do come along and pray together. That doesn’t mean you have to pray out loud; if you’re not comfortable with that you can listen to others’ prayers and join in in your heart. An Amen from everyone at the end is a big encouragement. If you have difficulty using Zoom, give Hugh a call; his number is below. We will pray for St Mary’s together and there is the possibility in future of breakout rooms to pray separately for more parish concerns as well as together for benefice, wider church, and world concerns.
  2. Live stream services every Sunday at 9.00am are a great way to connect with the church family and with the Lord Jesus together. Do keep coming – we’re easy to find from the church website or on YouTube itself – and do keep texting in which really helps the sense of meeting together as church rather than watching a TV programme. We’re concerned for those who don’t have access to the internet and have now developed a way for anyone to phone in with a normal phone and hear a recording of the last service or sermon (unfortunately it can’t be live). Details of that, including the number to call,  will follow in – I hope – the next Update tomorrow. The difficulty of course is communicating the availability of this service to those who don’t use email. Do please be thinking of whom you could share this opportunity with.
  3. On Sunday our visitor talked a little about the Bread of Life Society and we would perhaps have had a collection for that charity if we had been in church. I have explained text giving to St Mary’s in these updates before; if you want to give by text through St Mary’s to the Bread of Life Society, text “3Mission”, “10Mission” or “20Mission” to the same number 70470.
  4. We’ve had a few nice Virtual Coffee Mornings for St Mary’s Claverton on Zoom. The next one was scheduled for Wednesday 10th June but I can’t make that so will be in touch soon with an alternative date/time.
  5. Thank you to those who have participated already in a local recording of the Creed together. There has been more take-up from St Nick’s than St Mary’s so far, but we can produce a special St Mary’s version and a Benefice version. Hugh has refined the instructions to make it even simpler so let’s get everybody’s face on here for St Mary’s! The main improvement in the new instructions is that the words come up on the screen with the original video that you’re keeping in time with, so you don’t have to worry about memory or reading them from somewhere else. Here are Hugh’s instructions:

The aim is to get a video like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RY4CW5pte98 but with us saying the creed rather than singing. You’ll record a video of you saying the creed but it has to be in time with Jonty’s. It’s important to get them in sync so follow the steps

  1. Look in this shared Google drive folder
  2. Open up the video template by double clicking on it. This now gives you the words to read and the sound to keep in time with.
  3. Insert headphones (maybe just have one in one ear) so that you can hear the template while you record your own version. It must be headphones rather than out loud so that your recording doesn’t pick up the template audio for a second time.
  4. On your camera app, start recording yourself. Don’t worry about a few seconds’ blank recording at the start – I will edit that out.
  5. Then press play on the video template and try and keep in time and smile as you say the words (no need to be perfectionist but it’s easy to get it wrong so do a retake if you need, I took 4!)
  6. Stop recording
  7. Upload your video into the sub-folder named “upload video here”. To do this you open the folder and either drag & drop your video file there or click the “+ New” button. Or send it to me by email if that’s easier for you.

Thanks for helping! Let me know if you need help, Hugh - 07580 159714, hughcornes@gmail.com

I hope to “see” you on Sunday and perhaps also this evening!

Jonty

28th May 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s
I hope you liked yesterday’s idea of recording the creed together from our homes, and are giving it a go. In yesterday’s email, I promised another one about giving money by text. Kay and Ray have done a lot of work on this and set up a wonderfully simple system. If you’d like to make a one-off gift and don’t want to do a bank transfer, it is still possible to claim Gift Aid when you give by text.
Giving to our church by text:

Text '3STMARYS' to 70470 to donate £3
Text '5STMARYS' to 70470 to donate £3
Text '10STMARYS' to 70470 to donate £10
Text "20STMARYS" to 70470 to donate £20

The gift is paid via your mobile phone bill. A standard rate message charge may be added. A 5% fee is deducted, Gift aid is possible. To save that 5% fee, it is better still to give by bank transfer or Standing Order.

A/c name: PCC Claverton Parish
Sort Code: 30-90-54
Account Number: 0029 0748
Reference (for Gift Aid):
Your name and “GA DONATION”

Please understand and accept my apologies if this email is not appropriate for you. Many members already give to the church by standing order but might find the text giving to mission helpful. Others might find their circumstances mean they have to reduce their giving. We are very grateful for all giving, of large and small amounts (remembering Jesus’ teaching about the poor widow’s tiny gift being precious).
If you change or cancel a Standing Order, please inform Judith Book, our Planned Giving Secretary (see the Address List Kay has sent you for contact details, and if you haven’t received the Address List from Kay, ask her to put you on it! office@stnicholasbathampton.org.uk ).
God bless you

Jonty


27th May 2020

Dear friends at St Nick’s and St Mary’s
I’m aware that my Update communication has been less frequent recently but I now have a couple of things I want to say without putting too much in one email, so I’m going to save one for tomorrow, which is how to give to your church or to mission by SMS text. For today I would like to invite you to participate in an exciting little project that is Hugh’s initiative.
When we say the Creed every Sunday in “virtual church” we could have more of a sense of saying it together in solidarity with other Christians if we could see and hear more of each other as we used to when we gathered in one building, and will again one day but not as soon as we would like. Hugh is trying to get us all saying it together in one recording, a bit like the virtual choirs you may have seen and heard singing. I love the idea and can’t wait to see us all in it. Here are his instructions.
The aim is to get a video like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RY4CW5pte98 but with us saying the creed rather than singing. You’ll record a video of you saying the creed but it has to be in time with Jonty’s. It’s important to get them in sync so follow the steps:

