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Drawing showing the extent of the Anglican Benefice of Seaview, St Helens, Brading & Yaverland on the Isle of Wight

Benefice Blog 2020

Winter Lockdown on the Isle of Wight

I am watching the Covid update as I write this and have made the decision that our regular Sunday services will not be happening in January. 

We will be reviewing this decision in the next few weeks but given the present steep rise in cases (for the first time) on the IOW we would like to show our love for you all, and for our wonderful volunteers who prepare the services for you, by not putting you at risk. We have been given the authority by the Bishop to make local decisions on this and this is what seems most relevant to the Haven Benefice. The churches remain open for private prayer and I would like to thank all the people who help this to happen. 

This is a dark month, and a hard one for many. Be assured that we will be available at all times for you, so call if you would like a chat or need anything during this Tier 4 lockdown. We continue to develop our pastoral response but do please bare with us as we work out how to do this safely.

At every turn of this pandemic we have been in new situations; in the initial lockdown our rates on the Island were very low but now there appears to be a more significant risk. As things change so do we, and we will be opening the Market in Brading in February with a new format and increasing our therapeutic and spiritual offering in line with the regulations as well. We are developing our outside spaces ready for spring and socially distanced gatherings as we continue to 'Do justly, seek mercy and walk humbly with our God', and look to a long term future for the church's witness in the world. 

Many plans for our churches continue and we look forward to a year of hope as we take the best of what we have learnt; about caring for each other, community resilience and environmental responsibility and step into God's future together.  

Call me if you need me, we are here for you.

God Bless

Ali

30 December 2020

Happy Advent

The following View from the Vicarage was written prior to the cancellation of the planned Outdoor Christmas Services.

The time of year when the church calendar seems most out of step with the world around it is Advent. In our present culture the time leading up to Christmas is seen as a time for shopping, partying and indulging while in the church, like Lent, it is a time of fasting and contemplation, for patient waiting.

Yesterday I witnessed another world or opposites while watching the news. As lock down is lifted there was a mad rush to get to the shops and the pervading wisdom is to get us all spending to ‘save the economy’. People queuing and leaving the shops laden with commodities, doing their duty as consumers. The next item was the UN secretary general and Sir David Attenborough explaining the realities of our global warming and the need to reduce carbon emissions drastically as they showed scenes of forest fires and hurricanes. It is shocking that there was no comment and no link between the two pieces, no recognition that rampant consumption is the problem causing the depletions of the worlds resources, the waste of precious energy and mountains of rubbish.... and the solution is to stop shopping!

This year has once again seen Christians in America making a mockery of the  faith and the scandals of the past continue to undermine peoples confidence in  the church. But sometimes it is important to look at what the religion offers the  world at this time and see that it has a deeper wisdom and spirituality that can heal and encourage. Advent offers just such a witness as it teaches us limitation, patience, stillness and peace. In a spiritual journey through Advent we learn that our true contentment and joy are found within us and in the gift of life that we have been given, we learn that the love of our neighbour and our God is truly all that we need. Christmas then becomes the celebration of life in all its fulness and of Hope for the future.

The services for Christmas are limited this year with carol singing only allowed outside but there are Christmas Eucharists and services leading up to Christmas as shown on the plan. There will also be two outside family Christmas services on Christmas Eve with a nativity at St Mary's Brading at 3pm and a Christmas Service in the garden at St Peter's Seaview at 4pm. There will be an Evening ‘Midnight Mass’ at 9pm at St Peter's and at St Mary's at 11.30pm and Christmas day services in St Mary's and St Peter's.

We will also be holding a Christmas market in the Eco Market in Brading church hall on the 12th December where we support a green economy by selling local crafts, sustainable hampers and preloved nearly new gifts.

In all this we continue to offer a welcome for all and look forward to a year of  encouragement as we follow Jesus in his promise of the Kingdom of Love on earth.

God Bless

Rev Ali

December 2020

A Community Committed to a New Future

As I write this Autumn has suddenly descended and for all its beauty and calm there is the growing sense of unease that we are headed towards a hard winter, a confusing one and a time of fear and loneliness for some. With all its trails our summer lockdown had many things to ease the hardship; glorious weather, clarity of instructions and the knowledge that we were all ’in the same boat’. This winter we are going to have to show a much deeper and more individual resilience and find a balance of life that is flexible enough to accept the challenges as they arise. I have included in our latest Parish Magazine a piece from the Spiritual teacher Richard Rohr that helps with this, it is from the Christian tradition, but the wisdom is universal.

This magazine also reflects the difficulties that many of our focal charities and community organisations are facing, both in their inability to meet and financially. Please remember that there are continuing overheads for all our community buildings even if they are having to remain closed and so many fundraising opportunities have been missed. In the churches we have a major deficit in the Diocesan budget that will have long term effects on ministerial appointments and increase pressure to close churches. To be frank and clear, in the Portsmouth Diocese we are nearly £2,000,000 short out of a budget of seven million and the bulk of the income each year is from the ‘Share’ paid from your local churches, that in this benefice amounts to £70,000 a year. This is the money that we need to raise from out congregations and coffee mornings before we even begin to pay for our overheads and maintain our beautiful listed buildings. This is clearly unstainable in the current climate and so we are looking to make big changes and look to ways in which we can be creative and imaginative with what we have so that we have resilience into the future.

The reason for our passionate longing for churches to remain in the heart of our communities is so that they may be a place of calm and peace, and of challenge and hope. For this reason, we are committed to keeping all or churches open during the day and continuing the new rota of Sunday services. We hope that even with limited local lockdowns we will be able to continue this and warmly invite you to pop in to see a friendly face. We are also committed to resisting fear and looking to a new future for us all; one in which we accept the limitations of a environmentally aware new normal that reduces our impact on the natural world and enjoys a return to lives rich in time, relationships and creativity. For this reason, the Benefice market at St Mary's stocks the Local, Organic, Animal friendly and Fairtrade (LOAF) store cupboard and plastic free household essentials we need, and the clothes and useful items we can share.

It encourages crafting and ‘pickling’ in the conversations we share, finding joy in knowing that we have skills to clothe ourselves and grow and store our food. It is a model for a just trading environment and an advocate for lives where we live peacefully through sharing and in community. We are also continuing to live our hope for the future as money already committed is spent on refurbishing St Helen's church. This is so that those visiting the graveyard and using the building for community gatherings and services can have the convenience of a toilet and somewhere to make refreshments. In St Helens the community centre is being renovated by the Community payback team, and they are doing a great job for which we are really grateful and the committee have worked hard to ensure that the Covid risk assessments are in place so it is open again for hire; as is the chapel for private prayer and the Wednesday communions. At St Peter's we are looking to develop the Undercroft as a residential dwelling to bring in some much-needed income to support the ongoing upkeep of the church hall and church. Added to this a community orchard being planted in Brading (maybe with sheep to keep down the grass and give us wool and mutton!), a community herb garden and the church is developed to display the history of Brading..... and finally there is the enrichment of the small and peaceful Yaverland church thanks to our associate Priest Rev Barry and family with a hospitality area where travellers can make a  cuppa and a peaceful prayer garden to sit in.

