Dear Sisters & Brothers,

The Archbishops’ Pastoral Letter yesterday contained advice that we know many will struggle to take in. However, the suspension of all public worship for the next three months is the clear advice from the medical experts advising Government so has to be followed for the sake of those who may be vulnerable.  It is also important for us as the Church of England to set an example as well as engaging in good practice.

But we also want to take this difficult situation and use it as an opportunity; an opportunity to truly reimagine how we are God’s pilgrim people today. So let us reimagine our prayer life.  Already there have been some great creative ideas shared amongst the clergy. The Church of England website offers more.  We want to encourage a rediscovery of praying together in common through clergy praying Morning and Evening Prayer in the church building each day at an advertised time. Where you are a small team of 2-3 this can be together, just ‘keep your 2-metre distance’ and keep hygiene standards high as set out in the Archbishop’s letter. Encourage regular worshippers, and others, to pause and pray these offices at the same time. Let people know the Bible readings and Psalms so that they can follow in full.  Let Common Prayer be a reality for this season. Create small groups that pray together and support one another over the phone, Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp and any social media that works. Use the various Church of England Prayer Apps. Remember those who do not have access to digital resources and distribute simple service cards where possible.

Website. We have created a dedicated area on the diocesan website where you will find the latest updates and resources. If you have other resources that you have found useful, please let Keith Blundy have the full details so he can be shared through this page also.

Live streaming. We recognise that this is not going to be possible for all, or even many. We would like to put on the Diocesan website a list of those who will provide this, and when. So if you are going to do so, please let Keith Blundy know with all the relevant details. He will also be putting up some resources on Live Streaming on the website in the next day or so. If you need help please ask.

On Sundays, clergy please celebrate the Eucharist in a church on behalf of the whole people of God, remembering that angels and archangels and the host of heaven are present as you do so. You may do this with 1 or 2 ‘ministers’ present sat safely apart. In some traditions, there is also the practice of ‘making spiritual communion’ when the actual eucharist is not possible. See oikodomeo.home.blog Resources for Prayer When Public Worship Is Not Possible. https://oikodomeo.home.blog/category/all-posts/

This Sunday is to be a National Day of Prayer with the simple act of placing a lit candle in a front window at 7 pm. Encourage everyone to join in. We hope to do a simple broadcast from the Cathedral at 7 pm. Let’s make this a commitment for every Sunday during the coming weeks and perhaps some would wish to make it a routine for every evening in the coming weeks.  ‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it’ (John 1: 5) 

Pastoral Care is essential to our common life together and so we must continue to offer this wherever we can.  Once again use any means – phone calls, email contact, Facebook groups, WhatsApp – you can stay in touch with people. Visiting obviously has to be handled extremely carefully and face to face visits should only be in extremis. Visiting of hospitals, care homes and schools needs to be done in agreement with the relevant institution and the rules they are operating. If we get to the situation as it is in Belgium, France and Spain it will be totally restrictive with everyone committed to staying at home except to buy food, get medicine or take some exercise. We are not there yet but we would not rule out it happening at some point.
It is our intention to ensure a member of Bishop’s Leadership Team has contact with currently serving clergy, chaplains and churchwardens in a parish vacancy each week by phone. But we also encourage you to contact us whenever you need to do so. It is important that the BLT know how you are and how we can support you. Please let us know if you have to self-isolate.

Weddings, Funerals and Baptisms.
Please check the CofE website daily for updates on these in the FAQs. Currently, you can still take a wedding with a celebrant, a couple and two witnesses. The likelihood is reception venues are cancelling all the parties. See the website for details about licenses rather than Banns which clearly cannot be read at present.

Funerals in church must be limited to a small number (around 8). If the FD and pallbearers leave immediately and wait outside that would be helpful. Do sit people apart. Crematoria we are sure will find their numbers being limited very soon.

Baptisms can still take place. The Baby must be held by a parent and not you and you must use a shell not your hand for water pouring. Do not anoint with the finger. Only a small number (around 8) stood well apart.
Do please keep checking the CofE website as that is based on the very best advice available, and if it becomes different from the above then please follow that updated guidance.

Confirmations Clearly the guidance means that all Confirmations scheduled for the coming 3 months will have to be postponed and a new date rearranged once we have moved through the current crisis.

Ordinations, BAPs etc. We are working on these and please be assured that advice will follow and be sent to all parties concerned. Please ask any candidates you know not to worry.

Open Air Worship This is being looked into nationally. It would certainly require people to stand 2 metres apart. Further guidance will follow but for now, the guidance is, do not do so until advised otherwise.

APCMs and PCCs.
The date by which APCMs are to be completed will be extended beyond May 31st (the date under the new Church Representation Rules). At present under the guidance it would be inappropriate to hold APCMs, so please do not hold them. PCCs can hold virtual meetings and decisions can be made electronically where needed.

Archdeacons’ Visitation Services will be postponed and we will look to hold an Episcopal Visitation in the Cathedral once we are through the crisis.

Foodbanks. The need is likely to grow so please find ways of keeping them supplied and keeping volunteers ensuring they keep running. This will mean new volunteers from those under 70. It will mean people buying extra and placing it in foodbank collection points. Please encourage all church regulars and the wider community in this. Likewise please keep Nightshelters open. We will be seeking to keep you informed of what is happening in the area of poverty via our networks.

But let’s return to the beginning. Let us pray that God will guide us to be imaginative and creative in our worship and prayer as God’s pilgrim people. Let us commit to keep serving the neediest in our communities, keeping in contact to avoid loneliness and unhelpful isolation. Let us pray that we will emerge from this time a different church – one that has learned afresh to be God’s own people (1 Peter 2:9).

Rejoicing in the fellowship we have with God through our Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit

+Paul and +Sarah

Our contact numbers
+Paul 07939213795
+Sarah 07785549800
Archdeacon Bob 07384510731
Archdeacon Rick 07384511671

Keith 07900 583131

Links
The Archbishops’ letter is here: http://bit.ly/ABLETTER-17-3-20
CofE Website COVID-19 Page: http://bit.ly/cofecovid19
Diocesan Website COVID-19 Page: https://durhamdiocese.org/covid-19/

 

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