Dear friends at St Nick’s
Here are two links I’ve enjoyed this week, both from America (and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that!).
First, an article from The Gospel Coalition for church congregations about relating to one another in the next phase of our response to Covid-19. People differ greatly in their attitude to risk, for many reasons, and that range of responses will be within the church as well. We need to apply the principles we’ve been learning from the last few chapters of Romans as we bear with one another in love, and don’t let Coronavirus divide you!
Secondly, this one brought tears to my eyes in celebrating the exaltation of Jesus. Handel’s Messiah always moves me; this was a fun lockdown visual performance to go with it.
I hope you enjoy them too.
Dear friends at St Nicholas
“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.
What better way to express this than to come together as a church family to pray? Today is that special day, the first Thursday in the month, when we have our church prayer meeting. Everyone is welcome, and indeed more than welcome: I urge all members of the church to come. This month, like last month, we can’t physically gather, but we have been blessed with technology that means we can pray together whilst socially distancing. Our prayer meeting starts at 7.30pm this evening on Zoom. It has the same Zoom meeting number as Virtual Coffee on a Sunday after livestream church. So if you have been to that and have Zoom installed on your device, you should find that same device remembers the detail and you can click on it from the list of meetings to JOIN. Otherwise simply type in the number, with no password required. Any problems: ask Clever Young Hugh for help on 07580 159714.
Do arrive 10 minutes early for the prayer meeting if you can. We will be joined by our mission partner Mike staying up late in his home in the Middle East, and there will be a chance to chat with him before we start. Then in the meeting he will give us some prayer requests and pray with us before leaving at 8 to go to bed, at which point we will take a 5-minute break to go outside our front doors and express our appreciation for the NHS and all those who are selflessly working to support those in need and battle our current viral enemy. The whole prayer meeting will finish by 8.45pm.
God bless you
Dear friends at St Nicholas’
I hope you’ve had a good week. There is always a mixture of joy and sadness in this life. I have just heard that a dearly-loved member of St Nicholas’, Janet Trevelyan, died yesterday. We have been missing her for over a year as she left Bathampton to live in a home near Bournemouth last year. We thank the Lord for her life and for the knowledge that she has gone to be with the Lord. And similarly, we have been with Denys Clarke missing Margaret who has been in Larkhall Springs and died three weeks ago; she was another dear member of the church and in the choir for many years. It is sad that so many will have to stay away from these funerals.
I’m looking forward to the 10.45 livestream on Sunday, with Junior church at 10.00am on Zoom and Virtual Coffee afterwards. There are two new features in our service this week.
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!
God bless you
Dear friends at St Nick’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: 60-02-05; 5095 4121. 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 St Nicholas’ Church, Bathampton are also welcome: please post to our Treasurer, Rita Warboys, at 5 The Chestertons, Bathampton, Bath, BA2 6UJ, and Rita will then quarantine the envelope for 3 days and gratefully receive the cheque! If you have not yet made a signed Gift Aid declaration, which would cover all donations to the church, you can download the form from our website by clicking the link right at the bottom of our “welcome” page – under “giving” it’s the “response form”.
Whether or not we give regularly by Standing order, our mission giving is normally done through envelopes in the collection. We are currently supporting Gideons UK, so if you would like to give to them in this period, you can use either of the above two methods and please mark your gift with the reference: “GideonsUK”. To claim Gift Aid on that is slightly more complicated: Rita would need a signed declaration from you saying: “I would like to enhance my donation through Gift Aid. I am a UK taxpayer and understand that if I pay less Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax than the amount of Gift Aid claimed on all my donations, it is my responsibility to pay any difference.”, which Rita can send on to GideonsUK with our total after the end of May, because they are the ones who claim the tax back. Thank you so much.
Services by livestream have certain advantages. Some people are enjoying the anonymity, church in pyjamas, and the comfort of home. You can turn the own volume up or down. 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
Dear friends at St Nicholas'
I wonder how your week has been? I've felt a mix of hopefulness about the curve 'flattening' and cases going down and wondering whether anything will ever really go back to normal. It's nice to know that there are various 'Herculean' efforts going on, but who's to say they'll be enough. At the same time I've been reflecting on the Easter message and on Jesus' certain victory over death and sin. While reflecting on these two things, I wrote this poem:
Vera says we'll meet again
I'm not sure how she knows
For now, at least, we're all locked in
On islands of our own
They say we're bending down the curve
But some will still be gone
They say a vaccine's in the works
But when will it be done?
