Over the last few weeks it has been fantastic to welcome people back into church. It has been a particular joy to keep Holy Week and Easter in person, to celebrate the central events of our faith, the passion, death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and only Saviour.
At the same time it has been great to continue welcoming people joining in worship from their homes via social media. Indeed, those who follow the Sunday services from church on Facebook will be aware that we have recently improved the quality of our ‘broadcasts’ now that the church is on broadband. The cameras and microphones give a greater sense of sharing what is going on in church and the graphics make it easier to follow the service. A big thank you to Andrew and Linda Bracewell and Robert Duckworth for masterminding this.
Of course, this Eastertide was affected by the death of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at the venerable age of 99 ¾. His many years of faithful support to the Queen and to nation and the Commonwealth were marked in the tributes paid, and he was laid to rest in a very fitting funeral service last Saturday. With no address given, the music played an even more significant role than normal, expressing both grief and hope. A hope founded in the one who said “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believeth in me, thou he die, yet shall he live.”
The Easter holidays were also the beginning of the period in which we could spend time outdoors with five others, or as two households. We were able to meet up with Rebecca’s family for a couple of walks in the lovely spring countryside and I hope that you have been able to do similarly and meet up outdoors with friends and family. Fresh air and exercise are so important, not least after all the ‘staying at home’.
Sunday services going forward
We are delighted that we can now again welcome live singing by a small group of singers. All Saints’ Choir have now sung on two Sunday mornings (5 people only each time) and St James’ Church Choir will resume shortly.
The 8am early celebration of Holy Communion at All Saints resumes from this Sunday 25th April – but only on the second and fourth Sundays of the month at present. The family service is resumed on 2nd Sundays at 11am and this will be the only week on which booking is required. Please sing up in Church this Sunday or look for the Eventbrite link which will be advertised on Facebook and the website.
At Altham St James, the usual pattern of services has resumed, with the all-age service on the second Sunday.
We haven’t yet got a date for the return of Friday Praise in-person or of Tots’ Praise, but hope to have information about this in the next letter. We plan on the return of Sunday School from September. If you would be interested in volunteering with Sunday School then do have a word about applying. As with other roles working with children or vulnerable adults a confidential declaration and a DBS disclosure are required.
Annual Parochial Church Meetings
Last year’s were very late, so this year’s seem to have come around very quickly.
- Altham St James’ APCM will be held within the service on Sunday 16th May at 9:30am.
- Clayton-le-Moors All Saints’ APCM will be held on Thursday 20th May at 7:30pm and will also be streamed on line.
If you aren’t already on the electoral roll of your church and would like to be, please get in touch right away and we can let you have the form to complete. You will then be eligible to speak and vote at the annual meeting.
At the APCM we elect those who will represent the laity of the parish on the PCC. The PCC has responsibility for the finances and care of the building, and for co-operating with the vicar in relation to the whole mission of the church in the parish. PCC members are charity trustees so it is a responsible position. We also hope that PCC members will be active in supporting the life of the church and sharing responsibilities. A summary of the role can be found on www.allsainstclaytonlemoors.org – speak to the vicar, wardens or any current PCC member for more information.
Most of us will have completed our census information last month. It will be interesting to see the data about our nation and locality when it emerges in due course. Just in case anyone missed out I’ve been asked to include the following information.
Even if you’ve missed Census Day there is still time to complete your census. Every household is required by law to complete the census and even though Census Day – 21 March 2021 – has been and gone, it is not too late to complete a questionnaire. There has been a great response to Census 2021 so far, but everyone needs to respond as soon as possible to avoid a fine. By taking a few minutes to complete the form you will be helping shape the local services in your community – the bus routes, school places, the hospital beds.
People can ask a trusted person, such as a friend, family member or carer, for help when completing their form. Over the phone and in-person support is available from the Census Support Centre run by Big Light On (01254 447272) or at any local library.
Bump it forward and Christian Aid Week
Many of you will now have had one, or perhaps two doses of a covid vaccination. I have had my first. Today there was further good news about the impact of even one dose on hospitalisation rates. We are so fortunate in this country that our vaccination campaign is so advanced. A lovely way of giving thanks is to give to the Bump it Forward campaign being run by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, which goes to vaccinating frontline health workers in Africa. You can find the link at www.justgiving.com/campaign/BumpItForward
Can I also remind you that Christian Aid week starts on 10th May? This year you might like to make a donation online. Or perhaps take part in their online quiz ‘Quiztian Aid’ with Rev Kate Bottley on Saturday 8th May at 7pm – register online (just google Christian Aid Week) and join in perhaps with family and friends – its suitable for all the family.
