Concerning Coronavirus and Public Worship II

13 March 2020

Dear Worshipper

Update regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Public Worship

I am writing with a further update and instructions concerning our activities at St Mary’s in West Malling and St Michael’s in Offham given the current public health concerns.

Firstly in regard to our local communications, what has become very clear is that this is a fast-moving and fluid situation and sending letters is a relatively slow way in which to try and communicate with everyone, even if it does ensure everyone gets the information. Therefore, while I will continue to write if there are major changes in guidance, I would ask you to keep an eye on the church website for updates. If you do not have any Internet access, please phone me so I can add you to a list of people I know I need to communicate with in other ways.

The Church of England has now issued further advice to churches to both replace (in some cases) or supplement all that I shared with you before. The key new information is:

  • Do not attend church if you are unwell or asked to self-isolate.
    Please phone me if this is the case so that I am aware and together we can make suitable arrangements for your inclusion and pastoral care.
  • The administration of the Chalice at Holy Communion is suspended.
    Holy Communion will be offered in one kind only (the bread) and the Priest alone is to receive the wine.
  • Everyone should stand at the Communion Rail.
    Please do not kneel at the rail or touch the rail with your hands.
  • Shaking hands, or other direct physical contact is suspended.
    During the Peace, simply greet those in your immediate vicinity with a smile and the words “Peace be with you”. Don’t move around the church to greet others.
  • Priestly blessings or prayers with the laying on of hands are suspended.
    Prayers will be given in such circumstances without physical touch.
  • Refreshments are suspended.
    There will be no tea and coffee after services until further notice.
  • Passing around Collection Plates or Bags is suspended.
    There will be a collection plate at the back of church as you enter. Please place your offering in the plate as you come in (or if you don’t already do so, take this as an opportunity to start giving by standing order instead). There is an important side point here in that I would ask that you do make sure you continue to give, as best as you’re able and within your means. Our churches cannot easily withstand a massive drop in giving if people are not in church and therefore are not making any financial contribution.
  • Use of the Chasuble is suspended and other robes are to be regularly cleaned.
    Because I lack confidence that our historic and somewhat elderly Chasubles and Stoles would survive regular deep cleans, the only other option is not to use them. Clergy will be responsible for regular washing of their own cassock albs, cassocks, surplices, stoles and preaching scarves (as is always the case anyway).

Where it does not contradict what is written here, all of the previous advice I passed on to you still applies. The most key bit of advice remains that the best way of protecting everyone from the spread of a virus is for everyone to use universal good hygiene, – this means everyone, all the time, effectively disrupting the virus.

  • Catch it – sneeze into a tissue.
  • Bin it – bin the tissue.
  • Kill it – wash your hands.
  • Do not touch your face unless you’ve washed your hands.

Could church services and other church events be cancelled?

At this time there is no guidance to do that. Parishes have been asked to prepare a contingency plan should government advice change. I am now preparing that plan with our Churchwardens, other Clergy and Lay Ministers and PCC. Everything I said before about the benefits of meeting still applies and it is in times of adversity, that our community strength gives testimony to our faith in Christ, provides encouragement to all, and supports the weak, the vulnerable and the isolated. If the Government does ban public gatherings, the contingency plan will cover what happens next but, amongst other things, I intend to try and use our website to try and provide worship, prayer and a sermon each week for you to engage with from home.

Pastoral Visiting

Church of England guidance is now that those who are told to self isolate and/or are unwell, cannot receive pastoral visits. Instructions are for Clergy to do pastoral care over the phone in such circumstances. When I am visiting others who have decided not to attend church as a precaution, other ministers and I will continue to observe all sensible precautions in personal hygiene myself before and after such visits. Of course, if I or other Ministers get unwell, our contingency plan will need to cover that eventuality as well.

Keep talking!