The Creed Instructions

  1. Look in the shared Google drive folder
  2. Watch Jonty’s video version to get a feel for it
  3. Download Jonty’s audio template
  4. Insert headphones (maybe just have one in one ear) so that you can hear Jonty while you record your own version. It must be headphones rather than out loud so that your recording doesn’t pick up Jonty’s audio for a second time.
  5. Set your video camera on a stable surface
  6. Have these words ready to read along:
    • I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
  7. Start recording first
  8. Then press play on Jonty’s audio version and try and keep in time!
  9. Retake the video until you’ve got one where you’re in time (no need to be perfectionist but it’s easy to get it badly wrong!)
  10. Upload the video into the folder named “upload video here” or send it to me by email if that’s easier for you

I’ll then piece them all together etc. and create a finished product which others can be added to as more recordings come in
Thanks for helping! Let me know if you need help,
Hugh
07580 159714
hughcornes@gmail.com
One thing I’d like to add to that is that the video camera (whether smartphone or laptop webcam) has been described as an energy-sucking device: you should look straight at it but it tends to flatten your voice and face. So it’s good to make a conscious effort to smile (You may disagree and think my smiling looks like Ed Milliband eating a bacon sandwich). Why not mark the three points in the creed that most make you smile, and then smile as you get to them?
Another thing is to highlight Hugh’s offer of help. If you feel technologically challenged and can’t think how to “start recording first”, there’s no shame in giving him a call. He’ll be delighted you’re giving it a go. We don’t want this only to be the church geeks and exclude the over-35s.  As many faces as possible please, representing the whole church family!
God bless you
Jonty

21st May 2020

Dear friends at St Mary's
Greetings on Ascension Day!
I stumbled upon a Christian youth website called www.fervr.net  (have you noticed how omitting vowels is all the rage?) and an Ascension Day article by Dave Buckley which I thought looked rather good. You can read it here:
https://fervr.net/bible/what-is-ascension-day
Amen to that! God bless you,
Jonty

18th May 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

Today I thought I’d share with you an Anglican devotional email that comes to my Inbox daily…

The three days following the Fifth Sunday after Easter are traditionally set aside for petitioning God to prosper the efforts of our hands, especially as it relates to sowing crops in the Spring in hopes of reaping a bountiful harvest in the Autumn. The word “rogation” comes from the Latin rogare, “to ask.” The Second Book of Homilies (1563) even provided official sermons for each day. As always, in Anglican spirituality, petitioning is to be preceded by penitence, “getting right with God first,” which then leads to love gratitude for forgiveness and everything else God has done for us, including making this wonderful world for us.

However, the first thing we need to recognize is that this penitence is no hamster-wheel approval-earning. Let’s listen to the “Homily for Rogation Week”:

It is his goodness that moveth him to call us unto him, to offer us his friendship and presence. It is his goodness that patiently suffereth our straying from him, and suffereth us long, to win us to repentance... And what other thing doth his loving and gentle voice spoken in his Word, where he calleth us to his presence and friendship, but declare his goodness, only without regard of our worthiness?

The power within us to return to God is nothing else but loving gratitude for God’s goodness to be at work in the midst of our sinfulness until we do repent.

Yet, is this the way we see repentance? Do we repent so we can earn God’s approval and love? Or do we repent to return the unconditional love we have received? Do we repent to gain access to God’s presence? Or do we repent because he is present with us in our sins seeking to lead us out? Self-Hatred or loving gratitude, which one really motivates our attempts at change? These are important questions, since the answers will determine whether we experience a spiritually and emotionally healthy Christian life. 

There is an old, old, lie that so often haunts the back of our minds: “Doesn’t God love me less when I sin, but love me more when I don’t?” It sounds so reasonable. How others treat us certainly influences our attitude towards them. But God is not like us, and real Christianity isn’t always “reasonable” by the standards of this world. Real Christianity remembers that God’s love won’t abandon us, even when we have abandoned him.

Lorainne Hansberry expresses this point so well in her landmark civil rights play from the 1950s, A Raisin in the Sun. A $10,000 insurance check from a father’s recent death divides his widow and their two children over how it should be spent. The son Walter wants to invest it in a liquor store so that they can have a decent income.  The daughter Beneatha wants to use it to fund her education to become a doctor. Although reluctant at first, Moma wants to give Walter a chance to make something of himself, so she gives him $6500, telling him to put $3000 in a saving’s account for his sister, and to invest the remaining $3500 as he thinks best. Walter, however, turns the whole amount over to a supposed business partner who simply runs off with all the money. Enraged, Beneatha disowns him as her brother. Mama, however, replies: “When do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When they done good and made things easy for everybody?  Well, then, you ain’t through learning - because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in himself…”!

God’s grace is sufficient even in the face of our greatest failures. When we need God the most, the power of his love is still there for us.  In the end, it’s God’s goodness, not our own, that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).

Mindful of God’s goodness, let us pray this week’s collect.

Prayer: 1552 Collect appointed for the Fifth Sunday after Easter. Lord, from whom all good things do come; grant us, thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lorde Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright: John Ashley Null

God bless you this week

Jonty

7th May 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

As we look back with thankfulness for our nation’s (and the world’s) remarkable deliverance from a terrible evil a lifetime ago, we are again more than ever reminded of our reliance on God. We are not in control of our own destiny and we need him to save us.

O GOD, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom: Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

God bless you

Jonty

2nd May 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

We held our first Virtual St Mary’s Claverton Coffee Morning on Wednesday on Zoom and the handful of us “present” enjoyed it so much we decided to do it again after two weeks. Everybody welcome at 9.00am on Wednesday 13th May. The Zoom meeting number is the same as this week’s. Do call me or Hugh (07580 159714) if you need any help or advice about getting in!

I’m looking forward to the 9.00am livestream on Sunday. There are two new features in our service this week.

  1. I’d like to do a regular interview slot with different members of the church family, to help us get to know one another better and have an insight into lockdown life for someone different each week. The first one is someone I’m sure you will all recognise immediately…
  2. It won’t be Communion, of course, but the first Sunday in the month is normally Communion and we may be finding it hard to go without for so long. The Church of England has produced some guidance on Spiritual Communion:

The term ‘Spiritual Communion’ has been used historically to describe how a person, prevented for some serious reason from sharing in a celebration of the Eucharist, nonetheless shares in the communion of Jesus Christ. The form of prayer we will use offers Christians an opportunity to give thanks for their communion with him, particularly at times when they would ordinarily be present at the Eucharist.