All this is done through a fugal approach; reusing, recycling and accepting gratefully the gift of volunteer time and financial donations.

If this looks like something you want to be part of then do get in touch, we are gathering from all walks of life and diverse faith as we become a community committed to a new future. Pop in to the Market at St Mary's and say hello (the afternoons are quietest).

Jesus said, ‘Do not be afraid’ .....

God Bless,

Rev Ali

October 2020

Loving Kindness

The great universality of the concept of ‘One God’ who is the parent to all people is a gift of Christianity that it has never been able to live up to. It means that all humanity are brother and sister to each other and that there can be no elevated status or sense of superiority; no segregation, discrimination or racism.

During the COVID pandemic, for a brief moment this sense of kinship erupted and loving kindness became a dominant theme in pcople’s lives. The churches, the statutory agencies and the volunteer networks in our rural community expected to be overrun with calls for help from lonely and isolated people, but the phones did not ring. In close inspection it appeared that there was an outpouring of neighbourliness. As people were furloughed and were not required to work it seemed that all we needed to take care of each other was time.

There was also a sudden and overwhelming thankfulness for those people who were judged by society to be essential. The carers, the healthcare workers, rubbish clearers, the cleaners, delivery drivers, farmers, horticulturalists and grocery shop assistants. This has led to some people reviewing their lives, jobs and priorities and even prompted a call for a shift in our education system. For a brief moment, as we confronted a fearful viral enemy, we remembered things that we have always known, like... it is not your achievements, but character that matters, that it is not things, but relationships, not charisma but kindness, not wealth but spiritual riches that will pull us through.

This wave of kindness is a terribly fragile thing, it is a whisper drowned out by the rowdy machine of commerce and the chattering demands of our egos.

But all these fruits of kindness are the basic stuff of the Christian faith, they are the teachings of Jesus that have been ‘thrown out with the bathwater’ by current generations who are unable to stomach doctrinal impossibilities and religious hypocrisy. Post-COVID, the church can retain the remembrance of this time of kindness in its teaching and living and it is time for the church to speak out boldly for equality and the worth of every person in the very fabric of its intuitional life.

For this reason there must be and will be changes in the churches.... Good ones! Changes that I hope we will all enjoy and that will support the building of the kinds of communities that we dream of living in, long into the future.

Watch this space and read on!

God Bless

Ali

August 2020

St Mary's Market

St Mary's Market 1

St Mary's Market 2

'A revolutionary concept market offering local people a space to acquire the basic goods that we need to sustain and nurture ourselves, while at the same time caring for other people and the planet by leading more simple lives’.

It is a church led community enterprise inspired by the teachings of Jesus.… it is also hard to explain so come and see us and if you have clothes or useful bits or books to donate we would love them.

See you there

Ali
x

19 July 2020

St Mary's Market 3

St Mary's Market 4

St Mary's Market 5

St Mary's Market 6

ST MARY'S MARKET

a church led community enterprise inspired by the teachings of Jesus
St Mary's market is a revolutionary concept market offering local people a space to acquire the basic goods that we need to sustain and nurture ourselves while at the same time caring for other people and the planet by leading more simple lives.

We aim to sell, swap and barter only fairly traded, locally produced, organic, or donated items which will contribute to a zero-waste or circular model of economics

Locally grown fresh vegetables
Preloved  clothes and bric-a-brac
Donated books for sale or swap
Fairtrade and organic store cupboard basics
A refill point for essential household cleaning and soap products without plastic waste
A place for local people to showcase their creations

The market is run by volunteers and welcomes everyone interested in helping at the market or on other church ventures. We invite all volunteers to become involved in the collective management and decision-making for this initiative.

This is a non-commercial enterprise run by the local church.  Any profits will be used to develop St Mary's as a place for prayer, learning, inspiration and sharing.

The market will be a place to encourage localisation, self-reliance, low-impact living, and the sharing of creative talents in our community. Look out for workshops, classes, films and speakers to support our efforts to lead lives that inspire us and others as we are first inspired - by God.

Please click the button below if you would like to support the work of St Mary's Market by making a secure online donation by debit or credit card.

DONATE
ONLINE

'Live simply that others may simply live' - Mahatma Gandhi
'If we want to be at peace we will have to waste less, spend less, use less, want less, need less' - Wendell Berry
'I have come that they may have Life, and have it abundantly' - Jesus

Our Churches REOPEN tomorrow - 14th June

Many of us felt that the closing of the rural churches in our small towns and villages was something that was unnecessary and lacked a full understanding of the place of our buildings in the life of the community. But, now they are open again.

This pandemic has made me think deeply about the place of the church in our communities and its role in the rebuilding of our common lives. As I went round and gave them all a good root tidy and clean up ready for the wonderful church cleaners and flowers arrangers to safely enter and make them beautiful. I was deeply moved by the stability and grounded nature of the spirituality that they bare witness to. Human lives have changed dramatically around them; our meaning, as living breathing people, has changed on the surface and in our day to day existence. From the Normans who built Brading church to the Victorians that built in Seaview human history is documented, the ‘progress’ of our western society to this the pinnacle of opulence written in their walls.

But some things just don’t change …. EVER. The human need for a place to celebrate and mourn, the relentless seeking after meaning and the desire to help others, are all raising to the surface, emerging from a culture swamped by greedy quick fixes and easy answers.

To a world looking for deeper answers I say come with us for we are ‘followers of the way’ (as the first disciples were called). Our churches sole purpose is the remembrance of a man called Jesus who told us of the primary importance of every life and of all life. A man whose teaching on justice and human well-being is unsurpassed. A man who inspired a movement for peace and reconciliation, for simplicity and Joy that has never quite been swamped by the corrupt power of Christendom and the establishment created in His name. Like the first followers we say that he has not died but lives on through us in spirit; our lifes work is to strive to live the love of ourselves, our neighbours and our enemies that he taught us was the Love of God.

So we throw open the Doors … literally and metaphorically and say Welcome; to all from every strata of society, every creed and colour, every expression of loving relationship and gender, young and old, ‘sinner and saint’! These churches, graveyards and gardens are tended for you.

We are here… A place of stillness and contemplation; as we listen in the ‘sound of utter silence’ for the guidance of Gods spirit deep within us.

We are here….. Standing in the graveyard honouring a life that has passed as the birds sing and the grass grows beneath our feet; the relentlessness gift of life calls us to lift our heads in the midst of grief.

We are here…. working for Global enviromental justice as we learn to tend our own God given patch of earth and tread lightly on the precious lives of others.

The Churches are OPEN…. Alleluia!!!!!!!

God Bless

Ali

13 June 2020

Please click here for further information including opening times.

