I forwarded the news yesterday afternoon of the closure of our Sunday services with both a heavy heart and with a certain heaviness in my chest as I was experiencing shortness of breath. A quick trip to the Emergency Department at St John of God followed, and after several hours of poking and prodding - and the calm ministry of our lovely Midland Hospital chaplain, Sarah - I was diagnosed with a low-grade pneumonia and sent home with antibiotics and instructions to rest.
I do want to take the opportunity this morning to give a more considered reaction to yesterday's news, and to give some idea of how the life of our parish might proceed going forward. As St Paul expresses it in his Letter to the Romans: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8.38-39) We may not be able for a little while to come together physically to worship on Sundays as we have always done, but this is an opportunity for us to know the reality of God's love, and to be united as a parish in prayer and mutual support.
Going forward, I will continue to offer daily audio recordings of morning and evening prayer on the Parish News blog. I will also write every day in the blog, and will post a brief video message on Wednesdays. The Sunday service will also be posted as an audio recording including my homily, which will also be posted onto my sermon blog in the normal way. All of these resources will be available on our two blogs: https://parishnews.postach.io and https://pedericksermons.postach.io. If you know of anyone who would like to be included in emails please advise me of their address and I will add them. Also, please keep me advised of changes of email address etc.
If you are self-isolating then I will not be able to visit you but will try to keep in touch by phone. I will also be asking Lay Pastoral Ministers to conduct some phone ministry. Please be aware that we are able to chat face-to-face using the modern miracles of Facetime, Skype etc, so I am available to meet in such ways for prayer, spiritual counselling or just a chat.
As it has become clear to me that I also need to protect my own health (and Alison's), I will be working at home as much as possible going forward. However, there will still be opportunity for services at both churches - the Wednesday morning 10am service at St Mary's will continue, and I will conduct services at All Saints on Mondays and Thursdays at 10am and at St Mary's on Friday evenings at 6pm. These services can only be conducted with very low numbers of people, so may I ask that if you wish to attend one you let me know (RSVP). The churches will also be open for prayer and reflection at various times: All Saints every weekday morning apart from Wednesday, St Marys on Wednesday morning and Friday evening from 5pm. Disinfecting will occur after every use. I will be asking LPMs also to assist with this ministry.
Finally, an important aspect of the life of the parish is mutual practical support. If you are self-isolating and shopping is a problem for you - please let me know. If you are able to do some shopping for somebody else and drop it off for them - then please let me know. A "shopping ministry" may be an important way for us to remain united. Of course, shoppers will need to practice utmost hygiene and I would suggest the use of single use disposable gloves.
Peace and blessings