Night prayer

From the chapel of Lambeth Palace.

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Zooming in on each other

We are finding new ways to keep in touch with each other: by email and over the internet. This post will hopefully help some people to learn how it is possible to have a virtual face-to-face meeting, using your desktop PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
It is less difficult than you might have thought!

Douglas our churchwarden was familiar with something called Zoom, one of the applications that exist to make tele-meetings possible. What follows is just about Zoom.

To take part in a Zoom meeting you do not need to set up a Zoom account.
A Zoom account is only required if you need to create the meeting and send invitations to participants. Our MMP clergy at St John’s and Geenstead with St Anne and St Mary’s have already agreed to go on ‘meeting’ in this way, with Revd Sue Howlett being the ‘host’.

This is how Douglas arranged yesterday’s meeting of the Men’s group: he emailed an invitation to join link to all participants prior to the meeting. See the video below which shows what it looks like on the screen of every participant once the meeting starts.

The reason you can see the participants is that they all used a computer with a built-in webcam.
If you don’t have a webcam but your device has a microphone, you can still join a Zoom meeting and see the others and hear them. They will also  hear you but won’t be able to see you.
If you don’t know if you are equipped with either, we can help by sending you a link to a Zoom meeting we can set up for this purpose if there is demand for this (leave a comment so we know).
Meetings can have up to 100 participants. Just imagine!

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St Mary’s Men’s Group on Zoom

News just in is that the Men’s Group has found a way of continuing its meetings while we remain in social lockdown.
The next (virtual) meeting will be held on Monday 30 March at 8 pm.
The discussion topic will be from chapter 32 of McLaren’s book Peace March (Palm Sunday) and Douglas has copies of the book for those who don’t have it.

Get in touch with Douglas if you haven’t been before but would like to join the Zoom meeting. You can email him to ask for an invite. (find him under the churchwardens entry on the contact/people page).

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Hesitant digital steps

Some churches are well advanced in their use of digital technology – not so St Mary’s.
One limitation is that the church does not yet have Wifi. Getting it has been explored a number of times in the past but it seems our building is a bit of a challenge when it comes to installing it.
And lengthy streaming without Wifi is a prohibitively expensive business.

But at this period in time it is a lack that is felt acutely. The Church of England and bishop Stephen have been at pains to point out that this is not a competition and nor should it be.
Those churches that have the capability are sharing what they do, and anyone with Internet can join their services and prayers.
For instance, St Mary’s Walthamstow has extended an invitation to join them on their Facebook page for regular Night Prayer (Compline) on Saturdays at 9.30 pm.

Spiritual Communion is something new to most of us and bishop Stephen has made a video in which he explains what it means. Recommended viewing for those who sorely feel the loss of not being able to take Communion in church at this time.

This Sunday (29th) BBC Songs of Praise episode is a special one: Aled Jones meets bishop Stephen Cottrell to reflect on current events. Hymns were recorded before churches closed which means everyone can still sing together.
Join at 1.15pm on BBC One television, or on line

Nevertheless, Revd Erwin is keen to try using some of the digital facilities that are within his reach during this lockdown so he can keep in touch. The video below is the first, admittedly unpolished effort. We are grateful he is prepared to embrace this novel for him ministry.

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Coronacles, final chapter

Not unexpectedly but no less unwelcome for that, our church has now moved from suspension of all public services to having to close its doors entirely.

Bishop Stephen, in a joint letter with the bishops of London, Rochester and Southwark, has written :

In doing this we demonstrate how important physical distancing is in saving lives.

Our most profound desire is to come together with our neighbours. Christ taught us to come together as His Body to celebrate the sacraments. In all the history of Christendom in these islands, we have not before taken such a step.
Partly, this is our modern understanding of how disease is communicated, which in the times of former plagues had not developed.
But it is also born of the teaching of Our Lord that the two great commandments are love of God and love of neighbour. The very love of neighbour that leads us to want to come together requires us to sacrifice congregating for a season.

Sunday Club has also been suspended for the duration.
These are difficult days for us all. Do not cease in prayer for each other.

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Wivenhoe church bells

After ringing for a rather special wedding on Saturday 21 March and sadly for the first time since the end of World War 2, the bells will be silent for the foreseeable future.

We have very reluctantly decided to heed the advice given by the UK government and the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to avoid any “non-essential” contact with others. They state:
“If you haven’t already decided to cancel ringing activities, it seems that now is the time to do so.”