This Month's Article for Brading Buzz

St Mary's Church

It has been a huge sadness for us that we have had to close the church during this crisis, but I do hope that some of you have been able to enjoy our outside spaces as this beautiful spring has unfolded. The community garden is being tended and is there for you to enjoy. The mange tout peas are ready to pick and the ruby chard and tomatoes will not be far behind…. oh and if you are lucky there may be a strawberry! Remember this is is a ‘Garden for You’, come and harvest (and weed!) and sit under the shade of the birch tree; make yourself at home. 

We are also working to get the new ‘St Mary's Meadow’ open for you. The entrance will be through the graveyard to the field that leads to the stream. We have some fencing and a compost dog bin and some strimming to do and then it will be another place for you to ‘get out of the house’ and meet a friend in the safety of the outdoors. Bring your garden chairs, the children and a picnic; do you remember lying in the grass making daisy chains and watching beetles and butterflies? Bring your paints and your knitting or just stretch out and sunbathe. We have all learnt so much during this time of enforced stillness as we have cared for each other and had time to notice ourselves and our environment. Everything that we do in and around the church will continue to remind us that our neighbours are precious to us, that our local environment is a fragile gift and that life is something to be truly thankful for and celebrated. There will be lots of new things happening… watch this space.

Photograph of the New Entrance from the Graveyard into the Field

The new entrance from the graveyard into the field

One thing that has been a huge blow, however for the church, due to this crisis, and on through the rest of this year, has been our financial position. For years the loyal and generous congregation have kept the church building maintained but as we look into the future that will no longer be the case. The historic building of St Mary’s and the graveyard maintenance costs approximately £20,000 a year with insurance, grass cutting, yearly repairs and a contingency for the bigger jobs on the fabric of the building. Each church in the country is an independent charity that receives no financial help from the central church. In order to secure the future of the church for the town the Friends of St Mary's was formed and all the money raised goes to pay for these maintenance costs. None of the money goes to the vicar or towards the services or the diocese… it all stays in your town to protect your beautiful church for the future. All of the fundraising activities that had been planned, and the regular giving, has been decimated by this pandemic and the future looks seriously uncertain. If just 200 people pledged £10 a month… £2.50 a week….. then we could meet those costs and the church would be safe. Please consider helping. There are leaflets outside the church with membership and direct debit details or you could easily set up a standing order now, with your name as the reference, to the account 20-79-31, 10205842 and we could sort the paperwork for your membership later. (email revamorley(at)gmail(dot)com or txt 07500007437 to let me know)

Everything that we are planning and dreaming about is for you, because God is not a distant imaginary being, but the Spirit of Life that we all share and is in All Things. The church celebrates life, witnesses to the of lives of the past and holds our memory as we die; it cherishes our well-being and is here for us when we are lost or lonely…… It is here for you.

See you in the garden!

God Bless.

Ali

3 June 2020

What if? 2

What if gatherings of under 10 people were allowed in the Autumn?

What would this mean for our gathering in worship and prayer? What would it mean for Eucharistic worship? how could those still isolated be part of any gathering for worship that may begin?

The first thing that must be said is that here in our rural benefice we are used to gathering in small groups. I joke that ‘there is always twelve’, at our gatherings and groups. Across all that we do and the variation of people who attend weekly or monthly that is a considerable number of people but not all at once. So what could this limitation on numbers look like for our lives in the Parishes that builds on what we already have but recognises that some things will have to change.

I don’t want to preempt many of the long term effects of this crisis in these musing but look just to maybe September. I also would like to see this as an opportunity to create things that we love to do, events that are foundational to our lived discipleship and that offer a brave new freshness to our offering to the communities we live in. This is just new shoots, who knows the shape of the plant that will grow!

We could offer daily week day communion services along the lines of the Wednesday morning services that some people have found so encouraging in the past. These could be at 10am in a rotation round the churches and people could book to come or attend as a regular. They would be a said service of a maximum of 35mins and vary in feel and liturgy as the groups desired and in collaboration.

NOTE… I dont think that resuming Sunday morning worship would be good for a while. With a limited number of people allowed this might prove to be very painful for those who can't attend. I suggest that one of the midweek services is recorded and put out on line on a Sunday and the community gathers around this in solidarity with those who we love and can't yet commune with. It would also be wonderful if home communion could resume during the week. 

We could resume our theology, book and prayer groups in the evenings if we wished with people booking in to come so numbers could be managed.

Morning prayer could resume in the churches… lay led and using different liturgies if wished, having a diversity of tone.

Saturday evening meals. Drawing on the tradition of the Sabbath when a celebration meal is shared before entering in to 24hrs of ‘practicing the art of rest’. These meals could be themed and act as a substitute for Ecochurch and coffee gatherings. They could include times of discussion and even sharing of crafts in the form of an ‘after dinner speaker’ and would contain agape prayers similar to the ones I have shared on the Eco-Church Blog. They could happen weekly in different parts of the Benefice with people booking to come to just one a month. They should be lay lead and created and utilize the wonderful facilities that we have.

I boldly add the thought that this would leave us with Sunday as a completely free day!!!!!!!! A day of REST a Sabbath unto the Lord. This could be a day when we take all that we have learnt in this time isolation and withdraw from society, commerce and the digital world…. imagine the discipline and joy of that.

God Bless

Ali

21 May 2020

Thinking about our churches and our lives based on the most recent advice from the government for workplaces
It seems to me that if we look at our places of worship as workplaces, and our congregations and volunteers as employees, we can begin to build a picture of how we might move forward as the alert level changes to 2 and we move to Step 3. It gives us some firm recommendations to build on that have a universality across society and helps to build confidence while avoiding knee jerk reactions that would unnecessarily inhibit our emergence from lock-down.
 
Diagram showing Steps of Adjustment to current social distancing measures
 
The advice from all sections is various and confusing (as in necessarily will be) so we need to use our own initiative and our common sense, based on professional advice, and our individual situations and locality.
 
I have trawled the government sites and the extensive documentation and have found the following that may help us as we move forward. Whatever the Government and the national and local church say, we have a distinctive location and demographic and our move out of lockdown must take into consideration the considerable needs and legitimate concerns of our congregations and the Parishes we serve.
 
It is very important that we obey the Law and our Diocesan directives, but it is also important that we emerge with a plan that is compassionate and appropriate for our Benefice.
 
Our demographic in the churches and that of those whom we often serve means that we need to develop ideas with the vulnerability of people as a primary concern. In the medium term as a nervousness about ‘public’ mass gathering is likely to remain, we also need to look to the wider community and the worldwide context to see how we can emerge with a radically new way of witnessing to the gospel that moves away from social gatherings. Re-energising safe pastoral care, being part of the sustainable rebuilding of our communities and being a living witness to the teachings of Jesus are surely all part of our ongoing mission but in a different form to that which we have previously known.
 
This  link will take you to a report detailing the UK Government's Covid-19 recovery strategy that is helping me to envisage a safe future for us…….
 
