He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters,
he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23 –verse 1-4
A message from Bishop Rachel and Bishop Robert
We are aware that everyone will be experiencing a range of thoughts and emotions as a result of the Prime Minister's announcement yesterday evening. There were clear messages about the closure of church buildings, the cessation of weddings and baptisms, and the importance of all of us now staying at home. The only exceptions to this are: infrequent shopping for basic necessities, one form of exercise a day (alone or with members of your household), a medical need; helping or providing care for vulnerable people, and travelling to and from work (but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home).
It is vital that all of us abide by these instructions and urge our communities to do so. Rather than seeing the PM's announcement as negative prohibition, we need to view it as something proactive as we seek to love our neighbour and keep people as safe and as well as possible.
Key points from new guidance that has come out today:
1. Our church buildings are closed for public worship and for private prayer
2. Emergency baptisms can take place in hospital or at home, though subject to strict hygienic precautions and physical distancing as far as possible.
3. There can be no weddings in church buildings until further notice.
4. Funerals can only happen at the Crematorium or at the graveside. Only immediate family members can attend (if the crematorium allows) - that is, spouse or partner, parents and children, keeping their distance in the prescribed way.
5. Foodbanks should continue where possible under strict guidelines and may have to move to be delivery points, not places where people gather. If you can, do consider making a financial contribution to your nearest foodbank.
We will keep clergy and Readers updated with information regarding funerals.
In the midst of all that is painful and turbulent, thank you for all the different ways you are 'joining together' in prayer and worship from home, as well as deepening understanding of what it means to be followers of Christ in our everyday lives, Sunday through to Saturday. As we said in a previous letter, this is a poignant time to 'learn to be God's people once again' (from the words of the extended Lent preface in the Eucharistic prayer).
Digital ministry: It has been positive to see the ways that many of you have been connecting digitally with your worshipping communities. However, we do also want to stress that whilst live streaming is a creative solution that is enjoyed by many, it is not the only answer and there is no obligation for everyone to do this. It is also important now that any live streaming only takes place from within a home, and should not involve anyone from outside that household. Please do think carefully about what needs to go on public social media. This is not a competition. Furthermore, it is important that in our efforts to be inclusive, we do not find ourselves inadvertently being exclusive. Be aware of those who struggle to connect digitally and don't abandon all traditional means of communication. There have been some wonderful examples of people saying the daily office or using simple liturgy and scripture readings in their homes, knowing that others are doing so at the same time, without need for digital connection. And do use the telephone - and use it to pray with people.
If we are wanting to learn to 'be' the Church in different ways, it is important that from a place of worship we are also thinking creatively about what it means for us to be the 'sent' Church, even from the confines of our homes, whilst also noting that in the coming weeks and months we are not looking for busy heroism. This strange new landscape is one of huge challenge, but it also offers us a different rhythm to our lives. So we hope that amid the community outreach and support, you will pay attention to your own well-being and encourage others to do the same. Make time for more prayer, feed your imagination in good and positive ways; share ideas regarding TV, films and books; and in households with people of different ages, do make use of the fabulous Growing Together resources ---> and of course take physical exercise.
Invitation to pray with us
From our own homes, we will be praying the prayer at the end of our message and the Lord's Prayer at 8 am every morning. We invite you to join with us.
And finally from us...
Today in the Church's calendar we remember Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who was martyred for his faith in 1980. He once said "We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest."
We, and the Archdeacons, continue to be available to you from our homes. With our love, thanks and prayers.
Bishop Rachel and Bishop Robert.
A prayer in lockdown The doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked. (John 20.19)
Ever present God,
be with us in our isolation,
be close to us in our distancing,
be healing in our sickness,
be joy in our sadness,
be light in our darkness,
be wisdom in our confusion,
be all that is familiar when all is unfamiliar,
that when the doors reopen
we may with the zeal of Pentecost
inhabit our communities
and speak of your goodness
to an emerging world.
For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Community support – Information needed urgently.
