Coronavirus Updates - St Mary's

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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.