Ali
 
14 May 2020
 
From the above  report….
 
Since mid-April an extensive programme of engagement has been underway between Government, the Health and Safety Executive, the public health authorities, business representative groups, unions, employers and local authorities, to agree the best way to make workplaces less infectious.
 
The guidelines will be based on sound evidence – from what has worked elsewhere in the world, and the best available scientific theory. The most important guidelines people can follow to stay safer outside their homes are attached at Annex A. For example:
  • Individuals should keep their distance from people outside their household, wherever possible. Transmission is affected by both duration and proximity of contact; individuals should not be too close to other people for more than a short amount of time. Public Health England recommends trying to keep two metres away from people as a precaution.
  • It remains essential to keep hands and face as clean as possible. People should wash their hands often, using soap and water, and dry them thoroughly. Touching of the face should be avoided. Hand sanitiser should be carried when travelling and applied where available outside the home, especially when entering a building and following contact with surfaces. Clothes should also be washed regularly, as there is some evidence that the virus can stay on fabrics.
  • It is possible to reduce the risks of transmission in the workplace by limiting the number of people that any given individual comes into contact with regularly. Employers can support this where practical by changing shift patterns and rotas to keep smaller, contained teams. Evidence also suggests the virus is less likely to be transmitted in well-ventilated areas.
In addition to COVID-19 Secure guidelines for workplaces, the Government will consult on and release similar guidelines for schools, prisons, and other public spaces.
 
7. Annex A: Staying safe outside your home
 
This guidance sets out the principles you should follow to ensure that time spent with others outside your homes is as safe as possible (unless you are clinically vulnerable or extremely vulnerable in which case you should follow separate advice on GOV.UK.) It is your responsibility to adopt these principles wherever possible. The Government is also using these principles as the basis of discussions with businesses, unions, local government and many other stakeholders to agree how they should apply in different settings to make them safer. All of us, as customers, visitors, employees or employers, need to make changes to lower the risk of transmission of the virus. The Government has consulted with its scientific advisers to establish the principles that will determine these changes.
 
Keep your distance from people outside your household, recognising this will not always be possible. The risk of infection increases the closer you are to another person with the virus and the amount of time you spend in close contact: you are very unlikely to be infected if you walk past another person in the street. Public Health England recommends trying to keep 2m away from people as a precaution. However, this is not a rule and the science is complex. The key thing is to not be too close to people for more than a short amount of time, as much as you can.
 
Keep your hands and face as clean as possible. Wash your hands often using soap and water, and dry them thoroughly. Use sanitiser where available outside your home, especially as you enter a building and after you have had contact with surfaces. Avoid touching your face.
 
Work from home if you can. Many people can do most or all of their work from home, with the proper equipment and adjustments. Your employer should support you to find reasonable adjustments to do this. However, not all jobs can be done from home. If your workplace is open and you cannot work from home, you can travel to work.
 
Avoid being face to face with people if they are outside your household. You are at higher risk of being directly exposed to respiratory droplets released by someone talking or coughing when you are within 2m of someone and have face-to-face contact with them. You can lower the risk of infection if you stay side-to-side rather than facing people.
 
Reduce the number of people you spend time with in a work setting where you can. You can lower the risks of transmission in the workplace by reducing the number of people you come into contact with regularly, which your employer can support where practical by changing shift patterns and rotas to match you with the same team each time and splitting people into smaller, contained teams. Avoid crowds. You can lower the risks of transmission by reducing the number of people you come into close contact with, so avoid peak travel times on public transport where possible, for example. Businesses should take reasonable steps to avoid people being gathered together, for example by allowing the use of more entrances and exits and staggering entry and exit where possible. If you have to travel (to work or school, for example) think about how and when you travel. To reduce demand on the public transport network, you should walk or cycle wherever possible. If you have to use public transport, you should try and avoid peak times. Employers should consider staggering working hours and expanding bicycle storage facilities, changing facilities and car parking to help.
 
Wash your clothes regularly. There is some evidence that the virus can stay on fabrics for a few days, although usually it is shorter, so if you are working with people outside your household wash your clothes regularly. Changing clothes in workplaces should only normally be considered where there is a high risk of infection or there are highly vulnerable people, such as in a care home. If you need to change your clothes avoid crowding into a changing room.
 
Keep indoor places well ventilated. Evidence suggests that the virus is less likely to be passed on in well-ventilated buildings and outdoors. In good weather, try to leave windows and doors open in places where people from different households come into contact – or move activity outdoors if you can. Use external extractor fans to keep spaces well ventilated and make sure that ventilation systems are set to maximise the fresh air flow rate. Heating and cooling systems can be used at their normal temperature settings.
 
If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, for example on public transport or in some shops. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (cough and/or high temperature) you and your household should isolate at home: wearing a face covering does not change this. A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers; these supplies should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards. Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 2 or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly, for example primary school age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions. It is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.
 
You can make face coverings at home; the key thing is it should cover your mouth and nose. You can find guidance on how to do this on GOV.UK.
 
You should follow the advice given to you by your employer when at work. Employers have a duty to assess and manage risks to your safety in the workplace. The Government has issued guidance to help them do this. This includes how to make adjustments to your workplace to help you maintain social distance. It also includes guidance on hygiene as evidence suggests that the virus can exist for up to 72 hours on surfaces. Frequent cleaning is therefore particularly important for communal surfaces like door handles or lift buttons and communal areas like bathrooms, kitchens and tea points. You can see the guidance on GOV.UK and can ask your employer if you have questions.
 
8. Annex B: Summary table: COVID-19 vulnerable groups
Group Explanation Current and continuing guidance
Clinically extremely vulnerable people (all people in this cohort will have received communication from the NHS) People defined on medical grounds as clinically extremely vulnerable, meaning they are at the greatest risk of severe illness. This group includes solid organ transplant recipients, people receiving chemotherapy, renal dialysis patients and others. Follow shielding guidance by staying at home at all times and avoiding all non-essential face-to-face contact. This guidance is in place until end June
Clinically vulnerable people People considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Clinically vulnerable people include the following: people aged 70 or older, people with liver disease, people with diabetes, pregnant women and others. Stay at home as much as possible. If you do go out, take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household.
Vulnerable people (non-clinical) There are a range of people who can be classified as ‘vulnerable’ due to non-clinical factors, such as children at risk of violence or with special education needs, victims of domestic abuse, rough sleepers and others.  People in this group will need to follow general guidance except where they are also clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable, where they should follow guidance as set out above. 
 
