Re-opening our church buildings

We are pleased to be able to announce that our church buildings in West Malling and Offham will re-open for Public Worship from Sunday, the 14th of March 2021: Mothering Sunday.

Having consulted with our Churchwardens, our local Retired Clergy, Lay Ministers and PCCs to canvass opinions, together we have agreed that we feel now is the right time to re-open.

While we were always confident in our risk assessment and the safety of Public Worship (with our Covid-19 restrictions) throughout this closure, it felt right to suspend gatherings because of the grave situation for the country as a whole. In solidarity with all those other organisations, businesses and charities that were not allowed to open, we also closed our doors and continued via online worship only.

With the Government’s roadmap now established and an increasing number of sectors starting to re-open, we feel the time is now right to resume Public Worship. We will follow the same pattern that was in place from July to Christmas last year with services on Sunday in West Malling and Offham and one on Wednesday (using the BCP) in West Malling. 2m distancing, face coverings, no congregational singing and all other Covid-safety restrictions are still in place. As the year progresses, and if things further improve, we may be given permission to relax some of those restrictions.

We are also aware that an increasing number of people have had their first vaccination and now we are at a point nationally where anyone over 56 years of age has the chance to receive it. That doesn’t yet help your Vicar (!) but it does help a good proportion of the various congregations.

At Offham, sadly we must continue with the eight household limit and a fortnightly rota of attendance. The Churchwardens will be in touch about that with members of St Michael’s. At St Mary’s, the limit is 26 households and the expectation is that there should be no need to book ahead given the greater capacity.

No-one should feel obliged to attend if they wish to take a more cautious approach. We will continue to offer Online Worship for those who would still like to worship with us in that way – whether because of their circumstances, or out of understandable caution for their health and the health of others.

If you have any questions or comments you wish to make, please do contact us in the usual way. If you are in need in any way, please do ask for help. We will be very pleased to help and speak with you.

Rev David Green
10 March 2021
on behalf of himself, the Churchwardens and PCCs
of West Malling and Offham

A warm welcome to Amy

Amy Southby

Amy Southby

At the start of November, St Mary’s and St Michael’s welcomed Amy Southby as our new Cluster Administrator to support Rev David, our Churchwardens and the organisational side of church life.

In a development of the role, the Pilsdon at Malling Community have also partnered with us and the rest of the Cluster. Amy will work with West Malling, Offham and Pilsdon while a second administrator (as yet unannounced) will work with Kings Hill, Wateringbury, Mereworth and West Peckham.

Before taking on this role, Amy worked predominantly in the recruitment industry. She studied at the University of the Arts in London and holds a BA Honours degree in Journalism. In recent years  Amy moved away from office-based positions and worked for the Royal British Legion as a carer for elderly veterans; something she found very rewarding.

Amy lives in Aylesford with her two children aged 11 and 6, her cat and her dog.

Amy says of herself:

Having worked in administration and as a carer, I decided that I wanted to find a role that encompassed elements of both job roles. As much as I enjoy working in administration, I missed interaction with people. So, when the Cluster Administrator job advert popped up on my computer, I didn’t hesitate to apply. I am very much looking forward to meeting everybody and getting to know all the faces that make up St Mary’s and St Michael’s.”

Advent and Christmas 2020

The impact of Coronavirus on our world will have a major impact on our plans for Advent and Christmas 2020. Many of the time-honoured traditions of our worship and celebrations at Christmas will have to adapt to the changes in our circumstances.

We remain committed to celebrating Christmas, the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, as fully as possible. However we are also committed to being loving neighbours and responsible members of our local communities and want to ensure everyone is kept safe and healthy.

** update about Tier 4 **

Kent is now in Tier 4 and while Government have said churches can open for communal worship, Rev David has written a letter (and recorded a video) to provide some pastoral guidance and advice as you ponder whether to attend.

Dates for the diary

What’s happening and what’s not happening this year?