Who's to say this new normal
Won't become normal?
Who's to say we'll win the war
Against the microscopic beast?
Jesus said we'll meet again
To his disciples twelve
"They'll kill me, then after 3 days
I'll rise up from the grave"
He banished hell and conquered sin
In death he paid the price
He rose again and proved to us
His victory over all
He says to us we'll meet again
He's coming on the clouds
And every eye and every heart
Will see in awe or dread
He says to us we'll meet again
Be welcomed as his bride
To join him there as heirs and sons
Or forever stay outside.
(For anyone too young to know who Vera is, click here)
On a practical note, Kay has been taking advantage of the slower pace of church office life to update the contacts list. Please email whatever you'd like to include (e.g. your name, phone number, address, email address) to firstname.lastname@example.org to have your details included (the list will be circulated to everyone on the list, but won't be publicly available).
We'll be having YouTube church and Zoom coffee as normal this Sunday, so I look forward to seeing you there.
Anna Young (churchwarden)
Dear friends at St Nicholas'
While Jonty takes a break this week, here's a churchwardenly thought for the day. Whilst reflecting once again on the Easter story, I was struck by the way that the events of Holy Week fit into the big picture of God's plans for the whole of creation. The first believers came to understand the death and resurrection of Jesus within the framework of Exodus and Passover, which were so much a part of their own history and tradition. Jesus had fulfilled within himself everything to which these had pointed, bringing forgiveness of sins, once and for all. As Jonty reminded us in his Easter sermon, Jesus' last words on the cross were 'It is finished!'
Soon enough it was realised that this was good news for everyone, not just those of Jewish heritage. Writing to "gentile" Christians in the region of Ephesus, Paul praised God for all the blessings they had received in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14 is chockfull of them) and the inheritance which was theirs (and ours!) in Christ, in whom all things in heaven and on earth will be brought into unity in the fullness of time within God's great plan since before the creation of the world. The prospect is breathtaking! And every individual story of one person's faith in Christ, and of their living in obedience and hope, is set within the larger story, as God intends for each of us within his great purpose.
Every person is valuable in God's sight. One aspect of days through which we are now living is that we are learning to appreciate how valuable is the work done by so many people in our society, which is generally not reflected by how much they are paid. It is good to value one another appropriately, not just what for a person does but for who they are, and what they may become in Christ. So let's 'consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together (virtually!), as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as we see the Day approaching.'
Ian Williams (churchwarden)
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
(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 email@example.com for more details and to ask for a Zoom invitation.)
Dear friends at St Nicholas’
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 Nick’s 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 10.30am ready for the service starting at 10.45am with the Easter greeting “Alleluia, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia!”
After the service we have Virtual Coffee in the Miller Zoom again. For Easter Day this will include a brief Virtual Easter Egg Hunt run by all the adults for all the children, so I hope you will get involved in that before we break into “breakout rooms” for “coffee” in bigger groups than last week. I’ve got some new questions as optional conversation-starters to help adjust to the slightly unfamiliar dynamic. It’s the same meeting number as Palm Sunday so if you Zoomed then or on Good Friday, it should be in your list of meetings (click JOIN, then click in the box instead of typing in a number, to pull down a list).
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. Two particular areas 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, and with the Zoom thing. 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 Nicholas’ 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,
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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
Dear friends at St Nicholas’
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 10.45am on Sunday mornings and sending one another various messages. Tomorrow – Palm Sunday – in the children’s spot we’re (any children and adults who would like to) going to be making Palm Crosses as we can’t hand out crosses or fronds. So if you’d like to be ready for that, and perhaps get ahead to make it easier to keep up, have a piece of A4 paper and a pair of scissors, pencil, ruler, and Sellotape with you. The first thing we’ll do is cut two identical long strips of paper about 1.5cm – 2cm wide. That’s all you need the pencil, ruler and scissors for.
Families should all have heard that Junior Church on Zoom is going to be 10.00-10.45am rather than 11.00-11.45am. If you haven’t got the Zoom link or number for that, contact Becky or Hugh. Then we start the all-age part of our service at 10.45 as usual, but when the children leave us for the adult part of the service, they might just watch a video or something so adults can stay focused on the Lord together.
