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Vicar's Letter for this month

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Dear Friends,
I am writing this month’s letter in the days following our recent Annual Meeting. I want to highlight some of the comments I made then. For some of you, this will just serve as a reminder; for others, it may help keep you connected with what is happening at church.

May I thank all those who attended the meeting, particularly those who joined via Zoom. The problems with the sound via Zoom that day made for a very frustrating start to the meeting. Thank you for bearing with us as we tried to resolve the problems. I think if we face another APCM in such circumstances (and I’m praying we don’t!), we will not attempt dual mode!

I’m delighted that after a ‘baptism by fire’ in these past eight months, our newly elected churchwardens are continuing. I’m sure you will agree they have done a remarkable job amidst all the challenges of these times. I’m also very grateful to those who have agreed to serve or continue on the PCC and on Deanery Synod. We still have one vacancy on the Deanery Synod – please let me know if you would be interested.

This was our first APCM since the death of Meg Widdicombe. We remembered Meg with great affection and thankfulness for all she contributed to our church over so many years, and the faith and friendship we shared with her.

We looked back on another difficult and challenging year for our church family. Our church has not been able to worship together now since the first lockdown in March 2020. We have been split into different groups – ‘Zoomers’ and ‘non-Zoomers’, Zoomers and those in church, plus those worshipping via other means from home. There has been the loss of fellowship; the challenges of care for one another, when we can’t meet up, can’t give a hug, hold a hand, or visit. These simple things we all took for granted, we will now have to almost re-learn! We have had to get to grips with new technology that some of us had never used. Thankfully, over the months we have grown in confidence and learned new skills.

Covid 19 and lockdown has inevitably had an impact on already strained finances. May I particularly thank all our planned givers, who have carried on giving throughout this time. You have helped keep our church going, as have those who have been making voluntary contributions over past months. We are so grateful. Without your help, we would be in a serious financial situation. May I urge those not already signed up to planned giving, to give this serious consideration.

Amongst the challenges, there has been plenty to thank God for:  

The generous legacy we have received – a wonderful gift which came just when it was most needed. The PCC is not rushing decisions about how to use this money. However, we are working on some ideas. Contact is ongoing with Juliet Hemingray over a new altar frontal and banners, in their memory, for Advent and Lent. This is the company that produced our white and green banners and frontals. This gift has enabled us to buy resources and booklets for the Bible Course in Lent, and the various booklets we have been delivering to you all to use at Christmas, Lent, and during ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ – the special time of prayer between Ascension and Pentecost.

The new Pastoral Care Group has finally got off the ground! This group has been a huge support to me in making phone calls and doing some doorstep visits to church members over past months.

The Lent Course on The Bible - 18 of us from CHOGS, plus a member from St Luke’s took part. This must be a record attendance for a Lent Course! Most of those taking part wanted to continue studying the Bible. We have now launched our Bible Book Club, with 2 groups meeting once a fortnight. It has got off to a cracking start! Anyone would be welcome to join us.

The new ‘Shine’ service for our young families – This has made such a difference during these long months without our usual worship and activities for children and young people on a Sunday morning. Thank you to those who have made these services possible.

Little Fishes (our service for pre-school children and their families) has managed to meet between lockdowns, and has just resumed. This provides a much-needed group for those with young children. Our Little Fishes leaders have been doing a wonderful job in challenging times.

It continues to be hard to plan with any certainty. At the last APCM we thought we might be heading back to normality – we didn’t. We are all hoping that the date in June may bring an end to restrictions, but now the Indian variant is making that uncertain too. We don’t know how and when this will all end.

I hope that now restrictions are lifting, and some of us are back at church -  that, as more people get vaccinated, or begin to feel more confident, we will see more people ‘in person’ there. For now, we continue dual mode. Please bear with us. We are doing all we can to hold together the needs of two different groups within the same service and the technical hitches which arise.

It is over a year since some of you have had Communion. I am now offering to bring communion to those who would like it, in people’s gardens – weather permitting – or inside your homes. Do let me know if you would like to be added to the list.  Even better, if you can get together with friends or neighbours from church so that I can come to a small group of you, that would be helpful. Please ensure that you keep within current rules.

One of the priorities I see for when most of us  are back at church, will be re-building community. It is now well over a year since we were all together in church. Some of us have been in close contact through Zoom services, but some people we haven’t seen for a long time. There will be a lot of catching up to do. It will be wonderful to be back together again. We will need time to settle back together as a community, to listen to one another’s stories of this past year, to renew old friendships and to grow new ones. We may need to review and reassess priorities in the light of this experience. I don’t want us just to get back to ‘normal’ – but rather, to create a new and better normal! So, we pray, come Holy Spirit.

With love and prayers to you all,

Joan