A photo of the choir from the Carol Service at Offham, 2012Wed 23 Dec, 8.00 pm
Live-streamed Carol online service from St Michael’s, Offham

St Michael’s, Offham
We live-streamed a special service on our YouTube channel for all those who wished to take part in our Carol Service for 2020. From the beautiful, ancient church of St Michael’s we hosted a candle-lit evening service of Christmas readings and carols with our Director of Music Stewart Biggs, guest Choirmaster Richard King leading a special guest choir.

If you missed the service on the night, you can still watch it on catch-up via YouTube. If you want to sing along, an Order of Service is available to download with all the words of the carols.

Congregation, St Mary's, Christingle 2011Thu 24 Dec, 4.00 pm
Pre-recorded Christingle online service with nativity from St Mary’s, West Malling

St Mary’s, West Malling
Although the highly popular Christmas Eve Christingle cannot take place in church this year, we hosted a special Christingle service on our YouTube channel on Christmas Eve.

Rev David spoke about the Christingle, our Sunday School presented their special Zoom nativity, while Richard Hammond-Hall and St Mary’s Choir recorded the Christmas Carols for us to sing along.

The words of the Carols will appear on screen but, if you want to do so, you can download an Order of Service so you can sing along from home.

Fri 25 Dec, 8.00 am
Holy Communion (BCP) in church

St Mary’s, West Malling
Traditional language, reflective and quiet Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion service. This service will be ticketed. 21 households maximum capacity. To book, please contact us.

Small girl, St Mary's, Christingle 2011Fri 25 Dec, 9.15 am
All-Age Communion service in church

St Michael’s, Offham
Child-friendly Eucharist service to celebrate Christmas Day. The children are encouraged to bring one of their presents to ‘show and tell’ as part of the service. This service will be ticketed. 8 households maximum capacity. To book, please contact us.

Fri 25 Dec, 10.00 am
All-Age Communion service in church

St Mary’s, West Malling
Child-friendly Eucharist service to celebrate Christmas Day. The children are encouraged to bring one of their presents to ‘show and tell’ as part of the service. This service will be ticketed. 21 households maximum capacity. To book, please contact us.

Fri 25 Dec, from 7.30 am
Christmas Day Online Worship

For those unable to come to church in person this year, an act of Online Worship will also be available on Christmas Day. You can log on anytime from 7.30 a.m. onwards to take part.

Sun 27 Dec, 10.00 am
Benefice Service for first Sunday after Christmas in church

St Mary’s, West Malling
There is no 8 am at St Mary’s or 9.15 at St Michael’s on this Sunday. Instead, we come together as one congregation for a joint Benefice service. Canon Alan Vousden will be leading and we gather at St Mary’s, West Malling. This service will be ticketed. 21 households maximum capacity. To book, please contact us.

There will also be an act of Online Worship available from 7.30 a.m. for those who are unable to come to church in person.

 

What is not happening this year

For the avoidance of any doubt, here’s the list of things we are sadly unable to host in 2020.

  • The Christmas Tree Festival (St Mary’s, West Malling)
  • The West Malling Community Choir Christmas Concert (St Mary’s, West Malling)
  • The Heart of Kent Hospice Christmas Concert (St Mary’s, West Malling)
  • Carols in the Pub (Kings Arms, Offham with St Michael’s, Offham)
  • Christingle services in both churches (although there will be a service online)
  • Midnight Communion on Christmas Eve (St Mary’s, West Malling)

Welcome back to St Michael’s, Offham

We are delighted to be able to announce that we are re-opening St Michael’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 things brief.

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 five households. If you’ve watched the video (above) and are coming on your own, we may be able to take more than five 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

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
Incumbent

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
Incumbent

Annual meetings 2020

Photo by idono from FreeImages

Between March and May each year, 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.

Unfortunately, because of Coronavirus, St Mary’s, West Malling was not able to complete its APCM in the usual timescale and the meeting will now take place via Zoom on the 21st of October.

If you have not received details of the Zoom call via a letter or email, please contact us to be sent details.

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 21st of October.

Annual Report downloads

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

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