The Book of Common Prayer instructs us that if we offer ourselves in penitence and faith, giving thanks for the redemption won by Christ crucified, we may truly ‘eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ’, although we cannot receive the sacrament physically in ourselves. Making a Spiritual Communion is particularly fitting for those who cannot receive the sacrament at the great feasts of the Church, and it fulfils the duty of receiving Holy Communion ‘regularly, and especially at the festivals of Christmas, Easter and Whitsun or Pentecost’ (Canon B 15).

The Church of which we are members is not defined by the walls of a building but by the Body of Christ of which we are members. In making our communion spiritually, we are joining with Christians everywhere to be nourished by the one who tells us, ‘I am the Bread of Life’.

I do hope you will tune in and invite/remind/help others to as well!

Jonty

27th April 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

I hope you are keeping well. It’s been a long time since we actually got together. But in this time of isolation and social distancing, it’s so important and so encouraging to stay connected.  I’m missing you all but quite enjoying our livestreamed services, particularly when I get to read out text messages that some of you have sent in. I even received a beautiful smiling photo of Roger and Diane this week which should brighten up all our mornings when it pops up in the pre-service slideshow next Sunday.

I promised in yesterday’s notices a St Mary’s Claverton Virtual Coffee Morning this Wednesday. It’s going to be at 10.00am (whatever time I may have said then!). Please come, or make every effort to, especially if you are a technophobe. Below is the full invitation generated by Hugh for a Zoom meeting. I know some of you have been doing  Zoomba classes and everything; you seasoned Zoomers will know the deal and can get on the blower to others, persuading them and talking them through how to do it. Hugh has written special instructions you can get from this link for Zooming on a computer or laptop, or this link for Zooming on a smartphone or tablet. It’s worth setting up the day before to make sure it’s working on the day. If you have any technical difficulty, you can then ask Hugh or me and we’ll be pleased to do all we can to help you out from a distance. If you have a device with a camera on it, you can join the virtual coffee morning as though walking into a roomful of people: you’ll see everybody’s face and they will see yours, and we’ll all be able to speak and hear each other as if in the same room. If you don’t have a camera, we’ll just see a box with your name on, but you can join in conversation and see everyone else. If you don’t have any of the above devices, you can phone in with an ordinary phone and still join in the conversation. It will be a little harder for you to know who’s speaking, but worth trying. I’m hoping we’ll hear Tiny in that way… it will be a small gathering but your presence could be a real encouragement to others. Bring your own coffee and pastries and you don’t have to stay long if you’ve got things to do, but a quick hello would be much appreciated.

In order to join the coffee morning, you'll need the 'Zoom invitation', which was sent in the email version of this message. Please contact me (Jonty) if you would like to join us and did not receive the email.

God bless you

Jonty

23rd April 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

I hope you are keeping well. Let’s remember one another in this time of loneliness for some, and different mixtures of frustration, boredom, stress, over-busyness, bereavement, fear, peace and other things for different people.

Another church in Bath has produced a tremendous new resource in the form of a website https://www.hopeinitiative.co.uk/. It’s from St Bart’s in Oldfield Park and they have offered it to serve other churches as well. Do take a look around and be reminded of hope in this time of unprecedented need.

Our brothers and sisters in East Africa are facing unprecedented need on a scale that swamps our crisis. David and Heather Sharland, the St Nicholas’ mission partners in the West Nile region of northern Uganda, specialising in agriculture and community healthcare respectively, are appealing for urgent prayer about the double whammy of covid-19 and swarms of locusts which seem to be heading Westward from the areas where they have devastated crops and animal feed. The recent rains have brought new growth and there is so much promise of a harvest, now threatened by the impending shadow of breeding locusts. We pray for a miracle to protect local farming communities and refugee settlements from hunger, which threatens to make Covid-19 so much more devastating.

I mentioned in the livestreams on Sunday that despite not being able to pass a collection bag or plate around, we need not be deprived of the joy of giving. Thankfully many of our members give by bank standing order, which is very much the most helpful method but not everyone finds it their preferred way. If you would have liked to give by cash or cheque in an envelope or loose on the plate, your donation is still valued, appreciated, and used in God’s Kingdom. If you would rather not set up a standing order but can do a bank transfer, the details are: 30-90-54, 0029 0748. If you are a taxpayer and happy for us to claim Gift Aid on your donation, please make the reference your name and “GA Donation”. Cheques payable to PCC Claverton Church are also welcome: please post to our Treasurer, Ray Bennett, The Retreat, 195 Haugh, Winsley, Bradford on Avon, BA152JD, and Ray will then quarantine the envelope for 3 days and gratefully receive the cheque!

Whether or not we give regularly by Standing order, we may like to give together through the church to mission elsewhere. St Nicholas’ are currently supporting Gideons UK, and I’ll show their presentation on Sunday in the St Mary’s livestream; if you would like to give to them in this period, you can use either of the above two methods to give through St Mary's, and please mark your gift with the reference: your name and “GideonsUK”. Thank you so much.

Services by livestream have certain advantages. Some people are enjoying the anonymity, church in pyjamas, and the comfort of home. But it isn’t what church is supposed to be. I hope our longing to be together again is growing. Meanwhile, one of the things that people are appreciating is seeing and hearing other members of the church reading the Scriptures and leading us in prayer. We normally have a rota for readings. Some of the regular readers have been willing and able to send in recordings; others have not. It would be great to have more volunteers. If you’d be willing to try recording a reading or some prayers, please email me. You don’t need advanced technical knowledge or kit. A smartphone or computer should be enough, with some coaching and remote assistance from Hugh. Audio recordings are fine; video recordings are even better. Also, whether or not you’re offering to read or pray, please send a photo of yourself that you’d be happy to be shown. It’s nice to have a slideshow looping through lots of photos of church members before the start of the service, contributing to the feeling of arriving and seeing each other for the shared experience.