May the peace and joy of the risen Lord be with you now and always
Return to in-person worship
As you may already be aware, both churches have now resumed for public worship on Sunday mornings (Altham at 9:30am as usual and All Saints’ at 11am and Wednesdays at 10am). 11am services will continue to be livestreamed on facebook.com/allsaintsclayton and available to watch later. And Friday Praise will continue to be online only (termtime) until further notice. Night prayer continues to be shared online nightly (except Fridays) at 9:30pm. You can also find Sunday services from a different church each week and midweek messages, along with material for children and youth, on the diocesan Youtube channel.
We are yet to hear when small groups of singers will be allowed to lead worship again, or when we may expect congregational singing to resume. However, it is great that – as I hoped – we will be able to be in church again for holy week and Easter. Don’t forget that for now all the same guidance applies as before. Sanitise your hands on entry, wear your face covering, avoid the pews which are marked as out of use and keep a safe physical distance from anyone outside your household or support bubble. We need to be particularly careful not to mingle together for conversation before and after church, particularly indoors. Do be aware that although rates of transmission are much reduced there are still cases of illness occurring in our own parish community.
I have already taken a good number of baptism bookings from July onwards. Do be in touch before too long if you would like to discuss the baptism of a child in the forthcoming months.
A year into lockdown
As I write, we have already passed the anniversary of the first death in this country from Covid-19 and soon we will mark the anniversary of the initial spring lockdown. In that time approximately 125,000 people have died having tested positive for coronavirus. A massive number. Over that time 450,000 people have been ill enough to require hospitalisation. And there have been over 4.2 million confirmed cases – to which could be added all the cases never confirmed by test during the first wave. At the same time a cumulative total of 11.2million jobs have been ‘furloughed’ under the job retention scheme. Others jobs have been lost entirely. Everyone has lost out massively in terms of social contact – and in particular those in care homes have been deprived of visits by their loved ones. For two substantial periods schools have been closed to all but a minority of children, and in between many suffered the disruption caused by classes having to self-isolate.
One year since the initial ‘stay at home’ order seems to be an appropriate time to and take stock, a very important thing to do before we begin to move forward with the next steps of ‘unlocking’ and moving forward. Marie Curie have taken the lead in promoting 23rd March as a national day of reflection. We are supporting this and would encourage everyone to share in the day in a way that is appropriate to you. And if you yourself have lost loved ones
to covid, or your own health has suffered, or your circumstances strained to the extreme, then I hope that you will know that everyone’s thoughts are with you, more than ever, on this day.
Church will be open for times during Tuesday 23 March – 10:30am to 12 noon and from 3pm to 5pm. Anyone who is free at those times is very welcome to come and sit in church to reflect and pray. At 12 noon, as with many churches around the country, the bell will toll in remembrance of the many victims of this virus. And at 5pm there will be evening prayer with special prayers. You will be able to attend this service in person or watch it on-line.
Holy Week and Easter
Last year holy week was entirely ‘on line’ (or the provision on TV and radio) and had a very particular character in the depth of the first lockdown and at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic. Only the most pessimistic back then anticipated all that we’ve been through since and the fact that we still need to keep social distancing and forbear from song. This year Holy Week will still feel far from normal.
Whether you join online or in person, or a mixture of both, we come now to the central celebration of the mystery at the heart of our faith, of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus indeed was delivered over to death for our sins – and he rose again for our justification. In him is our only hope and our only salvation, now and in the day of judgement. From all our apartness let us be united with one another and with Christians around the world as we journey to the cross and the empty tomb.
The programme of services is below
God bless you this Passiontide and Easter
HOLY WEEK 2021
Palm Sunday – 28 March
9:30am Family Communion at Altham Church – no booking
10:45am Family Worship – online only
11am Holy Communion at All Saints’ Church – no procession this year either before or after the eucharist – no booking.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week I shall offer a biblical reflection followed by compline. These will take place in All Saints’ Church at 9pm on each of those evenings, and you can attend in person or watch on-line. Holy Communion on Wednesday 10am as usual.
Maundy Thursday there will be the Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper at 7:30pm followed by the stripping of the altar. This year there won’t be any foot-washing though, so no fear that you’ll be asked to volunteer! In All Saints’ and streamed online – no booking.
