Notices, 20 September 2020

Notices, 20 September 2020

Here are the latest notices and relevant information for the Benefice.

Services of Public Worship continue despite the new restrictions

Last week, the Government announced greater levels of restrictions on social gatherings with it being illegal to gather socially in groups of more than six from Monday the 14th of September.

It has since been clarified that the new regulations will not apply to public worship or individual prayer in church buildings. Neither do they apply to Christenings, Weddings or Funerals. Although within an act of worship, “households” are limited to a maximum of six people from that household present amongst the larger congregation.

As a result, we are continuing with our current plan of providing one church service in each parish on Sundays as well as the Wednesday service at St Mary’s, West Malling.

However, the new restrictions are also a salient reminder to everyone to be vigilant, to use face coverings, keep suitable physical distance in social situations, and wash our hands and sanitise regularly.

BCP service on Wednesdays update

Because of the recent change in Government restrictions on social activities and the rising number of Covid-19 cases nationally, we are going to keep the current plans in place for a bit longer and wait to see what happens before we make changes to the Wednesday service. There will continue to be a 9.30 service every Wednesday using the Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion service.

Harvest Festival 2020

Sunday 4 October – Offham

Sunday 11 October – West Malling

11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Harvest will be a little different this year. In each of our two churches, our Flower Arrangers have kindly agreed to decorate the church for Harvest as usual. Then on the Harvest Festival Sunday in your church, you will be able to visit the church any time between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to enjoy the flowers and arrangements (think of it as a little bit like a flower festival). There will be also one or two (safe) activities for those who wish to give thanks to God and pray. There will also be a food collection. Dried goods (and anything with a long shelf life) are especially welcome, but those who grow things in their garden can also contribute home-grown offerings. As in previous years, we will give our food collections to Pilsdon (also hosts of our local foodbank) and the Kenward Trust in Yalding.

We need volunteers

To make this work, we need stewards for the Sunday to greet visitors, help them sanitise and sign-in for Track and Trace, but then also guide them to the activities. A sign-up sheet is at the back of church or you can contact us via the website to let us know you’d like to help.

St Mary’s Annual Parochial Church Meeting

Because of the lockdown in March, St Mary’s was unable to host its APCM and parishes have now been given until the 31st of October to complete their business and host the annual elections.

Having discussed the matter with the PCC, we are conscious that capacity in the building is greatly reduced and some people are still shielding and, in our nation, Coronavirus cases are on the rise. Therefore, we are looking to host the APCM online via a Zoom call.

However if, because of available technology, you would be excluded by that decision, please would you let Rev David know as soon as possible. If you are happy to give the technology a go but are not sure what to do, also please speak with Rev David.

The date, time and details of the APCM will be confirmed as soon as possible.

Ride and Stride thank you

Thank you to everyone who took part in Ride and Stride on Saturday the 12th of September. Thank you to those who rode or strode to raise money for our parishes and for Friends of Kent Churches and thank you to those volunteers who helped welcome and manage other riders and striders who came to visit our parishes.

Volunteer Networks in West Malling and Offham

St Mary’s in West Malling and St Michael’s in Offham are working with the respective Parish Councils, local clubs, other churches, community groups, societies and agencies to provide a network of volunteers who want to help, and link them with people who need help during the Coronavirus pandemic.

In both communities, organisers are staying alert when we can see cases rising and some restrictions being made more rigorous. We are continuing to run the networks for the time being as they have been run and we will have to wait and see whether the need rises. We are conscious of the risk of a second wave and want to be ready if that should occur.

Our churches are now open again for Public Worship

Our two churches are now open once again each week for Public Worship. However, it is not quite as simple as just throwing open the doors and welcoming everyone back. Because of two metre distancing rules, our capacity is severely restricted. We have had to create groups in which people can rotate their attendance in the building and take part in Online Worship on the Sundays when other groups are in church.

Therefore, it helps enormously if you inform us ahead of each Sunday whether you wish to come or not so that we can work out whether we have capacity for you. Please click the button below for the correct page for your church to find out more about the changes, what we need you to know and what we need you to do.

Worship at
West Malling
Worship at
Offham

David’s day off

Rev David’s day off this week is Saturday the 26th of September.

Notices, 13 September 2020

Notices, 13 September 2020

Here are the latest notices and relevant information for the Benefice.

