Tel: 01536 414052
Days of lockdown and future plans
I want to take this opportunity to write to you again to bring you up to date with future plans and thoughts for church. I apologise for the length of this letter, please do try to read it all.
Where are we now?
These are unprecedented days, never in history has the church closed its doors to any who wish to come. These are also very tough times for those who are isolated, especially the recently bereaved, and for those with family they cannot spend time with. Julie and I have a new granddaughter, now six weeks old, whom we have not yet been able to meet. We share your pain. We must also remember those who have lost, or stand to lose, employment, and for those small business owners whose businesses have failed, with knock on effects for their employees. Alongside this, there are ‘key workers’ bearing the brunt of the difficulties, working doubly hard while most of us are confined at home. Our NHS staff, who have been truly amazing, but also teachers, post-office workers, parcel delivery people, refuse collectors, police, paramedics etc.
Plans are extremely difficult to make, and any we do make may well change. The latest information we have from the bishops is, I’m afraid, not encouraging. Clergy are now allowed into their church buildings alone, and not to hold services. All church buildings are still closed to everyone else. It is possible that wedding and funeral services in church may resume in the near future, but not as we might like them. Guests will be restricted to immediate family only and limited to a small number. No orders of service, other service books or Bibles may be used. Attendees will need to be seated 2 metres apart from each other, and there will be no singing allowed. A return to regular church services is some way off, and it is unlikely we will be back to anything like normal this year. This is all in the hands of the bishops.
We cannot live for the future, we need to live within our present restrictions, making what we can of the opportunities we have to live as God’s people. God has not forgotten us, he has not been taken by surprise, he has brought us here for a purpose.
What are we doing now?
This crisis has caused many of us to dive headlong into modern technology, and we have discovered that, in general, it is not as complicated as we had feared. If you are not au fais with internet technology can I suggest that you give it a go? I have heard many stories of people discovering what a great thing it can be, uniting families and friends and joining in online worship. And there are many different ways to access it, mobile phone, tablet or computer. But perhaps the simplest way is through a smart TV If you have one. All modern smart TVs will almost certainly have direct access to YouTube, possibly via a single button push on the remote control.
We are currently making the following available:
- Live Morning Prayer streamed at 8am every day on YouTube and Facebook (live.stbots.church)
- A ‘daily thought’ from 7pm every day on YouTube (films.stbots.church)
- A morning service every Sunday from 9.15am on YouTube (films.stbots.church)
- Weekly meetings for our young people (by invitation, speak to Andy if you know someone who might like to join)
- Regular story times on YouTube for our children (films.stbots.church)
- Our regular church website, the focal point of all church information (stbots.church)
- A church blogsite, a place for written articles, thoughts, CFN etc. (blog.stbots.church)
- A WhatsApp group for sharing prayer needs (you will need a smartphone for this one)
And, for those who cannot access any of these, we are able to offer a weekly DVD of the Sunday Morning service and other selected items. Please contact the church office if you would like one of these, or if you know someone else who would. We are doing our best to get them delivered on Sunday afternoons.
We would really value your feedback on any of these things. We are learning as we go and really do want to offer the best we can, to the glory of God. Please do also keep us informed of your prayer requests, and of any pastoral needs you believe we may have overlooked. You can contact us by telephone (the normal office number), by email or via WhatsApp. You could even write us a letter.
What about finance?
I do need to write about finance in these difficult days.
One amazing thing about modern internet technology is that many things it offers are either free, or very inexpensive. The above offerings, save for some very minimal costs for software and equipment, are incurring no additional cost to deliver. You must agree that’s pretty good value in anyone’s book!
We are entering very difficult days as we begin the recovery from COVID-19. We are facing the highest unemployment rate for a generation, the deepest economic depression for over a century, and the biggest government debt in history. It is certain that taxes, in some form, will need to rise substantially to pay for this. There is no doubt that most of us will feel worse off (perceived or actual) for some time to come. The temptation is to ‘batten down the hatches’, cutting giving and economising wherever we can. Against this background we must remember that it is the creator of the universe whom we serve. The prophet Isaiah reminds us:
Thus, says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself (Isaiah 44:24)
Our giving to God’s work is not because he needs it, how could he need anything when he made it all. It is because as disciples of Jesus we need give. It is a response of sacrificial generosity to God who has done so much for us. We have the only true message of hope there is, and it’s hope that is eternal. We have the privilege of sharing this message with a world that is in desperate need of hope for the future. Jesus encourages his disciples to use their wealth in the light of eternity.
Please can I encourage you, if you are able, not to cut your giving to God’s work. And, if you are able, to increase your giving as a thank offering to God. As a church that God has blessed over the years, we have regular expenditure that we must meet as well as funding new initiatives (like taking on Helen).
Over the last few years, we have been running at a deficit which we cannot continue to do. This despite cutting expenditure wherever possible. Can I encourage you to reassess your giving to God’s work, and for His glory?
- If you give regularly by standing order, thank you. This is the mainstay of our income. If you wish to change the amount you give regularly could you let us know? It really helps with our budgeting.
- If you are part of the planned giving (envelopes) scheme, thank you too. If you have envelopes you want to give to us, then please post them through the letterbox at Church House. All mail goes into a strong metal box so is quite safe.
- If you wish to make additional one-off gifts, then you can still send us cheques or CAF vouchers. You are welcome to give cash gifts too in a clearly marked envelope ideally best deposited though the Rectory letterbox.
- You may shortly notice a button on the church website via which you may give to St Botolph’s. You may use this for one off gifts, but please be aware that there is an administration charge for every gift given in this way.
If you are using St Bots, “My ChurchSuite”, you can, by using the “My Giving” module, make a one-off online donation or (If you aren’t already using standing order) set up a monthly direct debit.
If you want to know how best to give to St Botolph’s please contact the office and we’ll help you.
So now, may God bless you, keep you and preserve you for all eternity.
The Revd Mark W Lucas