10am Service for families (c.30 mins) at All Saints’ Church – book via Eventbrite – also online
11am Morning Service at All Saints’ Church – no booking – also online
2pm Hour at the Cross at Altham Church – no booking
10am Morning Prayer – online only
9pm Vigil of readings – online only
Easter Day – 4 April
6:30am – Dawn prayers in All Saints’ Churchyard – no booking – also online
8am – Holy Communion in All Saints’ Church – no booking
9:30am – Holy Communion in Altham Church – booking required – sign-up in church or contact Les Moore
10:45am – Family Worship – online only
11am – Holy Communion in All Saints’ Church – booking required – sign up in church or contact the vicar – also online
If you’ve a garden, or if you’ve been out for a walk, you’ve hopefully seen some snowdrops out by now. In fact, there are also a few crocuses out in the churchyard and one primrose in our garden began flowering in mid-January, very prematurely! Snowdrops are a flower beautiful in their simplicity and in their role as the first herald of the new growth of the spring that lies ahead. They are also remarkable for their resilience in the midst of ice and snow. One of their traditional names is Candlemas Bells – a lovely link to this time of year and to the feast we celebrated this Tuesday of Jesus’ presentation in the temple. The light of Jesus our Emmanuel shines in the darkness even yet.
We’ve needed every sign of hope and every encouragement to resilience over this last month of renewed lockdown. After such long restrictions, and coming in midwinter, it’s been the hardest one to cope with for many people. Please God, though, it will be the last one. With vaccines reaching more and more people – 10 million already have had their first doses, including many of our older parishioners – and with better weather not too far off – we can be hopeful.
As part of all this, thank you for bearing with church being closed for physical services. As you will be aware, this wasn’t a legal requirement this time – but was the right thing to do, especially in response to the plea from the director of public health for Lancashire. We will keep this decision under review and as it seems appropriate will begin to offer ‘in person’ services again. At the very latest I pray that we’ll be back in church by Easter Day. And I’m pleased to say that St James’ will be open for private prayer on Sunday mornings for around 45 minutes from 9:30am starting on 14th February.
As well as worship, one thing many have missed is the social side of church. To help with this, we’ve begun holding a ‘coffee and chat’ zoom meeting after the service each Sunday morning at around 11:55am. Those who log on spend half an hour or so having a catch up, which is very welcome. Why not give it a try? The Mothers’ Union also have a weekly zoom meeting each Tuesday – Margaret Sims can let you have the log on details for that if you’re interested.
Shrove Tuesday (16 Feb) gives us a chance for a bigger social gathering. All Saints’ are having an online quiz! Join us on Zoom at 7pm – Meeting ID: 853 3586 9496 Passcode: 955912. There will be a round especially for children as we hope this will be something families will join in with. Altham parishioners are warmly invited to join.
Ash Wednesday follows on 17th Feb and there will be an online service at 7:30pm. Do join if you can and begin Lent with a joint act of worship.
Our focus this Lent will be on St Mark’s gospel. I would strongly encourage you to join people around the diocese in reading a little of it each day. And – if you can – to read it all through at the beginning and end of Lent as well. Its by far the shortest and simplest to read of the four gospels. Our diocese has produced a booklet ‘Read, Mark and Learn’ with a reflection to accompany each day’s reading. Find it at www.blackburn.anglican.org/seasonal-resources or Les and I have copies available – please just ask and we can drop one off.
What of Lent groups? Well, of course we can’t meet in each other’s houses or at the back of church. So instead we will use Zoom. Apologies to those who are on this or similar platforms for a lot of the day, but there is little alternative at the moment. Each Thursday evening, beginning 25th February, we’ll meet together in this way. The title is ‘Looking out in Lent’ and through the lens of Mark’s Gospel we will explore what it means to look outwards in sharing the good news, teaching the faith, tending to human need, transforming society and caring for creation. There will be a video to watch and we will share in discussion, splitting into smaller groups for this. We will end with a short time of worship which will replace night prayer on these Thursdays.
Whether or not you have previously joined in Lent groups or courses, do think about joining this one. It is an opportunity for us all to continue to grow in faith, to share in fellowship, and to begin to think outwards and upwards. Lent is always a time for preparation and opening ourselves to God’s re-creative love. This year, let us pray that it will be a time when we can especially be prepared through it for all that God has in store for us as individuals and as a parish as the lockdown eases, more of life returns and new opportunities arise.
At the present time we are very conscious of those who grieve – the families of the 100,000 lost to covid-19 and the many others who have lost loved ones where they have not been able to visit them in hospitals or care homes and where funerals have been reduced to a short service with limited attendees and no chance to socialize afterwards. A run of recent deaths in our own church families – Jessie Ireland, Mildred Birtwistle and Ian Mimnagh – brings this home. Do continue to keep all the bereaved in your prayers. You might like to use this one, issued by the Church of England.
Gracious God, as we remember before you the thousands who have died, surround us and all who mourn with your strong compassion. Be gentle with us in our grief, protect us from despair, and give us grace to persevere and face the future with hope in Jesus Christ our risen Lord. Amen.