It is important that we do all we can, in a safe way and following national guidance, to help those in our communities that are most vulnerable. There are some simple but effective things we can all do to help. We recognise with the new measures announced last night, much of what we can do is now very limited. However, simple things such as taking out the bins and making a phone call can still help.
Gloucestershire County Council has created a new online hub, which is collating all the support people are providing in our communities. This then helps the district councils find the community support needed for those most in need. They are also asking for volunteers to sign up to be called on if needed.
Please also send us the information so we can help provide a coordinated response across our diocese and add information onto our own online hub. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with how you are serving the community.
Feeding the 5,000
In joining in with this community support the diocese have developed a project called Feeding the 5,000 with an enterprise called ‘The Long Table’ based in Brimscombe and led by Will Mansell. Their key caterer is Tom Herbert (of The Baker Brothers). They have scaled up their kitchen, bought equipment and have already begun to feed people in need across Stroud. The project is now being extended to Gloucester, Cheltenham and the North Cotswolds. We would like to move to include Tewkesbury and the Forest of Dean but we have to move one district at a time.
The Long Table are working with local community kitchens (and staff) which are not currently able to operate and where the diocese has relationship, e.g. with organisations like the Nelson Trust and their cafes - The Clean Plate, the Sober Parrot, and RAU in Cirencester.
The key groups who we are supporting are:
Vulnerable/At risk People: Some of these people will be supported by family and community. However, some will not have friends or family nearby to look after them.
Foodbank users: The Long Table intends to reduce the strain on this system by offering every foodbank customer regular deliveries of pre-cooked food for the entire crisis period.
There has already been a substantial donation to get this going in Stroud regarding kitchens and equipment and some brilliant collaboration between people and organisations.
If you would like find out more or support this project with finance or in person, please do contact Lucy Taylor on email@example.com
A message from Judith Knight, Director of Resources.
Over the coming days we will be providing more guidance and support, such as advice to PCCs around employment, maintaining your team dynamic and taking care of your mental health.
However, do let us know what you need from us. If you have an HR, safeguarding, property or finance question, just let us know as we are here to help! Staff are working from home, but are still very much contactable. In the first instance please try email, but phones are forwarded, so do call if you need. Link to contact details – www.gloucester.anglican.org/about-us/contact-us/
Supporting connections with young people
If anyone would like support with connecting with young people during this difficult time, then please do contact Barrie Voyce for support, help and advice. He is our LIFE Vision youth leader. Contact - firstname.lastname@example.org
Gloucester Cathedral and all other churches have now been closed, even to private prayer. But this does not mean that we are not able to worship. Dean Stephen will be on BBC Radio Glos at 5.40pm this evening to talk about the decision, so do listen if you have a chance. The Dean has shared this useful document about Spiritual Communion which you may like to share with anyone who is finding the inability to take Eucharist challenging. You may also want to use this poster on church buildings closures, created by the national Church, to display on your church door, explaining the situation to people who may not have heard the news.
If you're feeling like you want to connect digitally with your worshipping community, but are lacking in skills, confidence, or both, you might consider signing up for one of the national Church of England's digital Learning Lab training. There are lots of dates available, with the first one tomorrow. Sign up for Learning Labs digital training here --->
Light A Candle – a way for people to direct their thoughts towards friends and loved ones at sad times, even if they aren’t able to be there in person.
Church support hub
The Church Support hub has put together some advice on reaching out to disappointed parents and godparents of children whose baptisms have had to be postponed and advice on supporting couples who were planning for weddings in the weeks and months ahead. It includes ways that we can offer pastoral support, warmth and closeness to people who will be unable to attend funerals (and may have been unable to say final goodbyes to people who are dying). There is also simple liturgy and prayers that people can use at home to worship God and remember friends and family.
The Revd Bruce Clifford interviews Stuart, who was involved in the creation of the measles vaccine and has an impressive understanding of viruses.
For pre school children and their parents (but you might enjoy it even if you are not technically the target age!). It includes a story, a song and a craft run by Owen, the Children and Families worker. The intention is that there will be daily videos on the Leadon Vale Facebook page.