Services of Public Worship continue despite the new restrictions

On Tuesday evening, the Government announced greater levels of restrictions on social gatherings with it being illegal to gather socially in groups of more than six. On Wednesday, the Prime Minister clarified that the new regulations will not apply to public worship or individual prayer in church buildings. Neither do they apply to Christenings, Weddings or Funerals. Although within an act of worship, “households” are limited to a maximum of six people from that household present amongst the larger congregation.

As a result, we are continuing with our current plan of providing one church service in each parish on Sundays as well as the Wednesday service at St Mary’s, West Malling.

However, the new restrictions are also a salient reminder to everyone to be vigilant, to use face coverings, keep suitable physical distance in social situations, and wash our hands and sanitise regularly.

BCP service on Wednesdays update

Because of the recent change in Government restrictions on social activities and the rising number of Covid-19 cases nationally, we are going to keep the current plans in place for a bit longer and wait to see what happens before we make changes to the Wednesday service. There will continue to be a 9.30 service every Wednesday using the Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion service.

We are advertising for two new Cluster Administrators

It’s been a long time coming (because of the lockdown) but we are finally in a position to advertise for two new Cluster Administrators to work part-time with Rev David and other local Clergy.

Find out more elsewhere on the church website, including details of how to request an information pack and application form. Even if it’s not for you personally, please do share the news amongst your networks so we can get the word out. The deadline for applications is this week on Friday the 18th of September.

Beirut appeal

Thank you to everyone for their generosity in support of Embrace ME and their work, as we sought to offer help and express solidarity with the people of Beirut after the recent explosion in the city docks.

In total, we were able to raise £2,450.04 between St Michael’s and St Mary’s. The money was wired to Embrace last week for distribution where it is most needed.

Ride and Stride thank you

Thank you to everyone who took part in Ride and Stride on Saturday the 12th of September. Thank you to those who rode or strode to raise money for our parishes and for Friends of Kent Churches and thank you to those volunteers who helped welcome and manage other riders and striders who came to visit our parishes.

Harvest

We are very aware that Harvest Festival is not very far away. It’s obviously going to be very difficult to celebrate Harvest as we usually do when we can’t all be in church at the same time. Rev David is working with our ministry team, Churchwardens and PCCs to finalise plans and we hope that we will still be able to mark Harvest in a suitable way and take up a food collection which, in this year of all years, feels even more important to arrange.

Volunteer Networks in West Malling and Offham

St Mary’s in West Malling and St Michael’s in Offham are working with the respective Parish Councils, local clubs, other churches, community groups, societies and agencies to provide a network of volunteers who want to help, and link them with people who need help during the Coronavirus pandemic.

In both communities, organisers are staying alert when we can see cases rising and some restrictions being made more rigorous. We are continuing to run the networks for the time being as they have been run and we will have to wait and see whether the need rises. We are conscious of the risk of a second wave and want to be ready if that should occur.

Our churches are now open again for Public Worship

Our two churches are now open once again each week for Public Worship. However, it is not quite as simple as just throwing open the doors and welcoming everyone back. Because of two metre distancing rules, our capacity is severely restricted. We have had to create groups in which people can rotate their attendance in the building and take part in Online Worship on the Sundays when other groups are in church.

Therefore, it helps enormously if you inform us ahead of each Sunday whether you wish to come or not so that we can work out whether we have capacity for you. Please click the button below for the correct page for your church to find out more about the changes, what we need you to know and what we need you to do.

Worship at
West Malling
Worship at
Offham

David’s day off

Rev David’s day off this week is Saturday the 19th of September.

Notices, 6 September 2020

Notices, 6 September 2020

Here are the latest notices and relevant information for the Benefice.

Our churches are now open again for Public Worship

Our two churches are now open once again each week for Public Worship. However, it is not quite as simple as just throwing open the doors and welcoming everyone back. Because of two metre distancing rules, our capacity is severely restricted. We have had to create groups in which people can rotate their attendance in the building and take part in Online Worship on the Sundays when other groups are in church.

Therefore, it helps enormously if you inform us ahead of each Sunday whether you wish to come or not so that we can work out whether we have capacity for you. Please click the button below for the correct page for your church to find out more about the changes, what we need you to know and what we need you to do.

Worship at
West Malling
Worship at
Offham
It may take you a bit of time to watch, read and work out what you want to do about worship in church. So we advise you to enjoy the Online Worship first and perhaps look at this information later!

BCP service this coming Wednesday, the 9th of September

During August, we have been hosting the 8 a.m. Sunday Book of Common Prayer congregation on a Wednesday at 9.30 a..m. and we said we would review at the start of September. Since David is just returned from annual leave, we will give a little more time for due consideration of how we move forward and continue with the current plan this coming week.