It’s obviously vital that we keep a good flow of communication. Keep an eye on the website. I will write when appropriate. If you are one of our older members and decide to stop attending for a while, please let me know you’re doing that so we can support you. If your immune system is compromised for any reason, please let me know. If you become unwell and are told to self isolate, please let me know.

As we do each week, please join me in prayer for all those in authority, for our medical services and those on the front line, and for those who are unwell and their families.

Yours in Christ

Rev David Green

Concerning Coronavirus and Public Worship

5 March 2020

Dear Worshipper

You will be aware of the media coverage of the recent spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease and our own Government’s recent announcements aimed to limit the spread in the UK and mitigate the risks to public health.

It is always important to keep things in balance and not to feed unnecessary fear. More people will die around the world this year because of influenza, while many people who get Coronavirus may not even realise they have it. There is a sense in which this is primarily a moral panic. However, on the other hand, as fragile beings, we tend to be better off over-interpreting rather than under-interpreting danger and the disease does appear to present a particular risk to elderly people and those with pre-existing health conditions.

Therefore it seems timely, to write to everyone on the Electoral Roll and to provide a reminder of best practice in public worship. This is not just to combat Coronavirus but to avoid the spread of any infection. I think it is also important to stress that we need not avoid divine worship out of fear of infection, even as we balance the needs of fellow worshippers who are may be physically vulnerable and who may need extra support.

The following guidance is widely accepted in the Church of England as best practice and was recently re-endorsed by the Bishop of Rochester for all parishes in this Diocese. I would ask everyone to be mindful of the following:

Advice for Holy Communion

Washing hands: Myself and other ordained Priests presiding at the Eucharist, those handling the Chalice and servers will continue to follow proper hand washing and hand sanitizing techniques prior to the start of the service. We also use hand sanitizers immediately before the Preparation of the Table and the Eucharistic Prayer. We always do this anyway, and will continue to do so during the current scare. Congregations are also asked to follow general public health advice concerning washing your hands. Rather than sing “Happy Birthday” twice as you wash your hands, say the Lord’s Prayer instead! It takes about the same amount of time and will be of more spiritual benefit to you.

Intincting is not ideal: Intinction (dipping wafer into wine) is often felt to be preferable if you do have a stinking cold or other illness since it avoids the Communicant placing their lips on the Chalice and is sometimes seen as a courtesy to your fellow worshippers. However, it can be counter-productive if, by dipping, your fingers go in the wine! Those with gluten intolerance for whom traces of gluten can be hazardous are also at greater risk when other communicants have dipped their communion wafer into the wine.

The answer is to receive Holy Communion in one kind: If you feel unwell or are concerned about sharing the Chalice, the solution is not to to intinct (dip) but to remember that Anglican teaching and theology agrees that it is “valid” to receive the Sacrament in one kind since to do so is to receive the Sacrament in its entirety. If you do not wish to drink from the Chalice, simply receive the consecrated bread alone.

The Peace: In welcoming and greeting each other in church and as we exchange the Peace we will often shake hands. By washing hands thoroughly and by using clean tissues we can help to reduce the risk of infection significantly. It is perfectly fine not to shake hands with others if you are concerned about a spread of germs and simply to greet one another with the words ‘Peace be with you’, a smile and a wave. I have also asked our Churchwardens to ensure there is handwash available at the rear of church.

Advice for Pastoral Visiting

It is possible that we see a rise in the number of requests for Pastoral Visits at home and it is really important not to avoid any of our brethren who are unwell and in need of our love and support. Some may be ill themselves and told to self-isolate. Others, particularly those who are elderly or physically vulnerable in some way, may do so as a precaution and wish to avoid attending on Sunday for a period of time.

I want to reassure anyone in such circumstances that I will be very happy to conduct such pastoral visits and/or to do Home Communion with you. I will, of course, observe all sensible precautions in personal hygiene myself before and after such visits.

However, I will also need to call on the help of those who have been trained to operate in Pastoral Ministry as well and I would ask for your understanding if you are visited by someone from the Church but don’t get to see the Vicar. Particularly at this time when I am without administrative support, a rise in requests for visits will need to be carefully managed and fitted around my other commitments.