God bless you

Jonty

13th April 2020

Dear friends in the Benefice (Bathampton & Claverton)

I mentioned in the services yesterday two suggestions of useful ways to spend time during the lockdown. One was reading a Christian book, and I recommended “Where is God in a Coronavirus World?” by John Lennox, available as a paper or eBook from The Good Book Company.

The other was Christianity Explored. Many of you have done this course already, but for those who haven’t, here is a fine opportunity to try it. Perhaps more significantly, maybe you have a friend or family member that you would love to discuss the Christian faith with, you think there’s a chance they might be interested, but inviting them to come to a course seemed just too big a step. This is a much easier thing, to share an invitation by email or whatever social media you use. If they are not interested you’ve lost nothing but a percentage of those receiving this invitation from a friend will “attend” the first virtual session and give it a try.

Immediately after this email will come another one from “St Nicholas Bathampton” – they’re coming like buses again today. It will simply be the invitation to the course. Please accept that as an invitation to you, and forward it to as many people as you like. You can copy and paste it into facebook, whatsapp, twitter or whatever you use, or you can simply forward the email to someone by email. That’s why I’m sending it as a separate email to this one, to make it easier for the technologically-challenged to forward without all the covering info from me! Of course you might like to add covering info from you, such as what a charming young man Hugh is or how you might like to attend the virtual course with your friend.

You won’t hear as much from me for the rest of this week as I’m trying to take a staycation and make up for lost family time over the busyness of the last few weeks. See you on Sunday.

God bless you

Jonty

(Email which followed: Do you have questions about the Christian faith? Would you like to use some time during Lockdown to investigate the claims of Jesus Christ? Jonty (our Minister) and Hugh (our Intern and Bathampton's favourite lollipop man) will be running a Christianity Explored course for a group on Zoom, on 7 Monday afternoons starting 20th April at 3.30pm. No prior knowledge, faith, or church connection assumed and you can ask any question. Email rector@stnicholasbathampton.org.uk for more details and to ask for a Zoom invitation.)

11th April 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

Whether you receive this in the evening of Easter Eve, or on Easter Day itself, let me wish you joy and peace in the Risen Lord Jesus this Easter time.

I do hope you will tune into YouTube on the St Nicholas’ Bathampton Channel or by clicking the link on the St Mary’s Claverton website. We plan (God willing; on Good Friday it looked doubtful as we had a power cut, but the power came back on in time) to be streaming from 8.45am ready for the service starting at 9.00am with the Easter greeting “Alleluia, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia!”

I have said a number of times: please don’t suffer in silence, and haven’t heard much noise about suffering, so I hope that means you are mainly coping well in this challenging time. One particular area I’d like to emphasise is that Hugh and I need to hear if people are experiencing technical difficulties with the livestream, whether with picture or sound problems or with knowing how to connect in the first place. There is no shame in finding it difficult. There may be things we can do to make it easier that would help not only you but others. So we need feedback and don’t want you to miss the services whilst we can’t be physically in the St Mary’s building. Text me on 07905 883075 (not my home phone) if you’d like me to read out a message to the rest of the church, or phone Hugh on 07580 159714 for instant technical assistance!

Happy Easter! With love,

Jonty

9th April 2020

Dear friends at St Nicholas’ and St Mary’s

On Maundy Thursday we remember the Lord’s Last Supper with his disciples before his arrest and trial. It is hard for us not to be gathering for communion today, and especially on Sunday, but our separation gives us a taste of the separation Jesus endured for us – friends abandoning, betraying, denying him; and ultimately God forsaking him so that we might experience full communion with God and his people.

For those interested in poetry, do have a look at this video of a Good Friday poem “A funny thing happened on the way to the execution” which is a deep reflection in a modern style by Glen Scrivener. Please share it with others who might appreciate thinking more – even if they may not agree. It includes the provocative lines:

Heaven came preaching; earth would not hear.
We said “Shut the hell up!” – which was his whole idea.

The Hour at the Cross is a further opportunity for meditative reflection. Normally held at St Mary’s and often with guests from St Nicholas’, of course all are welcome tomorrow afternoon at 2.00pm.

Children from both parishes in the Benefice may find the 10.45am Good Friday service more accessible. Adults are always welcome too; it is an All Age service, not a children’s service.

Though Jesus’ death on the cross is the ultimate depth in his self-giving love, it is not the end of the story. Therefore God has exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… Philippians 2:9. We celebrate that on Easter Day with both churches at our usual times of 9.00am for St Mary’s Morning Prayer and 10.45am for St Nicholas’ All-Age church time.

May God bless you richly in your home over this special weekend.

Jonty

8th April 2020

Dear friends at St Nicholas’ and St Mary’s

As we’re in what is known as Holy Week, will you manage to take a bit of time to reflect on that extraordinary week in history, from Palm Sunday to Easter Day, and perhaps read through that part of one of the Gospels? I’m looking at John. John devotes very nearly half of his book (chapters 12-21) to this one week.

We are staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives. One of the reasons coronavirus is having such a big effect on us all over the world is our fear of death. We don’t like to think about or even mention the word.  But Holy Week helps us to face up to what Covid 19 is forcing us to consider. Jesus says in John 12:24 I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if itdies, it produces many seeds. This principle works on multiple levels. The primary meaning is about his own death. By it he will save many lives. But then it also applies to his followers. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. As we give up on our own way, turn to Jesus and put our life in his hands, we find life multiplied to us like the sunflower seeds we’re burying in the garden turning, we trust, into huge flowers full of seeds. And the kind of “death” to our own way of life that we experience to receive Jesus’ life, puts into perspective (in the light of his resurrection) our future physical death. We don’t know how soon it will come, but if we’re following Jesus we can be confident that death’s “gloomy portal” is but “the gate to life immortal”! May this calm our trembling breath, as the great Easter hymn puts it, because Jesus lives.