Virtual Coffee on Zoom was a great success last week and we’re building on that. Two things are going to be different:
Because of security concerns we are not posting the Virtual Coffee link on the website or YouTube, and there is a new link so you can’t re-use last week’s or click the link in the Zoom instructions. If you didn't get the email with the link, please contact Hugh
Meeting ID will be repeated during the livestream.
We’re going to try “breakout rooms” which means everyone will get the chance to talk to a little group of about half a dozen. They may be a mixture of people you know and don’t yet know, so a good opportunity to get to know each other. I’m going to suggest these conversation-starters in the slightly unfamiliar environment:
1. Who lives in your house?
2. has anyone been ill or vulnerable?
3. how are you finding lockdown - one thing you struggle with and can you say one positive?
4. How did you first link up with St Nick's?
Keep safe and well
Dear friends at St Nicholas’
We got through our second livestream service! As predicted, there were some technical hitches but it was good to meet together in Jesus’ name and encourage one another. Home groups are meeting by Zoom this week. If you like the idea of a home group but aren’t in one and would like to give it a try, please do say.
We are also working on an address list to enable church members to contact one another more easily. This has been an ongoing project for some time now and was slightly slowed by concerns over GDPR. Many members have already given consent for details to be on a church list circulated to everyone on the list (but not published); if you have, you should soon receive a copy of it and if you don’t receive that by the end of this week, please email Kay firstname.lastname@example.org to ask to be added to the second edition of the list next Monday giving:
Names of everyone in your household that wants to be included, plus as much as you are happy with of:
This Thursday, being the first Thursday in the month, is our church prayer meeting at 7.30pm and as I always say, if you consider yourself to belong to St Nicholas’ you are more than welcome and should really be there if you possibly can. Everybody has the opportunity to pray out loud but nobody is obliged to. Where? Not in the Miller Room this month, of course! It’s happening in a Zoom chatroom, which you can attend from the comfort of your own home. Those on our email list have received the invitation. If you didn't get the email and you'd like to come, please get in touch for the details.
See you there!
Dear friend at St Nicholas’
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:
Never has James 4:13-15 resonated so much for us, in so many ways:
Anna Young wrote a powerful poem yesterday evening that expresses those thoughts eloquently. I look forward to sharing it with you soon.
Don’t forget that our clocks go forward one hour this Saturday night, and be up bright and early for the 10.45 BST livestream at 09.45 GMT! After the service everyone is invited into a Zoom chat room for Virtual Coffee. Even if you don’t like real coffee, you might like Virtual Coffee. Nigel S is running a short quiz at it, which promises to be entertaining. Do follow Hugh’s instructions from the links on the website to get Zoom set up in advance in your home. We especially want non-tekkie people (the older the better) to join in! If you have difficulty with that or with getting on the Live Stream, call Hugh on 07580 159714.
We have a special children’s spot coming up from far away, which I’m hoping the adults will appreciate too. One of the characteristic joys of a St Nicholas’ 10.45 service in more normal times is the enthusiasm with which some of our senior members enter into that moment before the younger ones go out to Junior church. I hope that will be recreated in some way. And then children will need a separate device from their grownups for Live Junior Church during the service, which again is on Zoom so parents, please contact Hugh if you haven’t already heard from him, to get something to print for the children and check you’re au fait de la Zoom.
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).
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.”
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
*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
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 Nick’s
How are you doing? Are you 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. I heard today that the pharmacists at Batheaston had major problems so if you’re expecting to get something from there, check first.
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.
In case you've lost track of the days, Sunday is now TOMORROW! Below are some detailed instructions which some of you will find patronising, but others of you who find technology as hard as I do (probably born before 1975) might appreciate an “idiot’s guide” (no offence). To get ready for our St Nicholas’ Mothering Sunday 10.45 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 homepage 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? If you have children who could be watching, email me and we’ll send you something to help make it all age-appropriate.
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 10.30am 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 10.45am you should start to see my face beamed to you from the vicarage, and we’ll start the service.
There will be some words of prayers, just like a normal Sunday, up on the screen, and the words of hymns with the sound of others singing. But unlike being in church, nobody will see or hear whether or not you join in out loud with saying anything 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 and the prayers have been pre-recorded this week by St Nicholas’ members.
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. In particular, would you be interested in a more interactive format than Youtube livestream? Something like Zoom might enable us to have virtual coffee time together at the end, and to do the “children’s spot” for adults and children more like the way we tend to when we can all see each other.
