The latest news from Rev David and Rev Jo. This week David includes his consultation on what our post-Covid church may look like.
Weekly Update from Jo
We are continuing to produce new resources to support our spiritual life under lockdown. Thank you Fiona, Elf, Anne, and Barbara for creating and producing a monthly cycle of prayer for the team. You can download and print it from the website and use it for your prayers each day of the month. The calendar is available on the website here: https://beaminsterteamchurches.org/prayer-calendar/
The staff team have been enjoying time for reading during lockdown and are happy to share their recent reads. Holy Habits by Andrew Roberts, Holy Living by Rowan Williams and Wisdom Distilled from the Daily by Joan Chittister have all inspired us over recent weeks. We have also been watching worship from other churches, including the Anglican Communion, Salisbury Cathedral and the Diocese of Oxford. There is a wealth of material out there to support our daily prayer and worship rhythms – do feel free to share your recommendations.
We continue to produce a weekly collective worship for our school communities and will be offering a live stream Messy Church again, on Facebook Live at 4pm on Saturday 13th June. Do join us or share the information with those who would like it. https://beaminsterteamchurches.org/children/
Worship this week is for Trinity Sunday https://beaminsterteamchurches.org/worshipathome/ and will be available on Saturday 6th June. This week we have a guest video from Margery Hookings from Broadwindsor who has been entertaining the village with her 1pm music slot from her upstairs window. She was interviewed by Lauren Laverne as part of a special “Your Desert Island Discs” episode to be broadcast on Friday 5th June https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnmr
Please do send me any photos, comments, prayers and even short video messages to include in our weekly worship – it is lovely to hear from people all over the team and feel that we are connected as we worship. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please continue to pray for each other, keep in touch with each other and care for one another – as I know you are doing daily. I end with an adapted prayer from the Celtic tradition, sent by Marion Gadsby.
God is with us when the way is dark and life seems cold.
God is with us when the body is weak and we feel old.
God is with us when doubts arise and fears descend.
God is with us forever, our friend. Amen
Every blessing, Jo
Weekly Update from David
The Beaminster Area Team
Coronavirus Covid – 19 Consultation Document
Prepared by Revd Canon David Baldwin
As we enter the eleventh week of lockdown our church buildings remain closed for all forms of public worship. Later this week there will be a meeting between the Government Advisory Committee and faith leaders to look at how places of worship can be opened up. Using experience in other parts of Europe, I believe this is likely to be gradual with a restriction on numbers attending.
This document is an attempt for us all to consider how we as local church leaders (PCC members being Trustees of the church) can oversee the opening up of our buildings in the first place, and to consider in a much wider view, what ‘Church’ may look like in the longer term. Any comments I express in this consultation document can only be based on where we are at this present moment and by trying to look at what may be possible over time, based on advice and regulations that have been issued so far to other sectors such as schools, businesses and other public domains.
Setting The Scene – The Present
Now may be the time for us to start thinking about how the Church will come out of the Coronavirus lockdown. Early research from other countries has shown a reluctance to return to collective worship in church and especially in the 70+ age groups. This has been partly backed up by the telephone conversations I have had with some of you during this time who have expressed fear that we continue to see a high number of new cases being reported. Some work being done in a number of dioceses in England has backed this up and I have read suggestions that going to church on Sundays curtails people’s social/family lives but they do enjoy being able to share worship online when they want.
On my behalf, Jo has started looking at facts and stats from our own online output. I outline some below.
Sunday worship viewed via our YouTube channel has proved to be popular, hitting a high point in the early weeks of lockdown but over the past month has held steady at around 70 views. (across the week, not all views on a Sunday)
During Holy Week we averaged 17 people joining Compline on ZOOM with a high point of 23 including friends from Netherhay Chapel. This compares with 6 in church in previous years.
Thursday Community of the Annunciation Prayers attracts an average of 18 compared to 6 in church.
Live streamed Messy Church had 50+ views and 17 families stayed the whole hour. That total was only slightly lower than in church.
The morning, midday, and evening reflection on Facebook is viewed by 300+ each day and attracts many comments by people outside of our churches.
We regularly attract new people who are searching spiritually through our online platform although it is difficult to know the exact number, we can see names repeatedly engaging with our output.
We have attempted to undertake some non-empirical in-house research through phone calls and emails and so far, a high proportion of our regular Sunday congregations may not join in any of the worship or material we offer. That is not to say that they have not been following other worship broadcasts on television or radio.
We had 61 views of the Ascension Day material which is higher than services in church over the last 8 years.
I would add that on average our website gets between 200 and 300 visitors per day. We serve something like 1000 – 1500 page impressions per day. Ten percent of the traffic comes via social media.
Whilst this is only a snapshot at the present time, we do need to think about how we will use our building in the future and there is one comment I hear regularly and paraphrase, ‘Jesus is present in and through how we live our lives. Community is key to a living church and our buildings should be available for wider community usage’. I believe that keeping our online worship content going even when the buildings reopen as vital for future flourishing of our Christian Communities.