Finally, before Christmas I received a note from the Rev’d Brian Stevenson, who has helped so much in our parishes in the past, especially during the last two vacancies. He writes,
“Dear friends, I realize that I must seem to have disappeared from the radar screen (as they say), so I thought I ought to bring you up to date. Many of you know that at the beginning of 2019 Marian and I moved to a flat in Whalley. At the time I thought I was just feeling the effects of the trauma of moving, not realizing that I wasn’t very well. Within days of moving I had to see my ‘new’ doctor in Whalley, the result being that I am being ‘sorted out’ medically and am now ‘taking the tablets’! The end result is that at 86 and with ill-health I am not ‘fit for purpose’ and have not renewed my Permission to Officiate from the bishop. In short, I have finally retired from retirement ministry which I have enjoyed these last nineteen years, much of which has been in your parish. I write simple to thank all of you for your support and to Vicar Toby for inviting me to help. 23 Vale House Close, Whalley, BB7 9TY tel 824229
I pray that this Lent – as nature renews itself from its winter slumbers – God may renew us in faith in our salvation, in devotion to Christ and in service of others in His name.
Love in Christ, Toby
Another month has come and gone and we now approach autumn. In many ways early autumn is a lovely time of year – that time of mists and mellow fruitfulness! – but of course it also points us to short days, long nights and eventually winter. The schools are back for the new year and it is lovely to hear the full sound of children on the playground again after the long period in which only a few children were present. We keep our schools, pupils and teachers very much in our prayers as they get going again, not least that everyone keeps safe.
It is good that since my last letter, Hyndburn has been released from the extra restrictions. There are still cases occurring locally, though, so it remains essential that we all continue to follow the guidance.
Attendance at church services has gradually been increasing and in recent weeks All Saints’ has been at or near ‘capacity’ for the number of separate individuals or households who can safely be in church together. The time has come to very gradually increase the number of services so that those who wish can come to worship in church and yet remain safe.
At Altham worship will continue to be weekly at 9:30, with all-age worship on the second Sunday of each month.
At All Saints’ we will continue to have a Communion service at 11am each Sunday. For now we are still unable to sing together, but gradually the pre-recorded music will be replaced by live music with small numbers of the choir or worship group singing. We have been very well supported by the recordings that Chris and family have made throughout lockdown, but it will be lovely to have some live music-making going on in church.
Wednesday Communion at 10am will also return from this coming Wednesday 9th September.
And on the second Sunday of each month there will be a family service at 2pm – this will last half an hour and is aimed at those with children. Pre-booking is essential for this service via this link https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/family-praise-tickets-118443861779
Now that autumn is here and the nights are drawing in, it might be the perfect time to take part in something new. I’d like to invite you to join with others in taking part in the Bible Course. Sessions will take place via Zoom on Thursday evenings beginning on 24th September at 7:30pm. There will be a total of 8 sessions with a break over half term. Each week will include two videos to watch, a time of discussion and a time for personal reflection. In between each session there will be a reading to read each day. The course is fun, interesting and doesn’t assume prior knowledge. It will help anyone get a better overview of the bible, and get used to reading its different parts and working out what it means for us today. Please just let me know if you’ll be joining so that I can make sure you get a handbook. Sometime next year, when things are hopefully back to a greater degree of normality, we will offer this as a face to face course for those who can’t, or would rather not, do this online.
This month sees Peter Dillon begin his training and formation for ordained ministry (three years part-time) – congratulations Peter on being called to this by God’s church. As was the case when Lesley was training, Peter will remain in our benefice for most of the time, but will be off on other placements from time to time. As you will expect, he will have an increasing role ‘up front’. I know that you will give him your support and your prayers at this special time. And please remember Revd Jane, who is settled very well at Whalley, Sabden and Pendleton. Restrictions mean that we can’t attend her ordination to the priesthood at Michaelmas, but we keep her in prayers at such a special moment in her life.
Looking ahead, it may be helpful to know that harvest festival will be on 11th October. I hope we’ll be able to make a bumper collection of food for our local food bank, and a generous financial response to the bishop’s harvest appeal. We’ll make sure there is an opportunity for any not coming to church services to drop off either kind of gifts. More details in next month’s letter. And if you can help with items sooner than that they are always appreciated and can be dropped off at the Baptist Church on Sparth Road.
The long-delayed 2020 Annual Meetings will also take place during October. All Saints’ will be held on Tuesday 13th October at 7:30pm. Altham St James’ will be held on Sunday 18th at 9:30am.
This week I led worship with the new Year 7 pupils at St Christopher’s and introduced them to the school prayer – which is a very famous prayer written by St Ignatius of Loyala. You probably know it. I asked them to think about it before inviting them to join in saying the words as they ask a lot of us. I commend them to you as we leave the summer and head into an uncertain autumn. Words of commitment to Christ in this and every season of life.
Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen.
God bless you and keep safe.
Yours in Christ
1st August 2020
How are you keeping? This phase of the pandemic is beset by uncertainties. We continue to pray for our leaders and for society as a whole as difficult balancing acts are undertaken to allow social and economic activity to resume, whilst not allowing the virus to spread rampantly again. Indeed, as I’ve been drafting this letter the rules have changed again for our area, to prevent meeting with others in homes and gardens. Individuals also face difficult decisions, especially as official shielding is ‘paused’. At the same time many are feeling the effects of the massive economic slowdown, with the consequences for people’s jobs. All this means that this period can be emotionally draining and challenging. Let’s continue to look out for each other and be sensitive to the variety of ways in which we are personally experiencing all this.
For four Sundays now, our churches have been open once again for public worship. Throughout August services in church will continue to take place just once a week in each parish – at the usual times of 9:30am at St James’ and 11am at All Saints’. The second Sunday – 9th August – will again be family-friendly. Adult numbers have been in the high teens at Altham and the low thirties at All Saints – and each week there has been a number of children present. I have been pleased to see how well it has been possible to conduct worship safely and how people have followed the instructions. Some things are quite strange – such as giving the communion bread without saying anything and not sharing the consecrated wine together. Many valued things are missing, including refreshments afterwards as well as hymn-singing. But gradually a temporary normal is becoming established – now also including face coverings in churches as well as in shops. Please note that from 8th August face coverings will be a legal requirement in church (apart from those with an exemption).
I don’t really like the phrase ‘new normal’ for these kind of things, because it is right to remember that they are exceptional and we pray for the day when they can be lifted. ‘New normal’ is, I think, a better phrase for those things which will emerge as long-term changes. Ones we pray will be for the good. Greater concern for each other, proper provision for the care system, more families out walking together, better provision for cycling…and, dare we hope, a greater awareness of the preciousness of life and our dependence on God.
Those in church are very conscious of those who aren’t with us physically, but are in spirit (and in the Holy Spirit). Don’t forget that anyone with an internet connection can view the 11am service from All Saints – either live or later on. You don’t need to have a facebook account. Just go to www.facebook.com/allsaintsclayton. The daily online services will, however, pause over the next two weeks, during my holiday time, but will then resume. I love the fact that people are joining together to join in the prayer of the church via this means and we will have to find a way of this being an ongoing part of the new normal.
Back in lockdown VE Day stood out as a day of glorious sunshine and of togetherness. It came just as we edged out of the peak of deaths. And it helped us remember that we have been through massive challenges before and that we will get through this one, too. It is sobering that around 61,000 lost their lives in this country to German bombing throughout the war, and that excess deaths this year so far are running at 53,148 (51,264 of them with COVID-19 on the death certificate as either the main or a contributory cause of death). On 15th August the nation will mark 75 years since the end of the Second World War on VJ Day. Do listen out at 11am as the church bell/s will ring out from both our churches in commemoration. Unlike in 1945, we are far from the end of our encounter with covid-19, but we must pray that we have the courage to build a better future as our parents and grandparents did emerging from the war.
A little word about money. Both PCCs are very grateful to those who have continued to support our churches financially during this time. Obviously, church income has dropped considerably with no collections in church and no weddings or funerals having taken place either. If you’ve not been able to give during these months you might like to make a catch-up, via cheque or bank transfer. Just ask if you could do with the bank details. For those from All Saints’ who give via weekly envelopes, as and when you come back to church you will find your box of envelopes waiting for you. Or perhaps this would be a good time to move to giving by standing order – again just ask. Standing order allows you to work out what is the right amount for you to give and to give that bank regardless of whether or not you’re in church or have the right amount of money in your wallet. And you are entirely in control – you can change the amount or stop the order entirely whenever you wish.
Also, a word on buildings. You may remember all the water damage at All Saints’ early in the year. Well, the new boiler was installed just before the lockdown, and plans are in place and permission granted for galebreaker material to be fitted in the tall lancet openings to the tower, so that driving winds don’t blow lots of rain into the tower. Fencing is going up along the boundary between school and church, and the shade of green chosen means that it shouldn’t be too obtrusive, whilst deterring those who have been breaking-in recently, and anyone else seeking to gain unauthorised access. At Altham the south aisle roof is being refurbished (following work on the nave and the chancel in previous summers) and some stunningly effective and efficient LED lighting has been installed. At Altham School a beautiful new modular unit has been opened to house reception.
I hope that the remaining part of summer will give everyone some opportunities to recharge their batteries. Not everyone will be able to get away on holiday, but if you can find opportunities that are safe for you do try to get a little bit of a change and some refreshment before autumn and winter, with the extra challenges that will bring.