See you tomorrow!
Dear friends in St Nicholas’
Today seems to be the first day in a while with no new rules on how to keep ourselves and each other safe, and no new big announcements. There's not much to add in terms of practicalities for church or village life, but Jonty has asked me to share this poem. I wrote it a few years ago, but it seems apt at the moment:
Keep looking out for one another and looking up to the Lord Jesus
Churchwarden, St Nicholas' Bathampton
19th March 2020: Coronavirus
Dear friends in St Nicholas’
The thing that made it hit home to me emotionally today 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” email@example.com to your address book / “contacts” and it will then know that you trust these emails.
You are probably aware that Steps in Faith, MiniClub, and just about everything have now stopped meeting. Home groups are developing electronic ways of being together and keeping encouraging one another. If you’re not in one and would like to link up, let me know. For those on PCC (church council), look out for an invitation this Friday to next Thursday’s meeting which will take place on Zoom (via videolink)! 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: Coronavirus
Dear friends at St Nicholas’
I said things were changing fast yesterday. Then today 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.
So our Sunday, Thursday, and Friday services will not be happening in St Nicholas’. We considered keeping the building open for prayer but felt the infection risk, and the burden on those who unlock, lock, clean and disinfect (some of whom are already self-isolating) to be out of proportion to the priority this should be given. Public worship needs to move out of the building and so does private prayer.
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 Nick’s at 10.45am 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 Nicholas’ 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 and songs: music and words, so a bit like a cross between being at St Nick’s and watching Songs of Praise. If you’re on your own, you can just listen or you can turn the volume up, 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, prayer requests and greetings to the rest of the congregation to give more of a sense of being together as St Nick’s even though we can’t be together in Bathampton.
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: Coronavirus
Dear friends at St Nicholas’
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:
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.
Larkhall Butchers - 01225 313987
Larkhall Farm Shop - 01225 319968
Goodies Delicatessen - 01225 336033
Larkhall Deli - 01225 444634
Ma Cuisine - 01225 312959
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 are working hard to get live streaming of the 10.45 going. Whether that is from St Nick’s building, and with how many people physically present, or from somewhere else like the Vicarage, will be decided later. All other St Nicholas’ services apart from the 10.45 are cancelled until further notice. So please plan to join us – probably via the Internet – at 10.45 on Sunday morning.
Grace and peace be with you
We were very thin on the ground at St Nick’s this week as many people – if they weren’t running the Bath Half – took the sensible decision to stay at home, whether for their own sake or for others’. (Please do keep doing that if either you feel unwell – especially with a cough and high temperature – or you are worried about catching the virus because of particular vulnerability). But the Lord was certainly with us.
People were very good about traipsing out to the loos to wash hands in lovely hot soapy water. I didn’t see any handshaking, of course. And we realised that we each need to take all paper (noticesheet and service sheet) that we have touched home for recycling rather than leaving it in church to be touched by multiple hands. Junior Church happened in a scaled-down way and we shared the Lord’s Supper “in one kind” (just the bread – or wafer – and no wine) after re-gelling our hands.
I was very encouraged by Margaret’s sermon on Romans 13:8-14. Our new identity as God’s adopted children leads to a life of love, fulfilling his law. We’re looking forward to the sunrise and it’s just about dawn so get up and get dressed! Intrigued? Navigate to the Sermons page to hear or watch it. It’s a learning experience and 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. Please let us know if you’re not coming.
Men’s group is off on Monday evening (16th), and so is Tuesday Home Group. Wednesday Home Group will make a decision soon.
Keep in touch, keep encouraging one another, take care and God bless.
Precautions we are taking in light of Coronavirus
Following Government and Church of England advice we are continuing with the normal pattern of services at both churches, but things are rather different.
We normally want to encourage you to come, and our theme verse urges us to keep meeting together, but in these circumstances we have to find other ways to encourage one another. Phone calls and emails between congregation members are important in this. Please let me know if you’re staying away, it helps me to pray for you and it encourages me to know that you would otherwise want to be with us.
For those of us who do come to church:
It does need a change of mindset and let’s remind each other and be patient and gracious with one another. Remember especially those who are housebound or in nursing homes where they can’t have visitors. And keeping our distance could be a lonely thing for others too. Look out for one another and keep in touch in appropriate ways.