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Pastoral Letter

5th June 2020: Rev. Richard Atkinson
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Reproduced from the Circuit magazine, July – September 2020. Click here for the magazine.

It is very strange composing this piece in these uncertain times. By the time you read it things could be the same, restrictions may have been eased or sadly the lockdown may have become more severe. In the midst of these tempestuous times church life goes on.

Firstly, I want to express thanks to those who are at the forefront of our pastoral response. Phone calls and letters received have been a source of real blessing as we endeavour to keep connected. In addition there are so many who are, in love, responding to those beyond the church from being involved in feeding the homeless, to doing shopping for neighbours, to , on a Thursday evening doing a roll call of the neighbours to check all is well. In these days of isolation any contact is a real blessing. I seem to be spending a lot of time using zoom and cannot express how re-assuring it is to see faces of those with whom I meet and to sample their positivity in spite of the restrictions we all live with.

Secondly to commend those who hold office in the churches, at the time of writing we are just beginning to think about what the church beyond lockdown might look like. Those who serve as church stewards, especially those who are the contact name on the Circuit plan, never anticipated having been involved in thinking about how church premises might need to be adapted to ensure the safety of those who come in. These folk are at the forefront of our response and I am so grateful for the way in which they link your church with the wider circuit. Finally, there are church treasurers who are doing their best to collect offerings so bills can be paid and assessment provided so something of our ministry can continue. We all owe a debt of gratitude to those who continue to rise to the challenge of these days to enable the life of our churches to continue.

Thirdly there are those at circuit level who have stepped up to the plate. Roy Collis and Peter Green who spend time dealing with the technological wizardry required to post the daily devotional videos on the website and have had to contend with systems that do not always work the way they should. Then there are the Circuit Leadership Team who are endeavouring to support the churches and ask what then Circuit can do to help the financial hit that each church will take in this period. And there are my colleagues trying to live out their call in these times as well as coping with the impact of these days on themselves, their family and friends. We are called to be a community of thanksgiving, I want to express on all our behalf thanks to all for the part or parts they play.

There will be a new normal. We do not know when our churches will be allowed to re-open, when it will be practicable for congregations to gather. Your church leadership are working on a plan to allow reopening, reflecting on what it will mean to be a congregation in the midst of social distancing. Worship will be different but it will still be worship. All that we do may need to be rethought, zoom meetings may become the norm. We are though a dynamic community and we will rise to the challenge to incarnate the Gospel as best way we can and where possible for this to happen in public. We know we are not alone, that the Spirit will be in our midst inviting us individually and collectively to seek a vision for our new reality. Most importantly though we remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God. In the midst of all for whom we pray there is great importance in praying for each other that , with one voice, we may continue to be the people of God, living out the Jesus way, and in the midst of these days of darkness seek to walk in the light

Blessings Richard

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