There will be a Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion service this Wednesday, the 9th of September, starting at 9.30 a.m.

We are advertising for two new Cluster Administrators

It’s been a long time coming (because of the lockdown) but we are finally in a position to advertise for two new Cluster Administrators to work part-time with Rev David and other local Clergy.

Find out more elsewhere on the church website, including details of how to request an information pack and application form. Even if it’s not for you personally, please do share the news amongst your networks so we can get the word out.

Beirut appeal

Thank you to everyone for their generosity in support of Embrace ME and their work, as we sought to offer help and express solidarity with the people of Beirut after the recent explosion in the city docks.

In total, we were able to raise £2,450.04 between St Michael’s and St Mary’s. The money was wired to Embrace last week for distribution where it is most needed.

Ride and Stride, 12th of September

The annual fundraising Ride and Stride in aid of the Friends of Kent Churches takes place this year on Saturday the 12th of September. This year has seen many people dust off their bikes so let’s hope we may be able to get MORE people involved this year.

The idea is to either walk or cycle to a number of churches. You can decide how many or how few you want to visit. Riders and walkers seek sponsorship with money given for each church visited, planning their own routes and timings between churches. Half of the money you raise goes to Friends of Kent Churches, the other half goes to the parish church of your choice and we hope you will specify either St Mary’s or St Michael’s!

Last year, the event raised £140,602 across the county with over 700 churches represented amongst those who took part. Friends of Kent Churches give grant aid to Kent churches of any denomination or age to help them repair and maintain their buildings.

If you want to find out more, folk in Offham should contact Jane Jordan on 07973 817 883. Meanwhile, West Malling riders and striders should contact Mary Gibbins on 01732 870 643. The Ride and Stride website is also available here.

Women’s Refuge

Domestic Violence has been a major issue during lockdown. For women who live in fear of such violence, being closed off from the world has the potential to only make things worse. Our local Women’s Refuge is running low on dry goods and toiletries and has put out an appeal for fresh supplies. Gail Crutchfield is happy to collect them from you and take them to the refuge. Please phone Gail at 01732 845187.

Volunteer Networks in West Malling and Offham

St Mary’s in West Malling and St Michael’s in Offham are working with the respective Parish Councils, local clubs, other churches, community groups, societies and agencies to provide a network of volunteers who want to help, and link them with people who need help during the Coronavirus pandemic.

In both communities, the organisers are considering next steps as the lockdown is eased and there are fewer people in need of help. More and more of those who had asked the volunteer network for help are now getting out and about more and managing their own affairs once again.

We are continuing to run the networks for the time being as they have been run. We are conscious of the risk of a second wave and want to be ready if that should occur. We will be reviewing the networks as Summer turns to Autumn to see if they are still needed or not.

David’s day off

Rev David’s day off this week is Friday the 11th of September.

Job Advertisement: Cluster Administrators wanted

Cluster Administrators
(two roles, North and South)

North covering the parishes of West Malling and Offham and the Pilsdon Community
South covering the parishes of Kings Hill, Wateringbury, Mereworth and West Peckham
8 to 10 hours per week
£9.70 per hour

Our local parish churches and the Pilsdon Community are looking to appoint two part-time administrators. Each administrator will have their own areas of responsibility, between them supporting four local Clergy in their ministerial and leadership responsibilities.

The roles are busy as job holders need to deal with many aspects of church administration to help release time for the Clergy to focus on the work to which they are called. Tasks will include the administration of arrangements for Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals, acting as first point of contact for enquiries, helping manage Clergy diaries as well as assisting with the preparation of various reports, service booklets, website and social media content.

Successful applicants are likely to have experience in a professional administrative role of some sort, have an open communication manner and will need to be IT literate as much of the role is IT based.

If you wish to apply or would like to find out more about the roles, please email secretary@stmichaelsoffham.org.uk for a candidate pack comprising of an application form, candidate monitoring form, role description and person specification.

The application deadline is the 18th of September. Interviews will take place on the 23rd and 24th of September.

~

Although there is no requirement for successful candidates to be practicing Christians, there is a requirement for candidates to declare that are supportive of the Diocese of Rochester’s Ethos Statement.