A final word…

Whether we are talking about Coronavirus or any other infectious illness, there is a balance to be struck in how we engage with the church community we call home when we, or people around us, are sick. I would encourage those who are not vulnerable to infection and are not unwell not to make decisions about their attendance at public worship on the basis of fear or panic. The Scriptures exhort us not to neglect to meet together, but to encourage one another (Heb 10.25) and faced with the panic of our society, the apostle John reminds us that there is no fear in love and God’s love casts out fear.

Furthermore, our Christian community gathering on Sundays for divine worship can be a helpful bulwark against difficulties and should, therefore, be embraced rather than avoided. Gathering for worship enables us to support one another, spot those who are missing for pastoral follow-up, organise ourselves to support the sick, and to pray.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any concerns about the contents of this letter, have questions about our practice within worship or wish to arrange for a home visit.

Yours in Christ

Rev David Green

Annual meetings 2020

Photo by idono from FreeImages

Between March and May, it is the time of year when our parishes host their Annual Meetings*, sometimes known as the APCM.

In line with Charity law, the churches report on the year previous and publish their financial accounts. In addition, various officers are elected to serve in the coming year.

If you attend worship at one of our churches, please do make this meeting a priority. Even if you can’t be present, do take the time to read the reports (provided on this website as downloads) so that you can review all that has taken place in the last year, see how we are doing financially and (hopefully) be encouraged by the many good things that have been happening.

In each of the churches, we are also looking for new people to join our Parochial Church Councils (or PCC). PCC is a great opportunity to serve the church and to be a key part of the decision-making processes for our community. If you want to be a part of the key discussions affecting our future life, help to manage our building and finances, and get stuck in to seeing things happen, we would love to have you involved. Please consider standing.

St Michael’s Offham host their APCM on the 15th of March. St Mary’s West Malling host their APCM on the 17th of May.

Annual Report downloads

  • St Mary’s, West Malling Annual Report 2020
    (including Church Activities separate report) – not yet published.

* – Technically an ‘Annual Parochial Church Meeting’ or APCM.

Remembrance Sunday 2018

A photo of the St Mary's war memorial, taken early morning 2011For each of our three communities, please find below details of the Remembrance Sunday services.

Offham, 10.00 a.m.

The Sunday service starts at the slightly later than usual time of 10.00 a.m. and will follow the pattern for Churches Together services of remembrance. Rev Jim and Rev David will both be on hand to take part in the serviec.

After the service, just before 11.00 a.m. we will make our way outside to the War Memorial for the Act of Remembrance and the two minutes silence.

The congregation will be invited to join the Minister outside the church at the War Memorial where the names of the dead will be read aloud and wreaths laid.

West Malling, 10.00 a.m.

The Sunday service at West Malling will be a service of Holy Communion, led by Canon Alan Vousden. Following the service, the congregation will make its way outside to the War Memorial for the Act of Remembrance and to observe two minutes silence at 11 o’clock.

Kings Hill, 10.30 a.m.

A special joint service takes place at 10.30 at the Running Airman Memorial on Gibson Drive with use of the Italian Market for larger crowds. Uniformed organisations will parade from the Control Tower to the Memorial for the service. Rev Matt Ross of Kings Hill Christian Fellowship and Rev Mark Montgomery of the Church of England will be leading the service.

West Malling, 2.30 p.m.

The Civic Service for Remembrance Sunday will take place at 2.30 p.m. in the afternoon. A parade will make its way up the High Street from about 2pm onwards. Please note the High Street will be closed to traffic while the parade is going on.

This year we mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, and also the centenary of the beginning of the RAF with our local links to RAF West Malling. Rev David Green will also be on hand to participate in the service alongside other ecumenical guests.

