May the peace of Christ be with us all in these dark and difficult times.
This letter is a summary of where we are as a Circuit and a look ahead to the March-May period which includes Lent, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost.
Maybe it’s because I have taken 27 funerals in the past 11 weeks, 25 related to Covid, having had the privilege of taking only 21 funerals in the previous 11 months. Maybe it’s because of the anguish and pain I hear in these families. Maybe it’s because I hear stories of Covid in our hospitals from doctors, nurses, paramedics and chaplains from within the Circuit. Maybe because our 3 children are working full-time in the NHS, very much on the frontline. Maybe this is why I am increasingly cautious about our responsibility as human beings, as Christians, and as an expression of God we collectively call Church, in encouraging opening up of our buildings to our own vulnerable people, whose main conversation over this past few weeks has been about ‘getting the jab’, as well as our wider communities with potentially vulnerable people amongst them.
As such, after much discussion with colleagues, I, in my capacity as the Superintendent Minister, (CPD 521) decided that the next Plan of Worship for the Newport and Lower Wye Methodist Circuit, will feature only the on-line Services that are available in Caldicot, Chepstow, Dan-y-Graig, Monmouth, St. Julian’s, Trellech and Trinity. Contact details for these will be on the Plan and Paula Farr will send them to you if requested.
If the local Stewards and Trustees seek to open up their building for prayer/worship during the week or on a Sunday, before the end of May, a risk assessment needs to be rigorously undertaken and adhered to and any worship would come under the term ‘local arrangement.’
This covers the period from March 1st through to May 31st. The expectation is that we will have a fully completed Preaching Plan in place from Sunday June 6th through to August 29th. There will probably be social-distancing rules and mask wearing. We will see, but the intention is for us to be encouraging meeting up in our buildings for prayer and worship from June when most will be fully vaccinated (my first ‘jab’ should be about mid-May). There may still be local on-line Services offered, this is a missional opportunity, but, I reiterate, that we do not have Planned Preaching Services for the next quarter but will, God willing, have a full Plan for the quarter after this.
In the meantime there is plenty of ways to worship God. This maybe in your own way walking the hills or doing the garden, this maybe watching Songs of Praise, this maybe in your local Parish Church that is open for prayer and this maybe in the current on-line way you currently engage in. As a Circuit, in the next quarter, we have the following for collective worship.
Lent: Wednesday February 17th at 7.30 PM there is a Zoom Ash Wednesday Service taken by Revs Rachel Frank and Bethany Willers. Each Minister has some ‘Ashes’ you can have for ‘Ashing’ at home, please do ask them and the link will be sent out with details of the Service.
There will also be Daily Devotions, have we have been having throughout the past 10 months, and these will take the form of a Lent Calendar on the theme of ‘The Methodist Way of Life.’ Paula Farr will send this out daily and the weekends will be sent out as we have been doing.
Holy Week: We have planned Zoom Circuit Wide Services on: Maundy Thursday: April 1st at 7.30 PM: Good Friday: April 2nd at 7.30 PM: and Easter Sunday Morning at 8.00 AM.
Ascension Day: We are to welcome back Revs Preben Andersen and Ruth Lownsbrough and give them a ‘proper’ send-off as well as welcome, more fully, Rev Bethany Willers and celebrate Local Preachers Long Service awards as well as praising God and looking ahead to a new phase of Church life beginning in June. This is all to take place on Zoom on Thursday May 13th at 7.30 PM.
In these difficult times we are, as a Circuit, trying hard to keep us all connected in the worship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and can I encourage you all to try and take part in any or all of these acts of worship. There is a light at the end of a vaccinated tunnel and we will be able to take stock and start to plan ahead as churches and fellowships very soon. Part of this planning ahead was the agreement for a Circuit invitation Committee to be delegated responsibility at looking at Stationing needs from 2022 as the appointments of Rev Les Jones and myself are due to draw to a close in the summer of next year. Please bear us all in prayer over these months of discernment ahead.
Thank you for your prayers and resilience. The world has had much to contend with over these past 12 months and there is still a way to go, but we have continued to be worshipping communities, we have had the opportunity to deepen our discipleship over this time, and we look ahead in hope that the Light of the world, will be shining ever brighter through us and that the Holy Spirit will be guiding us into the ‘new’ that God has planned for us as the prophecy of Isaiah (chapter 42) tells us is happening.