The ethos of the Diocese of Rochester, which is based on the doctrine and practice of the Church of England is the motivation for all our work. It is to work together to extend the Kingdom of God on earth by living out a lifestyle of love, truth, justice, mercy and forgiveness, according to his teaching. We are inspired by the message, life and example of Jesus through which God’s unconditional love for all people is expressed. Our ethos is given life through our relationships. The way we work together and behave with one another, and those we seek to serve, demonstrates and authenticates our ethos. It is through these relationships with each other and those whom we seek to serve, that we practise our ethos. Our ethos or motivation, and therefore our relationships, are rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ and in his love, which compels us to serve others. This faith directs and influences our internal relationships as well as our work with those who the diocese is seeking to serve. Our activities are an outworking of our faith. The link between who we are and what we do cannot be broken.

Notices, 30 August 2020

Notices, 30 August 2020

Here are the latest notices and relevant information for the Benefice.

Our churches are now open again for Public Worship

Our two churches are now open once again each week for Public Worship. However, it is not quite as simple as just throwing open the doors and welcoming everyone back. Because of two metre distancing rules, our capacity is severely restricted. We have had to create groups in which people can rotate their attendance in the building and take part in Online Worship on the Sundays when other groups are in church.

Therefore, it helps enormously if you inform us ahead of each Sunday whether you wish to come or not so that we can work out whether we have capacity for you. Please click the button below for the correct page for your church to find out more about the changes, what we need you to know and what we need you to do.

Worship at
West Malling
Worship at
Offham
It may take you a bit of time to watch, read and work out what you want to do about worship in church. So we advise you to enjoy the Online Worship first and perhaps look at this information later!

Beirut appeal

Most of us will have heard about the awful explosion in the docks area of Beirut, Lebanon last week. For many years, St Michael’s in Offham have supported a charity called Embrace the Middle East. Embrace ME has worked in the Lebanon for over a century. In the past, St Michael’s sponsored children and we now give to support their education efforts more widely.

We are currently collecting across the Benefice for a gift that we will send to Embrace ME to help them and to help the people of Beirut. As well as the casualties, three hospitals were destroyed by the explosion, and grain silos containing 80% of the nation’s grain reserves were destroyed. Food shortages are virtually guaranteed.

You can find out more about Embrace’s perspective on the explosion on their website here.

If you would like to donate to our Benefice, via St Michael’s, in order that we can then send a collection on to Embrace, you can either give in person in church this coming Sunday or donate online here. Every single penny you donate to this appeal will go to Embrace and, therefore, to Beirut.

Ride and Stride, 12th of September

The annual fundraising Ride and Stride in aid of the Friends of Kent Churches takes place this year on Saturday the 12th of September. This year has seen many people dust off their bikes so let’s hope we may be able to get MORE people involved this year.

The idea is to either walk or cycle to a number of churches. You can decide how many or how few you want to visit. Riders and walkers seek sponsorship with money given for each church visited, planning their own routes and timings between churches. Half of the money you raise goes to Friends of Kent Churches, the other half goes to the parish church of your choice and we hope you will specify either St Mary’s or St Michael’s!

Last year, the event raised £140,602 across the county with over 700 churches represented amongst those who took part. Friends of Kent Churches give grant aid to Kent churches of any denomination or age to help them repair and maintain their buildings.

If you want to find out more, folk in Offham should contact Jane Jordan on 07973 817 883. Meanwhile, West Malling riders and striders should contact Mary Gibbins on 01732 870 643. The Ride and Stride website is also available here.

Women’s Refuge

Domestic Violence has been a major issue during lockdown. For women who live in fear of such violence, being closed off from the world has the potential to only make things worse. Our local Women’s Refuge is running low on dry goods and toiletries and has put out an appeal for fresh supplies. Gail Crutchfield is happy to collect them from you and take them to the refuge. Please phone Gail at 01732 845187.

Volunteer Networks in West Malling and Offham

St Mary’s in West Malling and St Michael’s in Offham are working with the respective Parish Councils, local clubs, other churches, community groups, societies and agencies to provide a network of volunteers who want to help, and link them with people who need help during the Coronavirus pandemic.

In both communities, the organisers are considering next steps as the lockdown is eased and there are fewer people in need of help. More and more of those who had asked the volunteer network for help are now getting out and about more and managing their own affairs once again.

We are continuing to run the networks for the time being as they have been run. We are conscious of the risk of a second wave and want to be ready if that should occur. We will be reviewing the networks as Summer turns to Autumn to see if they are still needed or not.

David is on annual leave

David is currently on annual leave for a fortnight. David, Kerry and the children are getting away from the parish but during their absence, Kerry’s sister and her husband and family will be house-sitting at the Vicarage.