After the service, wreaths will be laid at the War Memorial while the uniformed organisations form up in the road. Once again, the High Street will be closed around 3.30 p.m. in order for this to take place. This year, Rev Dave Baxter of West Malling Baptist and Rev David of St Mary’s will re-dedicate the memorial following the renovations that took place this year. In so doing, they will mirror what took place in 1921 when their predecessors first unveiled and dedicated the memorial for the people of West Malling.

More details are available in the Events section of this website.



Explore life, faith and meaning with Alpha

The Alpha Course logoSt Michael’s, Offham are running an Alpha course for our local Cluster starting on Monday 16th September 2019 at 7.00 p.m. with sessions hosted at the Jabez Barn next to St Michael’s Church, Church Road, Offham.

All sessions will centre around a good hot meal (kindly supplied by The Swan, West Malling) and with an opportunity to hear about, discuss and ask questions about the basics of Christian faith.

For those who have not heard of Alpha before, it is a free-of-charge course exploring the basics of the Christian faith, typically run over ten or eleven weeks. It started at one church in London and has since become a major enterprise with courses run all over the country and all around the world.

Each talk looks at different questions around faith and is designed to create a conversation.  Alpha is run all around the globe, and everyone is welcome.  It runs in cafes, churches, universities, homes – you name it.  No two Alphas look exactly the same, but generally they have three key things in common: food, a talk and good conversation and open discussion.

Alpha is perfect for two groups of people. If you are a churchgoer and want to do a refresher on the basics of your Christian faith and perhaps fill in a few gaps in your understanding or ask questions you never get to ask, Alpha is for you.

Alpha is also great for anyone who may or may not be comfortable calling themselves a Christian, but is interested in exploring God, the meaning of life and the big questions we all ask, by examining what Jesus and the Christian faith has to offer. If you’re still wondering, you can watch an introduction video online via YouTube.

Contact us now to book your place or if you have a question you’d like to ask before you book in. There’s a maximum limit of 20 people and it is starting to fill up!

Holy Week and Easter Services 2018

We thought you might like to take note of the Holy Week and Easter events and services taking place in Offham, Kings Hill and West Malling.

Sunday 25 March, Palm Sunday services
in all churches at the usual start times.

Maundy Thursday, 29 March, 7 for 7.30 p.m. start
A Seder Meal to mark Maundy Thursday
St Lawrence’s Church, Mereworth

Good Friday, 30 March, 9.15 am
Morning Prayer
St Michael’s Church, Offham

Good Friday, 30 March, 10.00 am
Interactive Easter
St Gabriel’s Church, Kings Hill (Discovery School main hall)

Good Friday, 30 March, 11.00 am
Churches Together Good Friday Walk of Witness
Begins at St Thomas More RC Church, Lucks Hill, West Malling

Good Friday, 30 March, 2.00 pm
Quiet Hour
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

Good Friday, 30 March, 3.30 pm
X-plore Easter – Children’s Easter craft activities
St Mary’s Church Centre, West Malling

Easter Sunday, 1 April, 6.45 am
Easter Dawn Service
St Michael’s Church, Offham

Easter Sunday, 1 April, 8.00 am
Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

Easter Sunday, 1 April, 9.15 am
Easter Sunday All-Age Holy Communion
St Michael’s Church, Offham

Easter Sunday, 1 April, 10.00 am
Easter Sunday All-Age Holy Communion
St Gabriel’s Church, Kings Hill (Discovery School)

Easter Sunday, 1 April, 10.00 am
Easter Sunday All-Age Holy Communion
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

David is made Vicar

A photo of David kneeling before the Archdeacon as his licence is read aloud.On Thursday February 22nd, St Mary’s was pleased to welcome our brothers and sisters from St Michael’s, Offham and St Gabriel’s, Kings Hill and our Archdeacon, the Venerable Julie Conalty for a special service to ‘induct and install’ David Green as the new ‘Vicar of West Malling and Rector of Offham’.