.
People at high risk (clinically extremely vulnerable)
 
People at high risk from coronavirus include people who:
  • have had an organ transplant
  • are having chemotherapy or antibody treatment for cancer, including immunotherapy
  • are having an intense course of radiotherapy (radical radiotherapy) for lung cancer
  • are having targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system (such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors)
  • have blood or bone marrow cancer (such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma)
  • have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past 6 months, or are still taking immunosuppressant medicine
  • have been told by a doctor they you have a severe lung condition (such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma or severe COPD)
  • have a condition that means they have a very high risk of getting infections (such as SCID or sickle cell)
  • are taking medicine that makes them much more likely to get infections (such as high doses of steroids)
  • have a serious heart condition and are pregnant
Information:
 
If you’re at high risk from coronavirus, you should have received a letter from the NHS.
 
Speak to your GP or hospital care team if you have not been contacted and think you should have been.
 
What to do if you’re at high risk
 
If you’re at high risk from coronavirus, you’re advised to take extra steps to protect yourself.
 
This includes not leaving your home for any reason (called shielding).
 
 
People at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable)
 
People at moderate risk from coronavirus include people who:
  • are 70 or older
  • are pregnant
  • have a lung condition that’s not severe (such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis)
  • have heart disease (such as heart failure)
  • have diabetes
  • have chronic kidney disease
  • have liver disease (such as hepatitis)
  • have a condition affecting the brain or nerves (such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy)
  • have a condition that means they have a high risk of getting infections
  • are taking medicine that can affect the immune system (such as low doses of steroids)
  • are very obese (a BMI of 40 or above)
What to do if you’re at moderate risk
 
If you’re at moderate risk from coronavirus, it’s very important you follow the advice on social distancing.
 
This means you should stay at home as much as possible. But you can go out to work (if you cannot work from home) and for things like getting food or exercising.
 
Unlike people at high risk, you will not get a letter from the NHS advising you to stay at home at all times.
Re-opening

I am sure that you all have questions about how your lives will look after this weekend's announcements and will be scanning the official document for your own particular experience. In my blog posting ' What if? One'  I expressed my considered opinion to the diocese that the church buildings should be allowed to open as other public spaces and shops open within the governments plan. However the consensus of opinion in the hierarchy of the church at the present time is that this should not happen. It seems that this will be the last thing to be allowed under the CofE reopening plan and it has no mention in the official documentation.

We seem to be looking at the possibility of some small gatherings for worship in July if the disease continues to decline. I have scheduled a piece for your consideration that looks forward to this possibility under the heading, ‘What if ? Two’. However I feel that this is not the time to post this as there is too much uncertainty this week and I need to look at it again given the present tone from the central church.

I will not be presiding at a private sacrament for streaming from our churches as it is contrary to my theology and implies all sorts of sacramental and priestly privileges that are not in my church(wo)manship. …. a great debate to be had here about this!

In my theology we are all ‘The Body of Christ’, taken, broken and scattered into the reality of our lives, we are the living breathing sacrament of God of which our Eucharists are the ‘visible sign of this invisible Grace’. …. basically, I can't ‘do it without you’!

Praying for you all,

God bless,

Ali

xxxx

11 May 2020

The Church of England has issued the following statement today:

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said: “We note from the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy that churches could be open from July as part of the conditional and phased plan to begin lifting the lockdown. We look forward to the time when we are able to gather again in our church buildings.

"We are examining what steps we will need to take to do so safely and are actively planning ahead in preparation. We strongly support the Government’s approach of continuing to suppress the transmission of the virus and accordingly, we recognise that at this time public worship cannot return in the interests of public health and safety.”

Please  click here for last week's statement from the House of Bishops.

The following  is from that statement:

In a discussion led by the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, who chairs a group examining how the Church of England might proceed once the current restrictions for COVID-19 are relaxed or lifted, the House of Bishops recognised that there have been some welcome signs of improvement in the current situation, including a reduction in new cases and hospital admissions giving evidence for hope.

While church buildings remain closed for public worship, in line with Government advice, the Bishops agreed in principle to a phased approach to lifting restrictions, in time and in parallel with the Government’s approach, with three broad stages as infection levels improve:

1.An initial immediate phase allowing very limited access to church buildings for activities such as streaming of services or private prayer by clergy in their own parishes, so long as the necessary hygiene and social distancing precautions are taken

2. Subsequently access for some rites and ceremonies when allowed by law, observing appropriate physical distancing and hygiene precautions

3. Worship services with limited congregations meeting, when Government restrictions are eased to allow this

Please click here for a letter from our Diocesan Bishop.

What If? One

I wonder if we should start to have a look at some of the implications of possible futures!! It is really important that we don’t attempt to go back to business as usual or imagine that will happen in the foreseeable future, however there are things that we can begin to discuss and mull over in our minds.

It is also important to have a view as the government are in the process of asking industry and the public sector how they would like to see lock down eased in order to safely facilitate their activity and at some point they will ask the church. I would like for us to have a voice, through our Archdeacon, about these issues so am beginning the conversation.

I am using the Transition Movement questioning model that initiated creative thinking in the faces of uncertain futures…… that asks What if?

What if churches were allowed to open but no services were allowed?

What would we do? How would we manage the opening in practical terms and what would we want the opening to facilitate? Why open them, what is the rational for opening? Would we encouraging contagion to do so and even if the government says yes, should we do it? What would we offer inside, would we encourage candle lighting, prayer trees and even small exhibitions of spiritual art or poetry or craft?

These are my thoughts so far……

Why open them? This is the first thing to ask

Because they normally are open. I know this sounds a little of an odd answer but in the rural communities were we live the relationship that people have with the churches is based on them being open. Many town and city centre churches are normally closed and opening them in a pandemic would be a novelty… for us it is just an adjustment back to ‘normal.

Because people passing like to pop in and pray. Again this is normal for us, part of the fabric of our communities for many more people than attend a church service on a Sunday. Our churches in the villages and attached to graveyards offer a place to add a moment of reflection to our exercise and support mental health for many people of any faith and none.

Because opening our churches offers hope. An empty church with a lighted candle is for many many people a symbol of unseen communion. Communion with people who have and will pass through and with those who have passed through their earthly lives. They epitomize continuity and at this time in the Pandemic this symbol could be a lifeline.

Would it encourage contagion?

No, there is no reason why it should. It would seem that the present lock down practices have been working and the ‘curve is flattening’. This reduction in spread has been achieved despite the continued opening of food shops of all sizes. It has to be the case that if you can enter a food shop with the multiple possible areas for contamination from warehouses, deliveries, shop staff, and checkout pin machines without creating a spike in infection rates then entering an empty church has to be seen as less dangerous. The transmission of this disease is as yet not fully understood and the argument above in anecdotal but surely has some weight.

What would be available for people in the church?

A candle would be lit in the morning and placed were it is visible and safe.

The votive stands would be available for people to light a candle and plastic gloves and hand sanitizer would be near to them for people to use if they wish.

A prayer tree could be created with paper labels to hang on the tree but no pens out, people would be advised to bring their own pen or write it at home. This may be an addition for later months as the risk levels fall.

As more people are allowed out and things reopen so some other people will remain isolated and this will be very hard to bare. The following things could help.