Two bits of news passed on to me by members of St Nicholas’, which St Mary’s members will also be interested in:

Friederike draws attention to the struggle Food Banks are having at this time of great need, with their usual streams of donations drying up. She forwarded this in an email from Genesis Trust Bath:

"There are two ways that you can  donate to the foodbank at the moment:

  1. Donate online via our Virgin Giving Page. This would be especially useful at this time as the Bath foodbank is looking into options for buying in bulk from stores directly, rather than having to rely on donated items. The link can also be found under the ‘supporters’ section on this page of the website.
  2. When you are next shopping, you can buy some extra and drop in the supermarket bins. We are very short of the following items:

    • Tinned tomatoes
    • Tinned meat
    • Tinned fish
    • Tinned vegetarian – vegetable curry/chilli/bolognaise etc
    • UHT milk
    • Tinned fruit
    • Chocolate
    • Long life juice
    • Instant mash
    • Sponge pudding

Thanks for your support!"

Anna is an Engineering lecturer and has been involved in some interesting work I asked her to tell us about so we can pray for the success of the team’s efforts and so many others doing similar things. See the attached photos. She writes:

"One thing engineers are good at is working out how to make/do something and then making/doing it. Just before the lockdown, one of my colleagues at the University suggested that we might be able to help the doctors at the RUH with the challenge they are now facing treating a large number of coronavirus patients. The hospital identified 3 challenges with which we might be able to help:

  1. Fitting doors to the equipment trolleys in A&E (to keep viruses out and save cleaning time)
  2. Understanding whether two patients can safely share one ventilator
  3. Manufacturing face shields as their supplier couldn't provide any

There's a team of about 40 of us working on one aspect of this or another. The most obvious output is the face shields, which aren't pretty but they work, and we can make 1500 a day of them working in shifts with 4 people at a time nicely spread out in the undergrad lab. We've also developed eye protection for pharmacists and GPs, who don't need the full face shield but are now being told to cover their eyes."

And finally, just to clarify the timings of live streamed services for Easter weekend:

Good Friday

  • 10.45am St Nicholas’ All-Age Reflection
  • 2.00pm St Mary’s An Hour at the Cross

Easter Day

  • 9.00am St Mary’s Morning Prayer
  • 10.45am St Nicholas’ All Age Celebration with Zoom virtual coffee to follow

These are two days when we often have mutual exchange within congregations. Of course Claverton people and Bathampton people alike are welcome at any or all of the four services.

God bless you

Jonty

4th April 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

It’s good to be out of individual isolation and back with my family in our lockdown. It makes me realise how sad and frustrating it is not to be with church family, and how I’m looking forward to the day when we can get together again.

That is likely to be a long way off, though. Meanwhile let’s keep tuning in to the live stream at 9.00am on Sunday mornings and sending one another various messages. One highlight of the livestream is my reading out texts that people send in at the time, and showing photos. I haven’t had any photos from last week but hope you’ll send a brief text to let others know you’re there and thinking of us.

And how about a virtual coffee morning during the week? It would probably be quite short but we could all appear on one screen together for a chat and catch-up using Zoom. We’re doing that with St Nicholas’ on Sundays and people are getting into it surprisingly easily, with tech support from clever young Hugh (or CYH as I like to call him these days)! Let me know what you think of the idea and we can set something up.

See you tomorrow – Palm Sunday

31st March 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

Thank you all those who joined in the live streamed service this week. It was lovely to hear that Anne H-C’s eyes lit up to hear the familiar words and that she even tried to join in. Thank you for those text greetings and selfies. Keep them coming next Sunday as they do help to keep us all connected and help me to feel I’m not just talking to myself! I welcome feedback as well if you have suggestions of how to do this better and I try to get the right blend of a St Mary’s feel and the inevitable differences and positive opportunities of the new medium. And it’s just good to hear from you and keep in touch as we can’t be physically together.

If you are in touch with others who sometimes come to church and they aren’t receiving these updates or tuning in to the services, please encourage them to give it a go.

God bless

Jonty

28th March 2020

Dear friend at St Mary’s

We’re gearing up for another Sunday Livestream. Last Sunday came across as slicker than most people were expecting, with a surprisingly “professional” feel for such a small bunch of amateurs as us. I think we were blessed with a bit of “beginners’ luck.” Brace yourself this week for a bit more clunkiness, for 3 reasons:

  1. Issues that happened not to arise last week might arise this week.
  2. Copyright is an issue. Last Sunday we played some videos from YouTube for the songs in a way that was in breach of YouTube’s policy and so Hugh has been working hard all week to find alternative ways to accompany our singing legitimately. This is a bit more difficult than the shortcuts we took in the rush last week.
  3. Last Sunday I had a member of my family in my study with me, pressing all the right buttons at the right times.  Now that I am “unclean”, I’m on my own (humanly speaking). Bear with me as I try to strike a balance between on the one hand “being present”, looking at you (i.e. the camera) and trying to say the right things, and on the other hand making sure you can see and hear what you need to. Multitasking is never my strong suit, so pray for me.

Never has James 4:13-15 resonated so much for us, in so many ways:

13 Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’

Don’t forget that our clocks go forward one hour this Saturday night, and be up bright and early for the 0900 BST livestream at 0800 GMT! Do follow the links on the website www.stmarysclaverton.org.uk . We especially want non-tekkie people (the older the better) to join in! If you have difficulty with getting on the Live Stream, call Hugh on 07580 159714.

The important thing is not smoothness of communication, but connecting with one another, speaking the truth in love, and growing in Christ (Ephesians 4:15).