Those of you who have been attending or following the Sunday services online will know that I’ve been focusing on the readings from Romans over these last weeks. I hope they’ve
given us all plenty to think about, and to affirm us in our faith. This Sunday’s reading reminds us that the bible is honest and realistic about the condition of the world and the suffering and death that occurs. At times there is nothing to do but to groan with a groaning creation, as we lament lives cut short, livelihoods lost, life disrupted in all sorts of ways. We are called to our knees and to the cry Lord, have mercy. From that position of grieving with those who grieve we are called to practical action to help others, action which points to the love and justice of God’s kingdom. And we are called to live as people of hope, who have the conviction that the future ultimately lies in God’s hands, that he is a good, good God, and that one day the present labour pains will give way to the full life, joy and peace of his new creation.
Yours in faith, hope and love,
I hope that you are keeping well. Over the six weeks or so since my last letter I have continued to see people out and about – including people I hadn’t previously seen since lockdown and I’ve continued to see familiar names commenting on screen through the Facebook services. So a special hello to those I haven’t yet seen.
These last weeks have, of course, seen a gradual easing of the lockdown, and more life has returned to our streets and parks. Even non-essential shops are open again. And from 4th July many of the restrictions will cease. We will be even more dependent on people exercising common sense and self-control, for the sake of the common good.
One element of the change is that – for the first time since 15 March – we can have Sunday worship in church.
Both our churches will, God willing, open for worship from Sunday 5th July. There will initially be only one service in each church per week – Altham at 9:30pm and All Saints’ at 11am. As you have probably heard, there will be no singing permitted. There will be Holy Communion, which will be received standing and in one kind (only the consecrated bread will be received).
The fact that church is open for worship should not make anyone feel obliged to come at this stage. Those who are shielding should NOT attend worship before the start of August at the very earliest. Others who are or live with those at increased risk should they contract COVID-19 should think carefully about whether or not it is right for them to come at this stage.
We are taking the steps necessary to make it as safe as practical for people who attend. Please do your bit by using the hand sanitiser when entering and leaving the building, by keeping your distance from others and by following the instructions of the wardens/sidespeople. Pews which are not to be used are clearly marked.
We will need to record the name and contact information of those who attend in case this needs to be supplied to contact tracers. This will be kept securely and destroyed after three weeks.
If you bring children with you, they will need to remain in the pew with you. Do bring your own quiet toys/books/colouring as the bags, toys, etc have all been tidied away.
A collection will not be taken during the service, but there will be a plate available if you wish to place anything on it as you enter or leave church. For All Saints’ weekly envelope givers the new boxes of envelopes will be available for you to collect. However, the simplest and safest method of giving is to do so direct from your bank. If you haven’t done so yet, perhaps now is the time to switch to giving by standing order? We can easily let you have the details.
Churches will open from 15 minutes before the advertised service time. Once the service is over you will be asked to leave – starting with those nearest the exit. There will be no refreshments or fellowship time after the service. People must not congregate in groups for conversation, particularly indoors.
I anticipate that there will be sufficient space for those who wish to attend to do so safely. Should there be a situation where the church has no more safe seating please don’t be offended if you are told that unfortunately you can’t come in on this occasion. We’ll make sure you get priority seating next time!
We will stream the 11am service from All Saints’ Church for people not attending to watch at home, either live or on catch up. Other times of worship will continue as at present to be offered via Facebook – 10:45am short family worship on Sunday mornings, 10am Morning Prayer on Wednesday and Friday mornings, 6:30pm Friday Praise and 9:30pm Night Prayer (except Friday). The pattern of worship will be reviewed when we reach the school summer holidays.
Before too long I hope that it will be possible to begin services on Wednesday mornings at All Saints. Funerals are possible in church and we are planning on baptisms from September, all with restrictions and social distancing. Weddings are also possible and we will have one in August which will be lovely.
For those of us who can, returning to the church building will be a privilege. It will in particular be a joy to celebrate Holy Communion together again and I pray that we will all approach that gift with eager expectation after so long a fast from the Eucharist. Those in church will hold in their thoughts those who are worshipping at home. May the spiritual unity which has helped us keep together through these lockdown months persist as we go forward.
Can I include a reminder for those who aren’t on-line that anyone can access a free Church of England resource called ’Daily Hope’ by ringing 0800 804 8044? There is a choice of listening, from hymns to a full service and the Mothers’ Union midday prayer.