Exhibitions in the churches giving them a space to offer their ‘voice’ might give some sense of worth and purpose. Creative work, poems, songs and paintings created by those who are confined could be displayed and their offering photographed with the encouragement to comment and be in dialogue with the work.

Artistic projects that give people some part of a larger work of art to create at home and then bring it together in an installation in the churches… to build community through shared craft.

Community gardening where people are encouraged to individually tend the church gardens on a rota, bringing their own tools and connecting through seeing what others have done. Isolated people could offer plants they have grown.

How would this work in practice?

Priests and churchwardens and PCC members who are not shielded or over 70 would be asked if they would like to be part of a rota to open and close the churches. Door nobs and lighters would be disinfected and the plastic gloves and sanitizer checked as the church is closed.

People to help design and create artistic projects and gardening. Meeting in zoom chats on line or through whats-app groups.

Over to you all for your thoughts and comments

God Bless

Ali

1 May 2020

The church as gathering?

This morning yet again we don’t gather in worship. We sit in isolation from each other and pray, or do daily readings, maybe we just listen… the birds are so loud! We do not gather and it will be some considerable time before we do. Some of you have been told that you must not venture out for twelve weeks and there are eight weeks to go and we have all been told that for the next three weeks we must continue to stay in. When we do reemerge, if it is this summer, there will be no ‘herd immunity’ and no vaccine so gatherings are likely to still be restricted and the demographic of the rural churches means that they will be diminished in size should they reopen. Because of this there is a huge emphasis on technology as a way of keeping in touch and of ‘doing church’ but I wonder if the texture and the tone of these meetings allows for the nuances of human interaction that we are really longing for.

I am reminded as I write this of our church services and how we enjoyed them. It is never about content, at least not from a single person or even a group who lead the worship. It was about all of us IN worship, in voice, in silence, in motion, at the communion, over coffee and in prayer. Sometimes this lead to times of worship that truly put a smile on our faces, filled us with an assurance of Gods presence and inspired us.

So I suppose that this short comment, this Sunday morning, is really and apology for not producing on-line worship for you all to watch. I just don’t feel that anything I do alone will replicate the ‘gathering’, the place, the ‘communion’ that we have experienced and loved. I would rather look to how we can live our faith in new ways than seek to replicate, in a very limited way, the ‘performances’ that happen in our worship on a Sunday.

As I sit here this morning I lovingly picture you all, the odd collection that we are. So different in so many ways. across all the social strata of our society, holding very different views, living diverse lives. I thank God for you all. I thank God that we are different and that our Gathering is a witness to diversity and tolerance, that is is a clear sign to a divided world that a common vision of humanity loving God and neighbour is possible. I love that we disagree, that we grumble and get bored, I love that we go round in circles in our decision-making and take ages to get things done. I love that people matter more than progress and as a family we have to learn to live together.

So lets gather on a Sunday in solidarity… over a cup of tea and remember each other and be in communion with one another.

And may God Bless us all.

Ali

19 April 2020

Easter Sunday Thoughts

On Good Friday I had a discussion with my 5 yr old grandchild Tessa. She has long known about 'Jesus crosses' and this year we talked about death. Earlier last month I had spoken to the children at Nettlestone nursery about how Easter was about death and life. For Tessa and for a little girl in the nursery death was a recent and real event, both had recently lost animals. Tessa had watched an orphan lamb die and the little girl had lost a pet cat. At the nursery she cried as she told us and was comforted and cared for by the staff and other children as we encouraged and reassured her, for Tessa there had been the ritual of burial and flowers that she described for me.

This year our whole society is obsessed by death... by the fear of death, of contagion from each other as we are reminded day on day of the death toll from the virus. Each week in the UK approximately 10,500 people die in total and in March this year this figure was lower than last year but as the Covid 19 virus continues to have an impact so the figures will rise. I remember standing in the Imperial War museum years ago and seeing the clock that ticks with the number of deaths world wide through war and I am reminded that if we had daily updates showing death from poverty, exploitation, war and obesity then our perception of the safe and cosy world we live in may be different.

At the moment it feels like our whole lives are controlled by computer models and statistics as deaths are logged and plotted; but not all deaths are the same and not all deaths are a tragedy.

As I talked to Tessa I told her about visit that I had at a death bed, an elderly lady who was leaving her frail body. I am not one for creating images of the unknowable as even from Jesus we get very little to go on when it comes to an afterlife but I told Tessa about this ladies smile as she listened to the story of Mary and Jesus, as Jesus meets her after his death (as told by John) and I told her that we need not be afraid to let go. Death is terrible, awesome and incredibly sad but it is absolutely the one true reality of our lives.... we and those that we love will die.

Photograph of Cross in St Peter's Garden

Easter is about DEATH... about death and Resurrection. Easter is about premature, brutal, unjust death, the worst death of all; a young person mourned by his family and dearest friends, killed by torture for a crime he did not commit, taken at the prime of his life in the fullness of his strength. In this image all death, the peaceful passing of the elderly to the still born baby are held before us and we are terrified by it. Our fear is justified, we wonder how the pain will ever heal and it may stay with us forever because death scars us and may break us. All our deaths, the death of relationships, the death of dreams. the loss of health, the futures denied us are here in this image. This present crisis has killed so many more things than people.  It has killed livelihoods, shattered hope, broken relationships and filled us with fear.... and after grief and fear comes anger and we are seeing that start to build.

Photograph of Michaelangelo's Pieta

I have always said that the greatest gift of our faith is the way that we can't avoid the Cross. The centrality of our faith all year is Death and Ressurection; not immortality, not blessing without cost or a fairy tale of miraculous wonders. Jesus spoke about this again and again and all year we hear His words and turn to face our fear of lifes' deaths.

Photograph of Monumental Cross

Into this reality of death and the fear that is all around us comes the something that many of us have already recognized.... LIFE..... Life bursts forth. I have spoken about the Good in life about true life of relationships, of appreciation of nature and of the acts of service, the love of neighbour that we are created for. In this time of death and fear there has been a revolution in our society, we have noticed the spring and are walking in natural environments and we are desperate to do so. We have cherished our families and friends making contact any way that we can and committing to moving in together 'for the duration'. We have learnt that we can't live by bread alone, that we need each other. We are educating the children that we have brought into being, spending more time with them that we ever have, finding out who they are and learning how to live together.

We are experiencing RESURRECTION. It is not an abstract concept wrapped up in religious language. It is not a joyful frivolity that is an addition to our already blessed lives. Through death and loss we are coming to NEW LIFE.

This year what will your New Life look like? What has died? What has been born again?

In front of us all is the possibility of a completely new future, don't cling to the old, I finish with this beautiful story from John's Gospel.

Photograph of detail of mosaic in Washington National Cathedral

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Ali

12 April 2020

Prayers for you to use at 10 a.m. on Easter Day when our Church Bells ring

There ore two alternative sets:   you might like to use both, or if you don't have much time, choose one or two bits you like.