Jonty

26th March 2020

Dear folks 

What a beautiful day! I hope your spirits are keeping up. Lots of people feel lifted by the sunshine; others will be feeling lonely, trapped, and low already, and knowing that our lockdown has only just started. We have great celebrations in the vicarage about managing to book a supermarket delivery slot. Perhaps you’re worrying about how to get enough food, how to collect medicines (if the pharmacy can supply them; we have inhalers for asthma but can’t get spares*), or whether the lovely postman’s delivery could be a biological missile coming through the letterbox.

 As I said before, please don’t suffer, or struggle, in silence. Hugh is coordinating offers of, and requests for, help. So far he has had lots of offers and not many requests! We’re grateful for that and we know it’s going to get worse before it gets better, but he’d love to hear from you if you need a prescription or some shopping collecting, a letter posting or an errand running. Or if you’d just like to say “good morning” to your friendly out-of-a-job Lollipop Man.

 Do you know the book of Lamentations? Written in a time of terrible national disaster for Judah, with the destruction of Jerusalem and the cruelty of the Babylonians making Covid 19 a mild inconvenience by comparison, it felt as though God had abandoned his people, or he had been defeated. But he gave this comforting song:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
Lamentations 3:22-24

 As I write, at this exact moment Harry has just brought to me a massive portion of apple crumble. The last of the garden apples 2019 had to come out of the freezer to make room for the supermarket delivery. What brilliant sons I’m blessed with, who will make a crumble when their parents are both self-isolating! I’m happy as Larry with my portion. And it came just as I was wondering how to say something about the LORD being our portion. There we are. We may not always have apple crumble. We may not have family tending to our needs (although don’t forget church family are here for you). We may not (indeed will not) always have breath. But if we see the LORD as our portion, and take our joy in him, that can never be taken from us.

 God bless you

Jonty

PS

*NB we have enough at this stage and are not worried; I mention it only to help connect with the possible fearful positions of others we don’t know about.

24th March 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s and St Nicholas’ (again I am sending the same email to both lists)

Many of us are starting to imagine how God may be using this terribly difficult, challenging and no doubt increasingly painful for many, time to work for good in our lives, our churches, and perhaps even our churches and world.

As I write, YouTube tells me yesterday’s streamed services had 38 views (St Mary’s) and 135 views (St Nick’s). I don’t know what that means. Some of those are other churches looking at what one another have done to see what we can learn from each other. Some are probably people just having a laugh at what a mess I made of the first 30 seconds of the 10.45 service (all to prove it was live, and give the opportunity for some Public Health education, you understand). But we had a good number tuning in live, comparable to a typical Sunday congregation, or more, if some of the devices had whole families gathered around. It’s an opportunity for those who wouldn’t normally come, to take a look anonymously. Perhaps you might join me in praying that some of the scattered seeds of God’s word might take root. If you struggle with the technology to watch the livestream, don’t hesitate to phone Hugh for help: 07580 159714. He, Anna, Ian, Samuel, Harry and Jane all worked hard to make those services what they were.

It’s an opportunity for those of us who live with our families to spend more time with them, for those who live alone to connect with others more by phone and other remote means, and for all of us to be thoughtful and caring towards our neighbours who may be in need, and for the love of our church family to grow. Could the Lord be using this virus to grow those things in us?

And it’s an opportunity to slow down and reflect. The Government’s shockingly strong (but no doubt appropriate) action last night had a striking effect this morning. I haven’t been out and about, of course, but I opened the window this morning when I realised how little traffic there was on the dual carriageway. “It sounds like it’s snowed,” said Barnaby. We listened to the sound of silence in harmony with more birdsong than one expects on a snowy day. “Be still and know that I am God,” says the Lord (Psalm 46:10). I’m sorry that I said “more tomorrow” on Sunday evening when the better thing for me to do was to take some rest on Monday morning after the big push to get livestreaming going. The admin keeps piling in, as well as the dear communication with people, but as Becky has just reminded me, I need sleep.

Good night

22nd March 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s and St Nicholas’

Thank you all who joined us for the live stream this morning, and the many who texted in, which really helped to make it a point of connection with a sense of carrying on being church. If you missed it, you can still watch it on “catch-up” by clicking the link on our website or searching for it on YouTube.

One thing I meant to say in the notices but forgot: in response to the call for a national Day of Prayer today, we are asked particularly to pause at 7.00pm and pray. Sorry this is short notice then and many of you won’t get it in time, but you can still pray later. The Archbishops say:

May the wisdom of God lead the doctors, nurses and researchers, that they may know God’s protection; and that God will guide the leaders of the nations into the ways of justice and peace. And that the love of Christ will surround us and take away our anxiety and give us His peace. May He hear us and heal us.

With the hope that you will find, then act. Where someone is ill, encourage them. Where someone dies, remember that, as the foundation of our faith for over two thousand years, we have believed that God shared the pains and fears of our lives in Jesus Christ, that He faced death, but overcame it. And He is with the bereaved.

Pray too for the suppliers of food and medical essentials, delivery drivers, those working in public sanitation (recycling, refuse, sewage, etc), and I’m sure you can extend the list with imagination.

It has been suggested that everyone should put a candle in their window to let people know we are praying for them. If enough people do that I suppose word could get around and it could be a powerful symbol (even if not many people are out and about to see).

More tomorrow. With love

21st March 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

How are you doing? It’s been good to speak to some of you and see how you’re coping, keeping away from everybody else but managing to get a bit of exercise, getting food and so on. Please give me or Hugh a call just to stay in touch, or especially if you get ill or need any help. We’ve got quite a few people who’ve offered to try and fetch or deliver things. Don’t suffer in silence.

Our household’s isolation is getting a little tougher as Becky has had a fever since Thursday evening so it’s looking likely that she has caught “it” – although we can’t imagine from where as we’ve all been so scrupulous with the handwashing and everything. But with A-levels and GCSEs cancelled I’ve got two extra pairs of strong hands to help with looking after her and the others.

