19th March

Dear friends

This is the first of what I hope will be a regular series of letters so that I can keep in touch with you whilst we are unable to meet for corporate worship and other regular gatherings.

By now I’m sure that most of you will have heard the news that as part of measures designed to suppress the spread of COVID-19, the vast majority of churches will not be holding their usual services on Sunday or on other days. This is to help us maintain ‘social distancing’, so that the virus cannot spread to uninfected people even from those currently without symptoms.

We don’t know how long such measures will need to be in place. Like the Government, the Church of England is listening to the best available medical and scientific advice in a rapidly moving situation unlike any other experienced in modern times. As advice and decisions are communicated to parishes, I will do my best to keep you informed and up-to-date.

The immediate practical implications for us in the parish of Kildwick Cononley and Bradley are as follows:

  • There will be no Sunday services in our 3 churches until further notice. This includes the 5th Sunday service which was scheduled to take place at 9.30am at St John’s, Cononley.
  • Similarly, the Wednesday morning service at Kildwick will not take place
  • We will not gather for KCB prayers next Monday evening (23rd March)
  • At Kildwick, CHUFFs, MiniRingers, bellringing and choir practice are all suspended
  • Any other church or parish gathering will not take place physically for the time being.

If you have any questions about any particular activity or event, do get in touch with me.

HOWEVER! Although we are not able to gather physically for the time being, that does not mean that we’re not able to gather in spirit. In their letter yesterday (see attached copy for the full text), the Archbishops said:

Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead. Our life is going to be less characterised by attendance at church on Sunday, and more characterised by the prayer and service we offer each day.

We are being encouraged to reimagine what the Church is, how we sustain ourselves spiritually at this time and how we live as Jesus’s disciples. We’re all on a steep learning curve that is the product of circumstances. At present, this is what I am intending to do to provide pastoral and spiritual support:

  • On Sunday 22nd March at 10am, for those of you who are on Facebook, I will be having my first attempt at livestreaming! I will lead a short service of Morning Prayer, which you will be able to see through the St Andrew’s Church Facebook page. If you wish to join in, you’ll find attached to the e-mail the form of the service, or you may wish to download the Church of England’s ‘Daily Prayer’ app. The readings will be psalm 19, Isaiah 43.1-7 and Ephesians 2.8-14. If you’re not able to join me at 10am, you can go to the Facebook page at any time that suits you to watch it and participate.
  • Next week, Monday to Thursday, I’ll be livestreaming both Morning and Evening Prayer, at 9am and 4.30pm. If you’ve got the ‘Daily Prayer’ app, you’ll be able to join in, but if not, please watch and pray along with me anyway.
  • I’ll also be sending a daily e-mail to those on our circulation list with a short ‘thought for the day’ and including any updates that I’ve received.
  • I hope over the next few days to develop a document containing pointers to on-line spiritual resources as well as some prayers for you to use at home. We’ll e-mail this to as many people as possible, but I or someone else will also deliver hard copies to as many of those who don’t use electronic means of communication as possible.

What can you do?

  • Encourage as many of our regular congregation as possible to ensure that Jill Wright has their e-mail address if they are happy for me to keep in touch with them in this way.
  • Give Jill the names and addresses of those who will definitely prefer hard copies of these letters and similar communications.
  • If you have the means, join me for as many of the livestreamed times of prayer as you are able.
  • Maintain your own rhythms of prayer and Bible reading
  • Think about how (consistent with keeping yourself safe, maintaining social distance and being aware of the factors that may make you more vulnerable to infection) you can support your friends and neighbours. Can you phone or Skype/Facetime them? Send letters or e-mails? Offer to collect shopping or prescriptions?
  • Observe the official guidance on keeping yourself and others safe: regular hand washing; avoid non-essential social contact; self-isolate for 14 days if you or someone in your household has a new persistent cough or fever.

In his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul wrote: For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. (1 Thess. 5.9-11)

In times of anxiety and uncertainty, I hope we can remember that God loves each one of us, and wants us to be in relationship with us all, through Jesus Christ. Secure in that hope, let’s all find new ways to encourage and build one another up over the coming days and weeks.

With every blessing