I. Recollection on Easter morning

Yesterday I was crucified with Christ;
today I am glorified with him.
Yesterday I was dead with Christ;
today I am sharing in his resurrection.
Yesterday I was buried with him;
today I am waking with him from the sleep of death.
Gregory of Nazionzus   (A.D. 389)

Devotional Icon 1

Reading

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
St Paul, writing to First Century Christians - Colossions 3.1-4

Prayer

Christ yesterday and today,
the beginning and the end,
Alpha and Omega,
all time belongs to you,
and all ages;
to you be glory and power
through every age and for ever.
Amen.

Conclusion

May the risen Christ give us his peace.
All:    Alleluia.     Amen.

____________________________


II. Praise God

Blessed are you, Sovereign Lord,
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
to you be glory and praise for ever.
From the deep waters of death
you brought your people to new birth
by raising your Son to life in triumph.
Through him dark death has been destroyed
and radiant life is everywhere restored.
As you call us out of darkness into his marvellous light
may our lives reflect his glory
and our lips repeat the endless song.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
All:  Blessed be God for ever.

Devotional Icon 2

The Lord's Prayer  -  for ourselves, and for all whom we love

Rejoicing in God's new creation,
let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us

All:  Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory
for ever and ever.
Amen

Conclusion

May the risen Christ grant us the joys of eternal life.
All: Amen.

Let us bless the Lord.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!
All: Thanks be to God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

Prepared by Rev Michael

11 April 2020

Copyright notice:
Text from COMMON WORSHIP: DAILY PRAYER,
Copyright,© The Archbishops' Council, 2005
Images from religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year by Steve Erspamer,
Copyright, © Liturgy Training Publications, 1996

Walking through Easter

Dear all

I hope that you are all bearing up and finding the riches possible in this exceptional time. I know that some of you are isolated while some are very busy as front line and essential workers and some of you like me will be finding that life has slowed down to a strange new rhythm. 

I am sending this out to remind you that on line through subscribing to The Haven Eco-Church Blog (which is free and secure and means that you will get the emails I send out) you can stay connected to some of the things that help us to recognize the depth of our human condition, our worth beyond the labels of the world and our true meaning below our fanatic activity.

I have recently added a lovely booklet for praying outdoors, a Passover meal order of service and a beautiful Tenebrae reflection created by the team in Ventnor.

On Good Friday you will see crosses in St Mary's Community Garden and outside the community center in St Helens and there will be baskets of palm crosses there for you to take one if you wish. On Easter Sunday the crosses can be covered in flowers if you are passing and wish to add a contribution from your garden. You will also see in St Peter's Garden on Sunday morning beautiful pots of Flowers that were grown for us by Nettlestone school nursery children whom I had the pleasure of sharing the Easter story with...... And remember that the Labyrinth in St Helen's Graveyard is always there for you should you need time to reflect on how this pandemic has created new pathways in your life (I will put up the leaflet for walking this on the Eco-Church Blog on Saturday.  The information conatined within this leaflet can also be accessed here on this website. On Sunday morning your ministers will ring the bells in the churches for 10 minutes at 10am... this is not a call to worship but a call of rejoicing.

You are all now well used to the rules on Social distancing and staying at home and walking in your local environment.... Please respect those at all times. Also along side this know that you have Spiritual needs and longings and in this time of huge transition recognize that ritual is important for calming the mind. Take time, enjoy our churches' outside spaces and stay well mentally and physically.

I am always here waiting for your call or email.

God Bless

Ali

9 April 2020

Reflection for Palm Sunday

Image of Palm Sunday

“Life is full of ups and downs, sometimes we smile, sometimes we frown….”  Lines from a song I sang in my youth dressed up as a frog !!!!  But oh so true. At the beginning of Lent when I told Astrid I would be giving up chocolate he responded …  “ I am going to give up two things this year..”

“Oh yes ?” I asked, to be told “school and church!” But, as Oscar Wilde said “Be careful what you wish” It was initially good news when both were closed but two weeks in I suspect the novelty is beginning to wear off …  !

Those early disciples who had spent three years with Jesus through all the ups and downs of his earthly ministry certainly knew this to be true – the baptism of Jesus, the feeding of the 5,000, the people he healed or even raised from the dead….there were plenty of highs. But, let’s not forget the lows …. the constant fault finding of the religious authorities, the disciples’ failure to understand so much of his teaching, the failure of the disciples to really trust him …. And that is before we begin Holy Week when his closest disciples fell asleep when he needed them most, denied they ever knew him, ran away and betrayed him. And even Palm Sunday itself follows this same pattern. We have the exciting story of Jesus entering Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowds, hailed as a king and Messiah; branches and cloaks strewn on the road and a real sense of excitement and joy in His wake. Every year as I worship on Palm Sunday I just get into the thrill and excitement of worship with the words Hosanna, hosanna……when I am plunged into the depths of misery in the reading of the Passion story and those dreadful events of Holy week. The ups and downs of just one day become so real. Yes the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem was to end just 5 days later with his leaving under the weight of that brutal and cruel cross, and for those first disciples the end of their Lord and Master. Can we begin to imagine what it must have been like for them?

They must have been in something of the confusion, turmoil and anxiety that we are feeling in these strange times of Spring 2020. Easter day will be very different for us this year and Alleluias may be in short supply but we KNOW the end of the story, which gives us hope for the future. And the biggest up of all in our Christian Faith – I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVES

Prayer for Palm Sunday 2020.

Jesus said “ in as much as you do it for one of these the least of my brothers, you do it for me……”

And so in these troubled and confused days we remember all those who are working to keep things going:

Those working in the NHS and those around it helping to keep things working,

those keeping our streets clean and collecting our rubbish,

those harvesting, delivering and seling the food in our shops,

those keeping us secure and our utilities functioning,

those looking after the children of key workers,

those helping to care for the elderly and vulnerable,

clergy of all faiths and religions seeking to minister in difficult times….

God of mercy,

HEAR OUR PRAYER

Sylvia Beardsmore

5 April 2020

Our First Parish News Online

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures! Thanks to all the hard work of Paul, Mary and Sue ... and of course all our lovely contributors we have produced the latest version of Parish News for Seaview, St Helens & Nettlestone in record time.  It can be accessed online here and the paper version is ready to go out today (Friday). Because many of our volunteer deliverers are unable to do it this time, much to their dismay, we have enlisted the help of the newly formed groups of volunteers who are helping to keep our villages connected with deliveries of food and essentials.

We felt it was really important to get this magazine out as so many people are not online or are uncomfortable with using it. This edition is FREE and has all the information that people need to stay well and in touch though this really difficult time.

God Bless

Ali

27 March 2020

Are you Essential?

Everything is changing, we awake to a whole new world. Some of you who read this will be in isolation and will have been so for two weeks or more. Some of you will be laid off work or working from home and will be trying to sort your life around the concept of social distancing and for some it will be business as usual because you work in an ‘essential’ service.