At the moment it's easy to lose track of the days, but Sunday is TOMORROW! To get ready for our St Mary’s Mothering Sunday Morning Prayer With A Difference:

  1. Please pray for the Lord’s blessing on our time “together”, for the smooth working of technology, for me as I lead and Ian Williams’ sermon, for the streaming going out, for church members to be able to connect and participate in it, and for others who wouldn’t normally come to church to look in and give it a try.
  2. Have a look at the St Mary’s website (which is a subsection of the St Nicholas Bathampton website)  today, and you should see a link to where the live stream is going to be.
  3. Click the appropriate link (St Mary’s 9.00am or St Nicholas’ 10.45am). It’s not playing yet but that is where you will watch it tomorrow. You can watch from a smartphone, smart TV, tablet, laptop or PC. It needs to be a device that can connect to the internet (better to use home broadband rather than mobile data) and can play sound.
  4. Why not email me to let me know you’re planning to virtually attend?
  5. If there are others in your household who don’t normally come, let them know what you’re doing. They may want to keep away, or it would be lovely if they’d like to join you.
  6. On Sunday morning, at the time that you would normally be heading out to church, put the kettle on and make yourself comfortable. It would be good to have your own Bible with you.
  7. Around 8.45am try clicking on the “play” button of the livestream screen. Some music should start playing as you wait for the service to start. That will give a chance to set your volume control to a comfortable level.
  8. Make it “full screen” by clicking on the symbol for that in the bottom right of the picture.
  9. If you are having technical difficulties, give Hugh a call on 07580 159714 and he’ll be pleased to try and help.
  10. Don’t phone me (Jonty) at this point because I’ll be leading the service, but send me an SMS text to 07905 883075 and let me know you’re coming and I might read it out at the end of the service.
  11. At 9.00am you should start to see a photo of the inside of St Mary’s, and my face beamed to you from the vicarage, and we’ll start the service.
There will be some words from the little green Morning Prayer books, just like a normal Sunday, up on the screen, and the words of hymns with others singing. But unlike being in St Mary’s, nobody will see or hear whether or not you join in out loud with the said responses or singing the hymns. Why not join in heartily? If you sing out of tune, you can sing as loud as you like! But if it feels a bit awkward, it’s fine to keep quiet and listen. God hears your heart whether or not you speak or sing out.
The reading and sermon have been pre-recorded this week by St Nicholas’ members, and the prayers by Hugh
At the end, I’d love you to text or email me and give some feedback. We’re learning as we go along and will be wanting to improve it for next week.

See you tomorrow!

Jonty

P.S. Of course I say 'see you' figuratively. You'll see me but unfortunately I won't be able to see you.

19th March 2020

Dear friends in St Mary’s

The thing that made it hit home to me emotionally yesterday was reading that official guidance issued to NHS hospitals says that dying patients should be encouraged to say goodbye to their families over Skype during the outbreak. Up until then, to be honest, I hadn’t shed a tear over this crisis, but I have now. Hugh and I have been positively getting on with urgently learning to use new technology and preparing for the livestream services on Sunday for St Mary’s and St Nicholas’. The activity and opportunity is stimulating. Others have been talking about watching the news, when it was in distant countries, with a detachment that makes it feel almost like entertainment. But the utter heartbreak – which I knew about theoretically – suddenly becomes more real when you picture those thousands of scenes of lonely distress. I’m sorry if you find this too distressing a message in your inbox. But we should prepare ourselves for this to come close to home. Remember that The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18. Jesus wept when his friend died (John 11:35) but he also demonstrated his resurrection power over death.

Our family are now officially in isolation after talking to the GP by phone about young Digby’s symptoms. He had a cold and a slight fever on Sunday so we isolated him in accordance with the then guidance; he got over the fever quickly but has a slight cough so with the new guidance, that keeps all six of us locked down for two weeks even though we’re presently all feeling fairly well.  There is plenty to be busy with via the computer and phone. Let’s pray for our GPs specifically as we go on praying for all who are working in the NHS. Ours was pleased to exchange promises of prayer as he talked about a present sense of calm before the storm.

As you keep receiving these updates from an automated sender, it is increasingly likely that your computer or your email system might identify them as SPAM and start filtering them out. To prevent this, please add the sender “Nicholas Bathampton” stnicholasprayers@gmail.com to your address book / “contacts” and it will then know that you trust these St Mary’s Coronavirus Update emails.

PCC was supposed to meet this evening but is communicating by email instead. The APCM (Annual Meeting) scheduled for 26th April will, I think, be postponed. Legal advice on that is filtering down to the parishes, as well as details on how weddings and funerals are affected.

God bless you

18th March 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

I said things were changing fast yesterday. Then later we had a letter from the Archbishops hitting the national headlines. Churches are halting public worship in an unprecedented move. They said:

Public worship will have to stop for a season. Our usual pattern of Sunday services and other mid-week gatherings must be put on hold. But this does not mean that the Church of England has shut up shop. Far from it…

Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead. Our life is going to be less characterised by attendance at church on Sunday, and more characterised by the prayer and service we offer each day. We may not be able to pray with people in the ways that we are used to, but we can certainly pray for people. And we can certainly offer practical care and support. Please do carry on supporting the local foodbank and buy extra provisions for it. Ensure the night shelters wherever possible are kept open. There are many very encouraging schemes happening right across our country in communities to focus on caring for the most vulnerable, so do continue to play your part in those.

Then by our service, and by our love, Jesus Christ will be made known, and the hope of the gospel – a hope that will counter fear and isolation - will spread across our land.

One sad interruption to our service of and connection with the community is that Parish Lunches (normally the first Sunday of the month in the Community Hall, Claverton Down) have to be suspended at least until September, when we hope they will resume.