Regular readers will be aware that, in December, we announced Rev David was to be made ‘Vicar and Rector’ in late January. Unfortunately that service had to be postponed but with Her Majesty’s Letters Patent in hand and able to read aloud in the service, we were finally able to move ahead.

David chose the same readings and hymns that he had at his licensing service in 2011 when he was made ‘Priest-in-Charge’. They provided an interesting mirror image to the service that enabled us to both look back at his six and a half years of ministry here as well as the chance to look forward to all that lies ahead.

The service was led by our new Archdeacon, Ven Julie Conalty who preached the sermon on the theme of unity (you can read the sermon in this month’s Parish Magazine – this link opens a PDF file).

David was asked to renew his vows of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen and to the Bishop of Rochester and a series of people from our three churches handed David various symbols of ministry and asked him to renew his pledges as a Minister. Perhaps most moving of all were a couple of children – sisters Lizzy and Immy from Offham who came forward to ask David: “Will you in the strength of the Holy Spirit, continually stir up the gift of God that is in you, to make Christ known among all whom you serve?” He promised Lizzy and Immy and all of us that “By God’s help” he would do so.

The Archdeacon of Tonbridge read aloud the Bishop’s licence and then instituted, anointed and blessed David for service in these parishes. As is common in such inductions, David was then taken to the front doors to be handed his keys (a symbol of his stewardship of the care of the buildings), taken to the bells to ring them, thus indicating he had taken up his role, and finally to his priest’s stall where Julie took him by the hand and placed him in position!

Speaking after the service, David was asked if he felt any different. He said “I appreciate it has been important for many different people to see this take place but the job I do on a day-to-day basis won’t change. Perhaps my halo will glow a bit brighter now! Otherwise we simply move forward together with unity of purpose as Julie said.”

For the uninitiated, what’s changed?

When David was appointed in 2011, he was licensed as ‘Priest-in-Charge’ of our parishes. While the job he has done for us in these last six years has been identical in almost every respect to that of a Vicar, this formal ‘upgrade’ in his status as our Minister does give him a better security of tenure in his role, and it represents an important step forward for our parishes.

Vicar, Rector – what’s the difference?

The difference is largely historical and has to do with money. In the days when Tithes were paid in England someone was entitled to receive that money. Where a church paid that tithe to the Incumbent, he was a Rector. Where someone else got the tithe and they had to appoint someone ‘vicariously’ to lead the churches on their behalf, that person was called a Vicar.

Holy Week and Easter services 2017

We thought you might like to take note of the Holy Week and Easter events and services taking place in Offham, Kings Hill and West Malling.

Sunday 9 April, Palm Sunday services
in all churches at the usual start times.

Tuesday 11 April, 7.30pm
Stations of the Cross
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

Maundy Thursday, 13 April, 7 for 7.30 p.m. start
A Seder Meal to mark Maundy Thursday
St Lawrence’s Church, Mereworth

Good Friday, 14 April, 9.15 am
Morning Prayer
St Michael’s Church, Offham

Good Friday, 14 April, 10.00 am
Interactive Easter Family Service
St Gabriel’s Church, Kings Hill (Discovery School main hall)

Good Friday, 14 April, 11.00 am
Churches Together Good Friday Walk of Witness
Begins at St Thomas More RC Church, Lucks Hill, West Malling

Good Friday, 14 April, 2.00 pm
Quiet Hour
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

Good Friday, 14 April, 3.30 pm
X-plore Easter – Children’s Easter craft activities
St Mary’s Church Centre, West Malling

Easter Sunday, 16 April, 6.15 am
Easter Dawn Service
St Michael’s Church, Offham

Easter Sunday, 16 April, 8.00 am
Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

Easter Sunday, 27 March, 9.15 am
Easter Sunday All-Age Holy Communion
St Michael’s Church, Offham

Easter Sunday, 16 April, 10.00 am
Easter Sunday All-Age Holy Communion
St Gabriel’s Church, Kings Hill (Discovery School)

Easter Sunday, 16 April, 10.00 am
Easter Sunday Holy Communion
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

It’s not Christmas without…

Now, I’m too young to remember this (sorry folks) but in the winter of 1964, a Clergy friend reliably informs me that the Go Go’s released a Christmas novelty record which opened with these words:

“I’m gonna spend my Christmas with a Dalek
and hug it underneath the mistletoe,
and if he’s very nice
I’ll feed him sugar spice,
and hang a Christmas stocking from his big left toe.”

