From the Vicar
So much has happened since my last letter for the April/May magazine that it’s hard to know where to start!. At the time I wrote (mid-March) we were just in the process of entering into lockdown and I commented then on how Easter would be very different this year…and so it was. No public gatherings for worship for the first time in 800 years… But you can’t hold a good man down, can you, and so whether at home on TV, radio, skype, we celebrated the wonderful news of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, albeit socially distanced from one another (of course).
I was attending a webinar (for those of you unfamiliar with the term, a webinar is a seminar on the web) organised by the Church of England recently on welcoming people back to our churches. One of the contributors (a Vicar in London) spoke of seeing Jesus’ death and resurrection as offering an interesting parallel for our times. For just as Jesus’ resurrected body had a continuity with the past (the disciples could recognise him at times), it was also in some ways different (Jesus could come and go through locked doors, for example). And so, this Vicar said, that is like a metaphor for the church arising out of the current pandemic. There will be some sense of continuity with the past, but life will also be different in some ways. And I guess we may all be aware of some of the ways that is already true. For example, online services, where we have had over 40 people online at different times, or online Alpha courses (such as the one we have recently finished). It’s worship, it’s the Alpha course, but in a very different way to what we have been used to. And some of those changes may carry on as we continue to move out of lockdown. We will be continuing our Sunday morning Zoom service until at least September (do contact me if you want the link). Our next Alpha course this autumn (see elsewhere for details) will be held online. And at PCC we have talked about meeting online through at least the colder months of the year.
But the coronavirus will also influence other ways we do things as a church. So, whilst we have now resumed our services at 8am on Sundays and 10am on Wednesdays, we cannot currently share a common cup for communion or to sing together. I appreciate that may be deeply frustrating for some of us, and hopefully that is one change which will not last, but whilst it does we face choices. Will we return to worship in the church building or stay worshipping at home? Perhaps the church of the future is not only going to be a mixed economy in terms of offering traditional services and fresh expressions of church but also a mixed economy in terms of both offering physical and online services. Just as we are moving away from giving envelopes and cash on the plate to the Parish Giving Scheme (direct debits), our contactless giving machine, and website giving page (https://givealittle.co/campaigns/678f5f44-1515-41a5-a48b-794292e44c15), so further changes are I believe inevitable. Facing such changes is never an easy thing for us to deal with us as human beings (all of us find change difficult in different ways) but as we respond to such change we can do so in the knowledge that ‘Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8).
May God bless you, your families and loved ones, and watch over you in these challenging times.
Pioneer Team Rector
‘Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint’ (Isaiah 40: 31)
The core team of clergy and local missional leaders from our four churches have been thinking and praying the last couple of months, and agreed that the above will be our new team verse for the remainder of this year and moving into the next. I hope you will agree that this seems a very appropriate verse at present. We all need a sense of hope at the current time, and Isaiah assures us that if we hope in the Lord, we will renew our strength. That we will run and not grow weary, that we will walk and not be faint.
I don’t know about you but I have been feeling weary in recent weeks – wearied by the ongoing challenge of living life under restrictions, wearied by the challenge of maintaining church online and offline, wearied to some extent by the predictability of daily life. I haven’t always felt like this – during the first month of lockdown, life was quite exhilarating, finding new ways of working and doing new things (like Alpha) online. But, after 4 months of that, I am feeling weary. Maybe you are too? In which case, it’s important to remember that we need to put our hope and trust in the Lord, for he will renew our strength.
One of the things which I have mentioned in my team letters from time to time is the role of Team Treasurer. I have largely been doing this (by default) since Jan Plimmer stood down as Team Administrator at the end of 2017. I’m attaching a role description and person specification to this letter (link). It’s not a huge job, I estimate it takes 1-2 hours per week so if you think you might be able to help, please do let me know.
It’s good to note that this month all of our Team churches will have reopened, with St.Philip’s commencing worship again on 16th and 30th August, and St.James’ re-opening on 23rd and 30th August. St.Mary’s continues to open on Sunday mornings for Communion at 8am, and on Wednesday mornings at 10am, whilst St.Paul’s currently is open at 10.30a.m. on Sundays. If you have not yet ventured back to church, perhaps this month is a good month to consider doing that, however I appreciate that not everyone will feel ready to do that yet.
Finally, looking ahead to 2021, the core team are proposing a Team Celebration Communion Service on Sunday 16 May (the nearest Sunday to Ascension Day, when our team was officially launched back in 2014). An opportunity to gather as team churches around the Lord’s Table to be fed and nourished by him and, all being well, to share food together afterwards.
With my best wishes and prayers. Jeremy Tear, Pioneer Team Rector
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ST Mary's Church of England
Liverpool Road, Great Sankey,
Warrington WA5 1RE