As well as a challenging time and potentially a tragic time of loss for many, this is an exciting opportunity. Church will move into hundreds of thousands of homes via live streaming. We will be able to engage with God in worship, experiencing in a new way that it is not just about what we do in church but, as we read the other day in Romans 12:1, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. We had been hoping to live stream from St Mary’s at 9.00am on Sunday, with most of the congregation present and only some watching from home, but now it will come from elsewhere, probably the Vicarage. All you’ll have to do is get on your computer, smartphone or whatever device you see the Internet through, and go to the St Mary’s web page. It would be a good idea to have your own bible with you, and maybe a cup of coffee, and invite other members of your household to give it a try. I’ll lead the service and Ian Williams will preach. It’ll be Mothering Sunday of course, but a very different one from usual. The churches are calling for a national day of prayer and we’ll take part in that. There will be hymns: music and words, so a bit like watching Songs of Praise. If you’re on your own, you can just listen or you can join in out loud and sing your heart out: nobody else need know if you sing out of tune. But God hears and will be delighted if it’s from the heart. I’ll also give out my mobile number and invite you to text in by SMS… then I’ll read out some of the incoming messages and greetings to the rest of the congregation to give more of a sense of being together as St Mary’s even though we can’t be together in Claverton.

Do please give me a call or send me an email, especially if you are stuck at home on your own. And keep taking the precautions against spreading infection – handwashing, etc, etc. And grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

17th March 2020

Dear friends at St Mary’s

Things are changing fast. But God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea (Psalm 46:1-2)!

Many more people are needing to self-isolate. Communities are pulling together in a beautiful way. The church is, or should be, at the heart of that, so:

  • Don’t suffer in silence. Solitary confinement can be a horrible thing; do phone or email me or someone else in the church if you need practical help or just a chat. Some people in Bathampton have offered help with collecting and delivering shopping, or in other ways, so do ask if you need help. Hugh Cornes is the point of contact: hughcornes@gmail.com 07580 159714.
  • If you can help, please do! It doesn’t all have to be coordinated centrally – you can of course quietly get on with helping a church member you know or a neighbour – but if you’re available to help where there’s a need beyond that (maybe with delivering shopping, phoning someone twice a week to check they are OK, or something else, please contact Hugh: hughcornes@gmail.com 07580 159714.

Many of us have been struggling to get supermarket delivery slots and some are, or soon will be, unable to get out to the shops. It’s worth knowing, then, about a couple of other initiatives that you might find helpful.

  • Deliveries from Larkhall shops. I found this via the Nextdoor website: Some of the local Larkhall shops are currently doing a joint delivery service to BA1 and BA2 postcodes.  You simply have to call the shop(s) you want to purchase from to place your order, and it will be delivered the next day.  Phone numbers for the shops are as follows:

Larkhall Butchers - 01225 313987

Larkhall Farm Shop - 01225 319968

Goodies Delicatessen - 01225 336033

Larkhall Deli - 01225 444634

Ma Cuisine - 01225 312959

  • COOK (who produce frozen, home-cooked style quite expensive meals) say: Our shops are all open and doing everything they can to serve our local communities (our Click & Collect service may be helpful at this time).  As a small way of seeking to help vulnerable people we’re putting aside some meals in COOK shops* for those in need. So, if you have an elderly or infirm neighbour who you’re worried about, please mention it at the till in your local COOK shop and we’ll happily give you some meals for them, free of charge. (T’s & C’s apply. The nearest shops are in Bristol and Wells but they do free delivery on a £30 order.)

The Government announcement this afternoon means that many more people will have to stay at home as this crisis deepens. All social gatherings are to stop. Schools are considered essential and are to carry on. I don’t think churches have been mentioned. Which category are we closer to? We await directives from the Diocese but it looks as though most people should not come to services for some time from now on. We were already working hard to get live streaming of the 9am St Mary’s service going. Whether that is from St Mary’s in Claverton, and with how many people physically present, or from somewhere else like the Vicarage, will be decided later. I’ll send out more updates as things become clearer.

For those on PCC, I will be in touch tomorrow about alternative arrangements for this Wednesday’s meeting. It seems clear that we have to cancel it as a physical meeting. We may be able to use a video conferencing call for those who have access to the Internet. I had a successful one of those with a small group this evening for the first time using Microsoft teams. Let me know if you have thoughts on that.

Grace and peace be with you

Jonty

16th March 2020

Dear friends

We had a lovely time together for Communion this morning, conscious of some not being able to be with us, but with a strong turnout including Joanna, whose visit to Anne is extended because of the pandemic. We all washed our hands in warm soapy water and were careful not to shake hands. For communion we had just the bread (wafer), standing rather than kneeling at the rail, and used more gel to make this as safe as possible. I’d like to thank everyone for taking this seriously but in good heart and not without humour.

Margaret White preached an uplifting message on Romans 13:8-14. You can watch a video of her sermon here: https://www.stnicholasbathampton.org.uk/stmarysvideosermonsmarch2020.htm. (Alternatively, you can hear an audio recording of the longer version she preached at St Nick’s afterwards at https://www.stnicholasbathampton.org.uk/sermons2020.htm). I hope that by next Sunday we might be able to have more of the service available, perhaps even livestreamed so that people stuck at home can be more nearly with us as we meet. A reminder: please stay at home if you are feeling unwell, especially if you have a cough and high temperature, to avoid the risk of passing the virus on, or if you are vulnerable or worried about catching it. Those with health complications and the over-70s are in more danger. I hope the provision of a video link will make it easier to make that decision. Please let me know if you decide not to come. It would help us all not to get cut off from each other, make it easier to stay in touch and see if we can help each other, and to pray for one another.

If you do come to church, please wash hands on arrival and again if you use a tissue (catch it, bin it, kill it). If you’re given any paper, such as the notice sheet, don’t leave it in church or hand it back at the door but keep it, take it home, and put it in your recycling when you no longer need it. Thank you.

Not many St Mary’s folk have signed up yet to receive these updates by email. Please do, and encourage others to, the link is at the top of this page. Thank you.

For PCC members wondering whether Wednesday is still on: the current plan is still 7.30pm in church with the heating on but no coffee, handwashing on arrival and sitting double-spaced around the table, but I’ll let you know if it changes. 

Take care and God bless you.