This time has forced us all both personally and as a culture to examine what is truly essential. Suddenly bakers, fruit and veg pickers, shop workers in the food industry and delivery drivers are seen for what they are… as essential. We all now remember what is ESSENTIAL; food, clean water and a roof over our heads, they are, and always have been, the essentials of Life but they have been hidden by  cheap abundance that has given us a false sense of security. We thought that empty shelves belonged to other countries and other times as for us the constant display of abundance in our supermarket shelves was a natural situation. It must be a good thing that we have woken from this illusion and are for a moment in solidarity with most of the world for which food is hard won and realise that it requires work and skill to produce. So, for some this is a time when we say a proper big THANK YOU to those who feed and water us and who keep us healthy.

However, for others there is a deep loss as they struggle with feeling that they are not essential. For many, many people who are over 70 or have underlying health conditions it appears that the world is saying, thank you for all that volunteering, the family support and skills that you bring to society but now we want you to STOP! It feels like there is a big sign saying ‘Non-Essential’ around some sections of the population and this is incredibly hard.

I am pleased for those who have been undermined with low wages and zero hours contracts that they are now being recognised for the essential services they provide, and I am sad for the elderly and vulnerable who feel their sense or worth slipping away, but in fact now may be the time for us challenge everything about the way that our society is structured and  the value that people are given.

Imagine if we found our worth within ourselves; I might say in our identity as human beings created by God. Imagine if we knew our own worth, if we saw ourselves as essential to society for the specific gifts only we offer. Imagine an education system that gives equal value to the skills of the hands as those of the head and trained both our craftspeople and our academics of the future. Imagine respect across society as the vitality of youth learns from the wisdom of age. Imagine retaining this sense of thankfulness for other people and for the gifts of the earth.

I lady said to me today that she had gone to the shop and been so grateful that she could get a loaf of bread and she smiled as she said this knowing that the gratitude doubled the joyful experience of the gift of the bread.

So, know this, you are essential and so are your neighbours, we depend upon each other and knowing this is the gift of this time.

God Bless

Ali

26 March 2020

Kitty O'Meara Poem

Social Distancing
Why go to Church on a Sunday?

I know a lot of people who used to go to church regularly at times in their lives but now see no need of it. They have, like myself in the past, for one reason or another got out of the habit of attending Sunday services. However, they would still call themselves Christian, or at least have an orientation for their lives that has some place for the spiritual clothed in the language of God and Jesus. As I think about this I ask, why go to church on a Sunday? What is it that it provides for the human psyche, what good does it do? There are so may answers from a religious perspective.... We go to church to worship God: but does God really require our worship at a set time on a Sunday morning when many people I meet say that they are closer to God on the Duver! We go to church to learn about our faith: but after years of church attendance have you not 'heard it all' many times over!! We go to church to gather with other Christians in fellowship; but when many of us leave family at home on the one day of the week when we could be together in order to get to church somehow this fellowship is diminished.

Sometimes I feel that it is my 'Job' to encourage people to come to church, and sometimes I am a lot wiser than that! But reflecting on things today as I walk with the Haven Pilgrims round Seaview in the pouring rain and sit steaming in Lilys Cafe, I have an answer for this time....

Why go to church on a Sunday? Because you are worth it!!! Because the Sunday service is a space cleaved out of the rushing of the world for you to be still. Because as the service flows over and around us, slowing us down, little pockets of silence open where our true selves can find nourishment. Come to church because it is a hard thing to do, come to church because it is an antidote to shopping. Come because the rituals of the week are what help us to be human.

Yes, you can come for the welcome, for you are welcome and do come for the preaching, for you may be surprised. But mostly why not come to give yourself a moment when your worries are not centre stage, where your trials of life find perspective and where God is the focus for this precious hour in the week. Come to say thank you, to pray and to be fed. Come again; you may, like I was, be really surprised how much you have missed it.

God Bless,

Ali

March 2020

Good New for St Helen's Church!

Drawing of St Helen's Church

In June 2017, when the Phoenix Choir came and performed in St Helen’s Church, we launched our Tricentenary Appeal. Our aim was to raise over £89,500 for the installation of a toilet, a kitchen facility, exterior lighting from the church to the car park and lychgate, and to improve disabled access to the church.

We have held many events, concerts, a flower festival, and we have asked many organisations for grants.   As things stand today, we have reached the staggering sum of £85,000!!!  

So …………… with only £4,500 left to reach our target I feel sure that work will definitely commence, and hopefully be completed, this year!

We just wanted to say a very big THANK YOU to everyone in the community who has supported us through this time.  We really couldn’t have got this far without you.  Watch this space for further updates and look out for the building work commencing (hopefully) very soon!

Rose Gillett

12 February 2020

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Living the "Good" Life

First a question: Which countries do you think receive more blood donations, those who pay you to donate it or those who don't? The answer is, those who don't pay. In this fascinating statistic lies a vitally important fact of human nature that economists, behaviourists and our present commodity-driven consumerist culture all ignore. That deep in our root and bones, we are better motivated by generosity than greed and we are intrinsically altruistic.

The following story is told (in his own context) by Yanis Varoufakis in his economics book 'Talking To My Daughter About The Economy', which I got for Christmas in an attempt to become more aware of the economic world we live in and how we got here.

"The early evening sun is beautifully setting and a father and his daughter are sailing their mermaid in to the shore, they are coming to meet friends and have a picnic on the beach and during the meal one of the young cousins makes them all laugh with his crazy humour. During the meal a boat gets caught around another's anchor and the single elderly gentleman calls out for help from the sea, the young daughter fit and courageous dives into the sea and swims out to help him."

Yanis explains this story by talking about how we can all see the 'good' things in it: the sunset, the friends, the humour and the selfless help of a stranger - the putting ourselves out for others. He then asks us to imagine these things as 'commodities' like humour which becomes the job of the professional comedian and imagine if the gentleman in the boat had shouted out,' I need help, I have £10 here for anyone who will swim out and help', a selfless act becomes a transaction for payment.

In our present culture we may have forgotten the difference between 'goods' and 'commodities', we may even have lives that are much more about financial transactions than they really should be for our wellbeing. However it is actually obvious to us, if we stop and think, that sunsets, friends and neighbours to care for are the real 'goods' in our lives. In church services we might call this 'love of God and love of neighbour' and they are the vital commandmenfs for a life lived in all its fullness according to Jesus. The lessons taught by the Way of Jesus in all He says and does are that we should live in the good and only rarely in commodities - giving them unto Caesar what is Caesar's.

So, at this start of a new year, think of all the things that you do 'for nothing' the things that cannot be priced. The hours that can't be logged like raising children, passing of skills in sport or clubs, volunteering, making things, acting, dancing, gardening, sharing food, walking, playing ... and give them the value they truly deserve, for they make a 'good' life, anc they are PRICELESS.

God Bless,

Ali

February 2020

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