If you need to discuss something urgently with David during this next fortnight, please call 01732 842245 in the usual way or email vicar@stmaryswestmalling.org.uk and Becky Robinson-Hugill, our PCC Secretary in Offham, will either assist you directly, guide you to someone who can help or know how to reach David. He will return to ministry on Tuesday the 1st of September.

Notices, 23 August 2020

Notices, 23 August 2020

Here are the latest notices and relevant information for the Benefice.

Our churches are now open again for Public Worship

Our two churches are now open once again each week for Public Worship. However, it is not quite as simple as just throwing open the doors and welcoming everyone back. Because of two metre distancing rules, our capacity is severely restricted. We have had to create groups in which people can rotate their attendance in the building and take part in Online Worship on the Sundays when other groups are in church.

Therefore, it helps enormously if you inform us ahead of each Sunday whether you wish to come or not so that we can work out whether we have capacity for you. Please click the button below for the correct page for your church to find out more about the changes, what we need you to know and what we need you to do.

Worship at
West Malling
Worship at
Offham
It may take you a bit of time to watch, read and work out what you want to do about worship in church. So we advise you to enjoy the Online Worship first and perhaps look at this information later!

Beirut appeal

Most of us will have heard about the awful explosion in the docks area of Beirut, Lebanon last week. For many years, St Michael’s in Offham have supported a charity called Embrace the Middle East. Embrace ME has worked in the Lebanon for over a century. In the past, St Michael’s sponsored children and we now give to support their education efforts more widely.

We are currently collecting across the Benefice for a gift that we will send to Embrace ME to help them and to help the people of Beirut. As well as the casualties, three hospitals were destroyed by the explosion, and grain silos containing 80% of the nation’s grain reserves were destroyed. Food shortages are virtually guaranteed.

You can find out more about Embrace’s perspective on the explosion on their website here.

If you would like to donate to our Benefice, via St Michael’s, in order that we can then send a collection on to Embrace, you can either give in person in church this coming Sunday or donate online here. Every single penny you donate to this appeal will go to Embrace and, therefore, to Beirut.

Ride and Stride, 12th of September

The annual fundraising Ride and Stride in aid of the Friends of Kent Churches takes place this year on Saturday the 12th of September. This year has seen many people dust off their bikes so let’s hope we may be able to get MORE people involved this year.

The idea is to either walk or cycle to a number of churches. You can decide how many or how few you want to visit. Riders and walkers seek sponsorship with money given for each church visited, planning their own routes and timings between churches. Half of the money you raise goes to Friends of Kent Churches, the other half goes to the parish church of your choice and we hope you will specify either St Mary’s or St Michael’s!

Last year, the event raised £140,602 across the county with over 700 churches represented amongst those who took part. Friends of Kent Churches give grant aid to Kent churches of any denomination or age to help them repair and maintain their buildings.

If you want to find out more, folk in Offham should contact Jane Jordan on 07973 817 883. Meanwhile, West Malling riders and striders should contact Mary Gibbins on 01732 870 643. The Ride and Stride website is also available here.

The 75th Anniversary of VJ Day

The 15th of August was the 75th anniversary of Victory in Japan (VJ) Day. Sadly, we could not gather for a service of thanksgiving as we might have wanted. In order to mark this important anniversary, Rev David recorded a short service of prayer and thanksgiving which was published yesterday but remains available from this website and on YouTube. Follow this link if you’d like to watch and take part.

Women’s Refuge

Domestic Violence has been a major issue during lockdown. For women who live in fear of such violence, being closed off from the world has the potential to only make things worse. Our local Women’s Refuge is running low on dry goods and toiletries and has put out an appeal for fresh supplies. Gail Crutchfield is happy to collect them from you and take them to the refuge. Please phone Gail at 01732 845187.

Volunteer Networks in West Malling and Offham

St Mary’s in West Malling and St Michael’s in Offham are working with the respective Parish Councils, local clubs, other churches, community groups, societies and agencies to provide a network of volunteers who want to help, and link them with people who need help during the Coronavirus pandemic.

In both communities, the organisers are considering next steps as the lockdown is eased and there are fewer people in need of help. More and more of those who had asked the volunteer network for help are now getting out and about more and managing their own affairs once again.

We are continuing to run the networks for the time being as they have been run. We are conscious of the risk of a second wave and want to be ready if that should occur. We will be reviewing the networks as Summer turns to Autumn to see if they are still needed or not.

