Volume 1 – Issue 8


We have a new logo for our network of Churches, we hope you like it.

Mission in new ways

These last few days, the three days before Ascension Day and last Sunday, are called Rogation Days in the church calendar. It’s not a term that is familiar to most of us, but it has a fascinating history. In rural areas, Rogation days are when the church blessed the land, partly to protect it from disease and plague and partly to pray for a productive crop. The occasion was marked by Christians walking around the parish boundaries, praying for the boundaries, praying against evil and proclaiming the Lordship of Christ.

Today, most of us don’t live in rural settings but in this Covid time we are learning some new lessons. We are re-forging a connection with our immediate surroundings – the places where we walk. We are reminded of the significance of the land, the food that is produced, the places and people who distribute it and the importance of prayer for healing and restoration.

Praying by walking around the significant places in the neighbourhood could be how we adapt the practice of Rogation in the service of mission.

My Anglican friend in London wrote about his urban interpretation of Rogation.

“Things are a little different in downtown Hackney, but still I head out with my social distancing stick this week to beat the bounds of my parish. But instead of calling in at the farms I go to the supermarkets and shops and thank the workers for keeping the show on the road during the lockdown of the last couple of months.

I go to see Mr Master at the post office and Mr Patel at the newsagent. I visit the chemist, the baker and the take-away pizza guy. I go to the builders merchants on Stamford Hill and the petrol station on Clapton Common. I give the bin-men a thumbs up as they trundle by in their truck and I knock on the window of a rather startled looking postman, quietly minding his own business in his van. Actually, everyone is pleased, if a little surprised, to be thanked. Immediately they tell you how tough it’s been, not so much complaining as bearing testimony.

In Stamford Hill we have a bus depot and when I go to thank the drivers for keeping London moving one driver’s voice breaks when he tells me how worried he’s been that he will catch the virus and infect his family, including his elderly father. But everywhere there is also a strong sense of duty. That this is simply what we do.

My friend Maurice Glasman has come up with a definition of “the working class” – that these are the people who can’t work from home. While many of us have carried on pretty much as before, with our laptops and our Zoom meetings, others have left the safety of their home to keep our city open for the rest of us during the lockdown. These are the people, visible now in a new way, that I thank as I walk through my parish. But there is also a challenge buried in my greeting. Why has it taken a pandemic to recognise the status and sacrifice of the working class? How can we stop taking our fellow citizens for granted?”

Resources

Re-opening Church Buildings

By now you’ll no doubt be well aware of the Prime Minister’s recent address regarding COVID-19 and of the current roadmap being rolled out as we speak. During his address Mr Johnson explained that this would take place in three steps, with the 4th July being the earliest point at which the third and final step could be taken in our collective recovery from the pandemic.

In it the Government has provided detailed guidelines to explain what these three steps are and the targets that need to be achieved in order to take them. Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service (CLAS), and several others of you, have very kindly provided access to a more detailed version, linked below.

Please follow this link to view, Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy

You will notice, that the reopening of places of worship is explicitly mentioned as part of Step 3. Which may mean that Sunday 5th July will, potentially be your/our first Sunday back in church.

However, there are two important considerations.

First, the date of Step 3 is ambitious and based on a best-case scenario. Over the coming weeks, data relating to new cases of COVID-19, deaths and the all-important ‘R’ number, will have a massive impact on when you/we move from Step 1 to Step 2, potentially delaying the final phase of the Government’s recovery strategy.

Second, for the foreseeable future, you/we will not be able to conduct church services as we did before lockdown.

The guidelines make it clear that buildings will need to be made “COVID-19 Secure”. We are not yet clear exactly what this means, and it is likely to evolve based on new data about the spread of the virus, but we can assume that social distancing, handwashing, face coverings and the disinfecting of shared surfaces are likely to be included. Guidance and restrictions will also vary depending on the type of building used for worship, such as sites with shared use.

So in response, it is recommended that Churches continue to maintain and develop their online activities and await further updates and advice from Westminster as it arrives.

Other Perspectives

It’s always good to have a look at what other networks/ denominations are doing in terms of re-opening. The URC have produced a useful resource for congregations that you might like to look at. The link is here: https://urc.org.uk/images/Communications/New-Normal-2020.pdf

The reality of loss

As we all know, some communities have lost significant numbers of loved ones who have died due to the virus. One of the problems has been the inability to grieve. One church in London has sought to mark the grief of a community by connecting with the civic institutions in a public ceremony. They made a video of a very public event which records something of how they went about this act. Fascinating viewing, though the traffic is a bit noisy! – click on the link: https://youtu.be/cmnUR_CNGic

News

Kirkby-in-Furness

Sometimes the simple things carry the most impact. Gail Burns who works with the Church of Christ in Kirby-in-Furness, shared something with their church community. Gail writes:

“For Easter Sunday, I made a large batch of bread dough and proceeded to make a whole lot of bread rolls from it.  I then took the bread rolls around to church members as well as other Christians in the village so that on Easter Sunday we could all break bread together, though separately…the bread being from one loaf in its doughy state, so to speak.
Everyone provided their own wine (Rita and I had sherry), and we all broke bread that Sunday together.  I have done this bread roll sharing (along with extra bread rolls for the whole family to have together at a dinner) one other time and shall continue to do it every three or so weeks…unless getting strong bread flour gets easier and then I can do it for every week.
It was surprising how together we felt.  But then, we are all one in the Spirit!”

FCC Strategic Board Members – Introducing Roy Baylis

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Each week we feature a member of the Strategic Board. This week we introduce Roy Baylis. He is a member of Rowheath Pavilion Church. For many years he was a head teacher prior to taking early retirement. Roy loves sport and one of his hobbies is art – particularly painting. He has been a member of the ForMission board for a number of years.

Until next week… Martin Robinson

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