With my love, prayers and best wishes,
Well, how are you doing? I have managed to speak to some of you (whether on the phone or at a distance when passing during exercise) and have seen social media updates or had messages from others. Some I’ve had updates of from our pastoral team, who are ringing many of our ‘older’ parishioners on a regular basis. Others I haven’t had any contact with and I hope that no news is good news. Don’t be afraid to get in touch one way or the other if you’d like a chat or yourself or someone else to be kept in prayer (publicly or privately).
I know that a number of you or your loved ones have been directly affected by the coronavirus. A few have been very ill, and others more mildly so. A few have lost loved ones during this time, in some cases with Covid-19 as the main or contributory cause of death. Others of you are already living with bereavement or sickness of yourself or a loved one and are having to do so without the physical comfort of relatives or many of the activities and services which can help us through.
Nationally it is good to observe that we are ‘past the peak’, but shocking to recognize that at least 30,000 lives have now been taken by this virus in our country already. I note, too, that numbers of people in hospital with Covid19 here in the North-West remain high, in recent days overtaking the number in London.
I think that by and large we are all trying to remain as positive as we can and ‘get through’ but we will need to allow time individually and as a society to work through the trauma of this experience. I pray that we will also take the time to think through carefully what we need to learn from it and how life can and should be different, post-pandemic.
Some of you are in one way or the other on the ‘frontline’. The whole parish is proud of those of our number who are nursing the very sick and at times accompanying the dying. Everyone’s thoughts and prayers are also with all those whose work brings them into heightened risk from this virus, whether as carers, in shops, in the emergency services or whatever it may be. Whilst many of us seek to stay safe and work from home, you are out there day by day. Our schools and their staffs are working very hard to support home learning, to care for those who need to be in school, and to keep in particular touch with those where there is a special need for support.
We are now in the seventh week of lockdown. We are now beginning to look for how it will be eased and a gradual move towards greater freedom made be possible, hopefully without compromising public health. The very simple message will become more complicated and so it will be very important that we continue to follow the instructions we are given. A good number of you fall into the clinically very vulnerable group and have several more of your minimum twelve weeks minimum ‘shielding’ yet to come. Our thoughts are with you as you cope with these strictures , especially those who live alone.
We are now well into the Easter season. For many of us going through Holy Week and Easter without going ‘to church’ was very odd. However, I hope whether through the services on facebook or through your own times of worship at home, you were still able to feel the reality of the Easter gospel of God’s redeeming act in the death and resurrection of Jesus. And I hope that whilst physically apart we still feel ourselves to be members of one body, as indeed we are, the body of our risen Lord Jesus Christ.
I hope that everyone is now aware of our Facebook live services (Sundays from 10:45, Fridays at 6:30pm) and prayer times (Wednesday and Friday morning prayer and litany at 10am, daily night prayer at 9:30) and that you can access these on-line even if you do not have a Facebook account. Google ‘Facebook All Saints Clayton’ and you should get the link.
If you aren’t on-line then I hope you have found the Sunday worship services on BBC television or radio. There is now also a facility to access a FREE Church of England resource called ’Daily Hope’ by ringing 0800 804 8044. There is a choice of listening, from hymns to a full service and the Mothers’ Union midday prayer. Also, to enable you to join in the Night Prayer that some of us are sharing in at 9:30pm, I’m including the order of service with this mailing. It is a very peaceful way to reflect and wind down at the end of the day and to place ourselves and the hurting world into God’s hands in prayer.
Some of you have asked about giving during this time. The PCCs of both parishes are very grateful to those who give by standing order and whose contributions have continued. They are very conscious that for some the lockdown has brought financial difficulties through unemployment, being placed on furlough, or the self-employed losing their income. We quite understand where individuals need to suspend or reduce their giving. Others who normally give by envelope may wish to help by giving via standing order, or if preferred via one or more one-off BACS payments. Details for giving to All Saints’ can be found on the church website – or simply get in touch with me or Les Moore at Altham or Linda Bracewell at All Saints’ for details or a form. Alternatively, you can simply accumulate your giving and bring it when the churches finally re-open.
Both our churches pledge to give 10% of our general income in charitable donations. As part of this, All Saints’ PCC have now gifted £1000 during the lockdown to Clayton Baptist Church to help them help our community. They are very active as part of the Hyndburn Hub, and at the request of social services also helping needy families more widely across East Lancashire. Some need a food parcel to tide them over, or because they have no-one to go shopping for them. Others have come out of prison, or left an abusive relationship or similar and have absolutely nothing. The Baptist Church on Sparth Road is open daily and you can always drop off food, household essentials, toys/colouring/craft things for children.