We know that many Wivenhoe people enjoy hearing the bells and we will keep you updated. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the bells ring again, not only in Wivenhoe but throughout the UK.
It was lovely to be greeted by Erwin as we came down the tower steps, plus several other people standing in the churchyard who applauded us.

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Coronacles chapter 4

Unsurprisingly in these strange times, there have been further developments as we figure out how to ‘do things differently’.
Revd Erwin has drawn up a plan that might serve for at least a while yet, and prepared this poster, that sets out the details:

Another initiative has taken shape jointly with Colne Radio 106.6FM. Erwin has recorded the first Thought for Sunday, a short message that is intended to be broadcast around  10am, 2pm and 8pm (before or after the top of the hour).
Churches Together Wivenhoe have been approached as will be other non-Christian faith community leaders, to see if this is something that can be developed into a regular offering on a rotational basis.
Colne Radio can be found on line via the link above, or on your radio receiver on 106.6FM.

As Erwin said in the poster, we continue to pray for our community in these fraught days and St Mary’s Facebook page has acquired a new feature  that we hope will reassure anyone in the community that these are not empty words.
A prayer group has formed that will daily react to any prayer requests that may be made and if any of our congregation would like to be part of this group, contact to be informed of any requests that might have been made by message and so not visible as a reply post.

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Coronacles chapter 3: going to do things differently!

We have today received the latest guidance from the Church of England and have linked to it here, so everyone can read it in full.

The main item of news is this:
“In light of the Government guidance around non-essential contact, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued advice that public worship is suspended until further notice.”

However, identifying the opportunity that often comes with disaster, the Archbishops have realeased a press statement in which they encourage us to continue ‘doing’ church in ‘a radically different way’ and it can be accessed via this link.

Perhaps they knew about the new Wivenhoe Mutual Aid Facebook group that sprang up over the weekend…?
Intending volunteers can make contact by emailing

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Thank you Cathedral Musicians

Thank you to James Davy, Hilary Punnett and the Gentlemen of Chelmsford Cathedral Choir for performing a beautiful selection of choral and secular music this evening in aid of St Mary’s Transformation Project.
It was an incredibly atmospheric concert enhanced by the use of our new lighting system.

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Coronacles chapter 2

Saturday 14 March update.

Cathedral Musicians concert 14 March
This will be going ahead as planned tonight and promises to be a wonderful event.
No refreshments will be served in the interval. If you had not bought a ticket yet these will be available at the door where contactless payment can be made (card or phone).
Handwashing facilities are available.

St Mary’s quiz 28 March
Most people who had intended to participate in the Quiz should now have heard from their team leaders that this will not be going ahead. We are sorry to have cancelled, but there were some factors that made this the right decision: quite a few quizzers would have been in the so-called ‘vulnerable’ category; also, we would have literally been putting our heads together– not desirable at this time!

Church service of Matins 15 March
This will go ahead as planned.
People are invited to wash their hands on arrival.
Collection will be on open plate handled by the sidespersons only.
No after service refreshments will be served.

Church of England updated guidance
Much of the above is contained in this guidance for churches which can be read by following this link.

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Coronacles chapter 1

Further to yesterday’s post, here’s what we’ll be doing at St Mary’s for the duration of the Corona virus crisis or until advised otherwise.

The Common Cup will not be offered and communion will be in one kind only (wafer)
Intinction will not be available.

No handshaking, hugging or kissing at the Peace; we are encouraged to adopt the Namaste gesture or use British Sign Language, as shown in the clip below.

All Services
Open plate collection will be standard for the time being as it avoids the hand-to-hand passing along of the collection bags.
The sidespersons will be the only ones actually handling the plate and they have been separately instructed in handwashing procedures.
Don’t forget that you can use the contactless payment facility at the back of the church!

Returning service books at the end of the service: we are encouraged to replace the books on the cupboard shelves ourselves rather than handing them to sidespersons.

After service refreshments will still be offered but we are asked not to carry cups to/for other people and also just take/return our own only.

Just look after each other!
Give people a ring or send them an email if you have any worries about them.
Wash your hands when you get home.
Don’t be tempted to hoard; just keep in mind this jokey Tweet, seen this morning:
“To the people who have bought 27 bottles of soap leaving none on the shop shelves for others, you do realise that to stop getting the corona virus, you need other people to wash their hands too!”
(Of course we’re not for a moment suggesting that anyone of St Mary’s needs this exhortation!)

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