You will be hard pressed to find this particular musical dog’s breakfast in the compilations of Christmas tunes that inevitably fill our shopping centres at this time of year. Even if the Pogues or Slade are not your cup of tea, I can assure you that having listened to the Go Go’s offering, we should be thankful they never made the cut. Small mercies and all that.

Not only does their song display a woeful lack of knowledge about the anatomy of a Dalek, it suggests that nothing says Christmas quite like the opportunity to celebrate it with a genetically engineered race of evil machine/being hybrids intent on galaxy-wide domination!

Indeed, over the next few weeks lots of companies will suggest to us in expensively put-together television adverts that nothing quite says Christmas like… well, you fill in the blank. Boxer dogs jumping on a trampoline? Soldiers exchanging chocolate in the 1914-18 war? A snowman fighting through a long and arduous journey to buy a scarf?

I’m sure plenty of us will also utter statements like ‘you can’t have Christmas without…’ and again, you can fill in the blank. A Christmas tree? Mistletoe? Carol singing? Babycham? Chestnuts roasting on the fire? Midnight Communion? The Queen’s Speech? Children in tea-towels and dressing gowns? A walk in the afternoon? Cold meat and pickles on Boxing Day?

Truth is every family, every person has their traditions and things that speak of Christmas to them. But I do hope that part of your tradition is to be in the company of Christian people in a service of worship. You may or may not be Christian yourself, but I promise that you will be welcome nonetheless. This ought to be a time for all people and, on that front, I was encouraged to hear the Muslim Council of Great Britain issue their own statement welcoming Christmas, pointing out that for them Jesus is a prophet too.

But I digress. At its core, I would say that you can’t have Christmas without a story of humble beginnings and unexpected blessings. A story of concern for the outcast, the refugee and stranger. A story about family and adversity. A story that involves the poor (shepherds) and the rich (kings). You can’t have Christmas without a story of peace and good will to all humankind. You can’t have Christmas without the story of God’s love.

David Green

Beyond the Referendum

Leaver & Remainer stand before the AltarOur Priest-in-Charge, David, and our Licensed Lay Minister, Becky, discuss the recent result of the Referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

D: We are both Christian people, living in West Malling, worshipping and sharing together in our local community. You voted to Leave the EU. I voted to Remain. What was it that was most important to you about voting to leave?

B: It’s a very complex situation, so there are no simple answers. I think the more distant a parliament is from its electorate, the more likely it is that the legislation they propose will have unintended, negative consequences. I think there is a very strong case for structural reform, limiting the scope of EU powers. This is not just about Britain: there are other countries within the Union (Greece and Cyprus for example) where there is a great deal of disaffection with the EU. I was quite aware that voting ‘Leave’ was a risk and there were likely to be financial repercussions. Sometimes risks are necessary to effect change. I hope it will be change for the better. Why did you vote Remain?

D: I tried to consider both sides carefully but ultimately, I felt that a lot of the Leave arguments relied on things that I felt weren’t true. The £350 million figure, the supposed loss of Sovereignty. I do think we have a problem of population capacity and we do need control, but that was outweighed for me by the economic side of things, worries about a political vacuum or major swing to the Right and I felt certain politicians were telling half-truths or lies. So I decided to Remain. Any regrets?