One effect of these strange times is the rediscovery of prayer by many who had perhaps given it up as old fashioned or irrelevant. I’m sure that those of us who pray anyway have found ourselves praying more intently and regularly as we seek God’s peace, his healing for the sick, his strength and protection for the carers. In prayer may we know his strength to carry us, his peace that passes understanding and courage for the path each of us is called to walk. And in prayer may we seek his will, his direction for our futures, and that his kingdom come, on earth as in heaven. Here is a prayer you might like to use:
Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may all rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
With my love, prayers and best wishes,
I hope that you are keeping well both physically, emotionally and spiritually in these testing times. In many ways we are simply called to obey a simple instruction – stay at home and save lives. But suddenly being separated from physical contact with loved ones (including our church family) is hard. Staying in all the time can get very claustrophobic, all the more so if you have a small home and no or very limited outdoor space. Suddenly being with our nearest and dearest 24/7 can try our nerves. And we can all fear and worry what will happen to us, and what will happen to our loved ones should we or they catch COVID-19. Sadly, we will all know people who will get it, and very sadly we will all know people who will get seriously ill, and in some cases die.
If you are struggling in any way with any aspect of this, PLEASE don’t struggle alone. If you’re struggling with practical tasks, ask and we will put you in touch with someone who could help. If you’re struggling with the isolation or could just do with a chat, please pick up the phone. Your clergy are actually less ‘busy’ than normal at present, with the usual run of activities, meetings and so on suspended. Of course, there is childcare to juggle, and you may need to leave a message. But do so and I’d be delighted to call you back.
I am writing this letter as we enter Holy Week and Easter. In this week, we plumb the depths of our human callousness and rejection of God – and the immensity of God’s love. We know the Christ who reveals himself most powerfully in giving up his life for us on the cross. And from that unconditional sacrifice of self, God raised him to new life, and opened for us the gates of his everlasting kingdom. That kingdom life we can share now by the Spirit, even as we wait for the day when it comes in its fullness, when death, disease, hatred and sin are forever gone and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Holy Week and Easter will be very different this year, but many of us will have more time to be with the Lord in prayer and reflection, united in spirit with Christians around the world. As many of you have discovered, I am doing what I can to make Sunday and Holy Week services available via the internet as well as daily prayer. The principal services for Holy Week will be:
Maundy Thursday 8:15pm
Good Friday 10:45am families, 11am Way of the Cross, 2pm Good Friday Liturgy
Easter Day 10:45am families, 11am Eucharist
You can find all this at www.facebook.com/allsaintsclayton . You don’t need a Facebook account to access the page or view the videos. You can either watch live or catch up once they’ve finished. The 11am service on Good Friday will be special as many individuals have recorded themselves reading lessons or reflections.
If you go to the All Saints’ website www.allsaintsclaytonlemoors.org you will find the orders of service for the main services, together with the readings and prayers for each Sunday.
You can also find services on BBC Radio every Sunday and there will be religious broadcasting on the TV over Easter as well as lots of material on line.
I pray that when Easter comes, despite the fact that we won’t be in church singing Alleluia, despite the fact that we won’t be gathering with family or watching children hunt for eggs in the garden or any of the other things we’re used to, we will still know the joy in our hearts of the truth that Christ is risen, that love has conquered, that ultimately there is nothing to fear.
With my love and prayers, now as always , Toby
A pastoral message from the Bishop of Blackburn:-
It is extraordinary that a virus that was unknown until very recently and that is unseen to the naked eye, has been able to have so much impact on so many people in such a short space of time and at so many levels of our national and international way of life.
Schools forced to close, acts of Christian worship suspended, workplaces shut down, restrictions advised on travel, unprecedented pressure on our NHS, calls for self-isolation. Who can imagine a Holy Week and Easter, proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus; events at the centre of our faith, without public gatherings of worship, meditation, celebration and prayer?
Into this crisis Christians bring a positive emphasis of hope. Church is not cancelled; we continue, but in a different way. Faith can be lived out and expressed in our homes through prayer and study together.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy 2.9, he speaks of his suffering in prison, being chained like a criminal, locked down and then declares:
“But God’s Word is not chained, the work of God goes on relentlessly. The gates of hell cannot prevail!”
Of course, in a crisis opportunities to serve and help are multiplied. A recent visit to the Blackburn Foodbank showed me a band of wonderful volunteers making up food parcels for collection.
In the slow down, there will be new time for rethinking and re-evaluating our priorities in life.
This outbreak is a solemn reminder that we are not in control of our present, or our future and my prayer is that it will lead to a fresh turning to God, to a new awakening of faith and over the Easter period a deeper appreciation of Jesus’ death and resurrection. That using the familiar words of the baptism and confirmation service, sees many turn to Him, submit to Him and come to Him, as the way, the truth and the life.
The disciple Peter said to Jesus when the crowds were leaving Him, “To whom else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” He does indeed. May in this crisis many find that to be true.