David is on annual leave

David is currently on annual leave for a fortnight. David, Kerry and the children are getting away from the parish but during their absence, Kerry’s sister and her husband and family will be house-sitting at the Vicarage.

If you need to discuss something urgently with David during this next fortnight, please call 01732 842245 in the usual way or email vicar@stmaryswestmalling.org.uk and Becky Robinson-Hugill, our PCC Secretary in Offham, will either assist you directly, guide you to someone who can help or know how to reach David.

Welcome back to St Mary’s, West Malling

We are delighted to be able to announce that we are re-opening St Mary’s for Public Worship from Sunday the 26th of July.

However, there are a number of things that we need you to know and a number of things we need you to do. To start with, can we encourage you to watch this short two minute safety video to give you a brief rundown of how things will work and what we need you to do.

What will services be like?

  1. Every service will a service of Holy Communion. If, as we expect, you may only be able to attend two, three or four weeks, it is important that when you do attend, there is the chance to receive Holy Communion.
  2. Every service will be somewhat child-friendly. We cannot run Sunday School for the time being. Neither can children use toys or busy bags (other than ones they have brought from home). Neither is it appropriate to make every service an All-Age service. So every Minister leading or preaching will need to account for the fact children will be present and sat in a pew alongside their parents.
  3. Every service will be 30 to 40 minutes maximum. The risk of infection goes up the longer we stay together in the building, so we’ll keep services short.

What services will there be?

  1. Initially there will be one service on a Sunday in Offham at 9.15 a.m. and one in West Malling at 10.00 a.m. There will be a sermon. Both services will be based on Common Worship Holy Communion.
  2. There will be a Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion service at St Mary’s at 9.30 a.m. every Wednesday during August. There will not be a sermon. We will review again at the start of September as to whether this service can return to Sundays at 8 o’clock.
  3. Christenings will not take place in the Sunday service for the time being.
  4. If there is a Christening in a lunchtime slot on a Sunday, the congregation present that morning will be asked to help sanitise after their service.
  5. Online Worship will continue as pre-recorded videos and pre-prepared web pages to be published each Sunday. Each week, the rota will allocate ministry leadership to the online environment; separate to offline leadership for that week.

How many people can come?

Sadly, because of the regulations concerning physical distancing and maintaining two metres distance, our maximum capacity is based on 14 households. If you’ve watched the video (above) and are coming on your own, we may be able to take more than 14 households with individuals sat at either end of a pew.

If more people want to return to church services than we accommodate, we will need to allocate people into groups and then inform each group which Sundays they can attend. It may be that we have a group on the first Sunday and another group on the second Sunday and so on.

If you don’t want to return to church now and are happy to continue worshipping online, you will be able to let us know later when you do want to come to church. If need be, we will allocate you to a group. Hopefully, the physical distancing regulations will relax in time and we will be able to welcome more people into the same service until such time as we can all be in church together.

How do I let you know what I want to do?

At present, we are conducting a survey. We would be really grateful if you would click on the link for the survey and complete your details to let us know what you would like to do.

The more households that let us know their plans and wishes, the better we can fairly and equitably enable as many people as possible to return to church.

What do I need to bring when I come to church?

You don’t need to bring anything, but you might want to think about bringing the following items:

  1. A face covering.
  2. Your own pen (to fill out a sign-in slip if you’re asked to do so).
  3. Your own Bible (spare Bibles will not be available to pick-up and use in church).
  4. If you have young children, you may like to bring a busy bag for the children. We can’t provide any of our materials at present because of the difficulties sanitising those items.

Concerning Coronavirus and Public Worship IV

19 June 2020

Dear Worshipper

Concerning Coronavirus (COVID-19) and re-opening for funerals and private prayer

I am sure you may be aware that the Government recently gave permission for churches to re-open their buildings for private prayer and for funeral services.

Anecdotally, it seems that about a third of churches and cathedrals have been able to do that already, while the rest remain closed.

Here in West Malling and Offham, I have been working with our Churchwardens and our PCC, the church council, to work out what is best to do here. We have carefully read the Government guidance when it was eventually published and we’ve also poured over a variety of documents published by the Church of England and the Diocese of Rochester.

We have put together a plan on what needs to happen and put together a risk assessment. I want to say thank you to the various people in the two churches who have been helping me to do that.

Re-opening our buildings at this time is not simply a matter of propping open the front doors and letting people come and go as they please. In order to re-open, the buildings must be cleaned and then cleared of all hymn books, prayer books and other items you might usually touch. We also need to cordon off some pews and cordon off parts of pews to maintain a 2m physical distance. Hand-washing stations need to be set-up, floor markings and notices put in place. Much like you might see in one of the local supermarkets.