B: I absolutely regret that some Europeans who now live in this country suddenly feel that they are no longer welcome. I’d feel the same way about any immigrant, whatever their nationality. I’m aware just how important these people are for many successful businesses including, for example, some of our local farms – we can’t do without them. Equally, I’m appalled that those on the Far Right feel liberated to make xenophobic protests; they’re divisive and hurtful. I’m less concerned about the financial side of things because market volatility happens and will calm. But the Press doesn’t tell stories like mine – I guess it’s just not just newsworthy. But no, I don’t regret voting the way I did. What about you?

D: No regrets for me but plenty of hurts. It does feel raw and painful. Especially when it started to emerge that some Leave voters had done so either because of racism, or because they wanted to give David Cameron a black eye but didn’t think Leave would win, or because they really didn’t understand the question. That upset me greatly. One thing we can agree on though is that racism or xenophobia or ugly treatment of those from other nations is simply not acceptable, and as Christians, we need to be brave and stand up to resist that.

I think the penny dropped for me a little when I was teaching about bereavement on a pastoral care course this week. The shock and disbelief of Remainers, their denial of the result (and wanting to do it all again), the anger and abuse are all typical symptoms of grief. There’s a mourning going on for something that has died for them – rightly or wrongly, they feel like part of their identity as Brits, as Europeans, has died. It’s a loss and like any loss, people will grieve.

B: They may feel that way now; I understand that feeling. But we can be European without being in the EU. I see myself as European as much as I am British (and probably quite a lot of other stuff as well). We are still a country in Europe – we can’t not be. I’ve recently come back from Montenegro which isn’t in the EU (so Montenegrins have to obtain a visa to visit the UK) but they trade in Euros. Croatia, next door, is in the EU but trades in Kunas. There were border controls between the two but no problem with passing between. There are a lot of different ways of being in Europe which don’t necessarily entail being part of the gigantic bureaucracy that is the EU.

D: Absolutely. That’s the thing all Brits need to embrace now – how can we be outward looking, European, and so on, but simply not part of the EU. I wrote in last month’s parish magazine that regardless of the result, the key would be how we come together as one nation again when we have had to vote on a question that inevitably polarizes everyone – regions of the UK, towns and communities, older and younger voters, even families. Reconciliation and healing is vital. Remainers, like myself, now need to do their bit to prove we were wrong and the Leavers were right.

B: Thank you. For Leavers I think it’s vital we voice our opposition to xenophobic and racist actions. It’s important not to gloat, to act with integrity and good grace. It’s all going to take time: we’ll need to be patient. Within the church, to continue to pray for the political process, for the politicians and all involved in disentangling. We need to pray for the EU itself, and for those within the UK who are in deep despair at the result. I don’t like language of winning and losing because that mentality won’t help, but it’s quite hard being on the ‘winning’ side when a) you know your actions have produced deep distress and will continue to do so and b) you suspect you are being tarred with the brush of being a non-thinking bigot.

D: There’s no excuse for Remainers to be abusive – misdirected anger and abuse is not healthy grief. But if I may offer something for Leavers – if Remainers are grieving – then like any bereavement, there’s good things to do and say, and things to not do or say. A grieving widow doesn’t need to hear that ‘time is a great healer’ or ‘I know how you feel’. It doesn’t help. Saying ‘it will all work out’ doesn’t help Remainers right now. I also wonder whether, like any bereavement, the Church can help with that by providing space for such thoughts and prayers in the way we would at a funeral.

The former Bishop of Tonbridge, Brian Castle, is a bit of an expert in reconciliation and he’s written recently that the UK can’t reconcile yet. He says “reconciliation can only happen when the roar of battle has died down, when all involved regard themselves as equals (there can be no victims when pursuing reconciliation) and when people can talk about their hopes, aspirations and fears.” He also says it needs all parties to be open to change for the sake of the other. If we rush to reconcile, we won’t let the wound truly be clean before it heals over.

B: My prayer is that our churches will be able to model how to disagree well: how to keep our hearts, minds and arms open to embrace others despite the uncertainty and despite the hurt. We need to build a future now in which Remainers and Leavers can come together as one nation. I can only promise to try to do my bit.

D: Amen to that.