The Way Out of Lockdown
Until we receive advice that we can reopen our buildings for public prayer, which may at first be to allow our communities to have a space for quiet reflection and personal prayer and cleansed in line with Public Health England Guidelines after every single use, the most important thing for us to discuss with our communities is how we can help them to celebrate the many acts of kindness and generosity that have been central to many people’s lives during this time. We also need to start talking to our regular church congregations about what their intentions on attending services will be. Any services will more than likely be restricted in number, controlled by strict social distancing and will require that the building and all surfaces and contents that have been used/touched will have to be cleansed in line with PHE guidelines.
I would like to suggest that we return in a controlled manner with services being shared across the Team, with a reduced number each Sunday for the first month and that we continue to provide our online services and worship material for those who will continue to protect themselves by staying at home. I am preparing a rota to show what this might look like in practice. I have also thought about worshipping outside in larger gatherings which will allow for greater social distancing, but in reality, I think the numbers allowed to gather will prohibit this in the early stages of what will be allowed. And so, this leads us to the next stage.
Like you, I have read many headlines in the media and heard similar questions on television and radio about what the future will look like. “Nothing will be the same again.” “We can’t just go back to where we left off.” “Everything will be different from now on.” These are just a few of the quite startling statements that have appeared. Many people are frightened of a second wave and even more death, despite reassuring statements from leading scientific experts over the last few days and I do believe that this will have a knock- on effect in our churches. I also believe that this will further weaken some of our already fragile congregations, both in attendance and finance.
But I do see this as a great opportunity, a great adventure. The great adventurer Bear Grylls, said this about following Jesus:
“When we pursue an adventurous path through life, inevitably we are going to have moments of hardship, doubt, struggle and pain. It goes with the territory. But for me, my simple faith has so often brought life to a dark path, joy to a cold mountain and strength to a failing body. Believing doesn’t mean we have to suddenly get all religious. I am not. And Jesus certainly was not. It has taken a while in my life to understand that faith is a journey, and as we trust and lean on Him, He leads us to a light – to a freer, more central existence, free from guilt, free from crippling fear and free to start living.”
Over the past eleven weeks we have extended through social media platforms the opportunity for anyone who has wanted to, to enter into an adventure. They may not understand it in such terms as exploration of faith, and we may not have looked at it as such, but the reality is that people have engaged – daily, weekly into Facebook posts, tweets, through the website and our YouTube channel and in conversations. Some of these people may or may not have consciously encountered Jesus previously or thought of him before and his call may have been a whisper or a roar, but his invitation is available and we have to look seriously at how we enable their response to be a loud ‘Yes’. This is not because we want to fill our buildings, but because we understand that everyone should be able to share in the privilege of knowing Jesus for themselves. The call to Christian discipleship is a call to follow the inspiring, challenging, occasionally enigmatic but above and always, loving Jesus Christ. This call is not limited to those on the edge but to all of you who may want to enter into a deeper understanding of God’s love and promise for your lives.
I believe that we are now at a point with this opportunity to look seriously at how we encourage the many explorers to look at and learn how they can be the best follower of Jesus in and through their daily lives. To quote Jo, “How can we be the very best Christian teacher, farmer, parent/carer etc” and Andrew Roberts in his book Holy Habits says:
‘Too often we can neglect these contexts for the living out of discipleship and equate discipleship with dutiful church membership. Even worse we can sometimes reduce the adventure to turning up, shutting up and paying up.’
To enable this will need us to make a fundamental change in the way we live and worship within both our own lives and the communities in which we serve God through our calling as Christian disciples. It will need us to release those from within our congregations who have a true heart for mission and evangelism to work as a team with Jo enabling a new life giving expression through enabling the grace of God to abound in lives that are being touched by the Holy Spirit afresh every day. I would envisage that we would work alongside the other denominations that we have developed deeper relationships with during this time, which is a true gift from God.
I acknowledge that for some this will be a great sacrifice and I envisage that I will have to answer further to the question that we never see these people in church and that they do not (yet) contribute financially, but at this early stage of consultation I give us all a reminder that when we respond to the call of Jesus to follow him we can’t be too choosy about who we journey with.
So as co-workers in the gospel working alongside Jo and myself, I ask that you have conversations over the next week with as many of our church family as you can, encouraging them to consider what will be a safe and practical way to open up our churches, return to worshipping within whatever guidelines may be put before us and about their considered thoughts on the opportunities that have presented themselves through this time of pandemic. Please feedback responses or ask that responses be sent to me and we will add these into the mix with the comments garnered through last autumn’s parish and community consultations.
So once again I thank you for all that you do in serving Christ and for the wonderful support that you give to me, which is truly and gratefully received and I hope that like me you see this as an exciting challenge and opportunity to share and grow God’s kingdom.
Revd Canon David Baldwin
The Feast of Pentecost 2020