But unlike the supermarkets, we don’t have lots of paid staff to do this. We are already underway with doing all that’s required and we should complete these preparations in the next two weeks at the latest. Thank you to those who have offered to help already, we will be contacting you soon if we haven’t already done so.

I am hoping that the buildings are ready by July the 5th.

But ready for what?

I have met with both West Malling and Offham PCCs this week to decide on our priorities. We have also polled our Electoral Roll for both churches to hear how those who attend our churches regularly were feeling.

Government have said we can only currently do funerals and private prayer. But those two things are not necessarily pulling in totally the same direction and they need different things.

In both churches, having discussed it with our leaders, we are agreed that our priority is to be able to re-open for funeral services in church. While we have had graveside burials regularly through the lockdown, the compassionate response for our wider community is to have the option ready for families of conducting a funeral in church.

As well as the various restrictions I’ve already described, we would have a maximum capacity that would still mean attendance is restricted. At Offham, we would only have room for five households. At West Malling, the number is fourteen households. But that’s still way off our usual capacities. But it’s a start.

Being able to handle a funeral safely is the first step on the road to other things and it’s a good first step. Not only does it offer compassion to grieving families, but generally people attending funerals know each other. They are often from the same households or bubbles. So there is less risk than opening in a way where lots of people from lots of disparate households come together like your average Sunday service.

If we can do funerals well, I anticipate weddings might be next. Although whether wedding couples want to change their plans and host small, restricted ceremonies will be up to them.

Gathering for Sunday worship still lies some way down the tracks and I’ll talk more about that and the challenges of that another day.

Being in church for worship is not the same as going to Marks and Spencer. You behave differently, you physically do different things, you touch and interact with the building and space in different ways, you’re there for different lengths of time. There are complexities. In that sense there are very good reasons why churches were allowed to re-open in the earliest phases of the lockdown being eased.

And that brings us to private prayer. Although the Government have said we can re-open for private prayer and that no supervision is necessary, I am personally uncomfortable with that. I have discussed it with the PCCs and, while we recognise it’s a loss to some of us, and we know there’s a wider community of people who do pop in, the majority view in both churches shared my level of discomfort. Indeed, when we asked you, between 70 and 80% of people on the Electoral Roll of both churches were not keen to re-open for private prayer at this stage.

Although Government have not required it, I think supervision for private prayer is absolutely necessary at the moment. There have been cases worldwide of people being infected after going to church and sitting in a seat or a pew where someone with covid-19 coronavirus, a few hours earlier in a different service of worship, had previously sat.

As you’ll know, opening for private prayer means people come and go as they wish. But when you come and go in that way, you have no idea who has sat where before you. The only solution is to have someone in the building who does know, who supervises, and when someone leaves, they quietly go over to that place and sanitise it… just as the supermarkets sanitise the shopping baskets after someone has used them.

Different churches may adopt different approaches. You may disagree with me that this is necessary. But, ultimately, the person responsible to decide in this instance for West Malling and Offham is me. And I’m not happy with opening if we don’t also supervise and take responsibility for keeping each pew sanitised.

Supervision means people to supervise and that limits what we can do. But it also cuts across the purpose of opening for private prayer in the sense that we don’t have the people to supervise all day every day. And if you can’t do that, people can’t just pop in when they want… and popping in when you want is kind of the point of having the buildings open in the way we normally do. You’d have to know when the church was open and then make the special trip.

So, having discussed it with the PCCs, we are not saying a total no to opening for private prayer but we’re going to do it a in very limited way and it’s not our priority. We’re going to suck it and see by perhaps opening one Sunday from mid-morning to mid-afternoon in a few weeks time and see whether people come. We’ll advertise it to you in due course when we’re ready to host such a time.

Public worship, Sunday services, remain some way away, I’m afraid. We will continue to offer online worship each Sunday and it’s been encouraging to see so many of you taking part in that. I’m also interested in coming days to talk with our church leaders about we can best supplement and improve what we are doing now.

As I said to you in March, there is a calling upon us during lockdown. We were to be people of prayer in our homes, to go deeper with God in study of his word, to take ownership and responsibility for nurturing our faith. And there’s also a calling to humbly serve those around us in our communities. To be the healing hands and feet of Jesus to a broken world.

Lockdown may be easing in some ways, but that calling for us as the Christian church has not changed.

May the Lord watch between us while we’re apart from each other.

Love God, love your neighbour.

I hope very much to see you soon.

Yours in Christ

Rev David Green
Vicar

Concerning Coronavirus and Public Worship III

 

18 March 2020

Dear Worshipper

Further update regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Public Worship

I am writing to let you know that, as of yesterday, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have taken the difficult and extraordinary decision to suspend the Church of England’s usual pattern of Sunday services, mid-week gatherings and all other regular church activities until further notice.

I have also received reports from a couple of local households that the virus may be present already amongst some people who regularly attend our two churches. There are possible symptoms locally but no confirmation that it is COVID-19 because those people have not been tested.

Clearly, the decision to suspend activity in all parishes is not a decision to be taken lightly and it does not mean the Church of England has shut up shop. As the challenge of Coronavirus (COVID-19) grips the whole world, and as the British Government asks every individual and every organisation to rethink its life, the Archbishops are now asking the Church of England in all its parishes, chaplaincies and ministries to serve the people of England in a new way.

Here in our Benefice, several things will be happening with immediate effect.

  1. Both churches will remain open during daylight hours for anyone to visit and offer their own private prayers. Please observe all current hygiene recommendations.
  2. At 9.05 a.m. in Offham and 5.05 p.m. in West Malling I will be in church, I will ring the bell to symbolically let the Parish know I am praying and then say Common Worship Daily Prayer. Please don’t attend. However you may want to join in with me by saying the offices from home at the same time. Daily Prayer is available online from the Church of England website, or a copy of the book can be purchased online. You don’t have to join in every day, or twice a day. Join in when you can.
  3. I am preparing resources to feed your faith and spiritual life while at home. I am also preparing a Booklet especially for those who have been told to stay in self-isolation. Each Sunday, I will publish material on this website. I will provide written prayers, notices, a recorded sermon from me, and links to hymns to sing.
  4. We will also be taking steps to link people pastorally together. In particular I want to make sure those who are more elderly or vulnerable have support from someone younger amongst the church community who may be willing to offer help with shopping, picking up prescriptions, phone contact, encouragement and friendship. Even if we’re in isolation, we don’t need to allow anyone to feel isolated.
    If you are under 70 years of age and could volunteer to help others, let me know or keep an eye on the website for how to sign-up to help. Likewise, if you are over 70, or if your immune system is compromised and you’ve been told to self-isolate, or you are unwell already, please let me know or use the website to let me know so that we can offer you assistance and help.
  5. Finally, in coming days, some of the ‘machinery’ of our parish’s life will need to continue. I will need to work on a plan with the Churchwardens and our PCCs to make sure we can continue in ministry and mission, decision-making, attending to the fabric of our buildings, and managing parish finances. Provided you still have an income in this extraordinary global situation and you have the means to do so, I would strongly encourage you to continue your giving to your parish church. If our churches see a sudden drop in income, it does present a significant risk in the medium to long-term. If you don’t already give by Standing Order, I would ask you to seriously consider setting up a regular gift with your bank. Even if you don’t want to leave it in place long-term, doing so while this situation continues would really help while we are all unable to put anything into the collection Sunday by Sunday.
  6. On the other side of that coin, can I also ask that if you are in financial difficulty as a result of the Coronavirus situation, please do let me know in confidence. We would like to help you as much as possible. There are places I can turn for help and I suspect our Churches Together Foodbank and our vestry charity Relief in Need may need to be very active in the days to come.

Theologically-speaking, the Church is the Body of Christ and that is true whether we are gathered together on a Sunday or dispersed in our daily life. Regardless of these times, we continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a broken world. For a while, being Christian and being Church together will simply look and feel different. We have a calling now to private prayer and to humbly serve those in. I would encourage you to play your full part in the days, weeks and months to come.

This will most likely be the last Pastoral Letter for a while since the situation is now clear and most likely won’t change until such time as we are given permission to worship together again. Perhaps, with such freedom taken from us from a while, we will gain a new appreciation for the blessing of our amazing buildings, and the blessing we find when we gather as a community to praise God and pray. What a day that will be when we can sing in worship together once again!

Please do keep in touch. Let’s keep doing community together and being church together. Pick up the phone, send an email, use the website, Facebook or Twitter, get creative where you can. Whether we are unwell or not, vulnerable or not, I suspect we will all need one another, let alone the Lord’s everlasting grace and love, in the days that lie ahead.

Please be assured of my prayers for you. Please pray for me too.

Yours in Christ

Rev David Green
Vicar

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