In case you’re interested

In a former life I studied the sciences leading to a degree in Biochemistry. As part of my studies I took a course in virology, my main interest was molecular genetics so it was mainly from a genetic perspective. I found viruses absolutely fascinating and totally amazing things. Now, my knowledge is 35 years out of date and things have moved on apace, but I’m sure I still have a grasp of the basics. So, just in case you’re interested here is a layman’s guide to viruses, what they are, and how they work:

Most viruses are a string of RNA (a very few are DNA) encased in a protein envelope. It is very difficult to argue that they are ‘alive’ in any meaningful way: they do not respire, they cannot move, they have no cell structure, they do not eat, and they can’t even reproduce themselves. So, what do they do? Well, they are extremely successful at multiplying, not by themselves, but using the reproductive mechanism of host cells.

First, a primer in DNA, RNA and protein. You will know DNA is made of two long strands wound together in opposite directions, the ‘double helix’. Each strand is made up of a string four distinct type of DNA molecule. These are given the names A, T, G and C. Each strand of DNA in the helix is a mirror image of the other, A pairs with T and G with C. The DNA resides in the nucleus of the cell (with the exception of mitochondrial DNA, but that’s another story) all coiled up, as chromosomes. In order to make proteins the DNA is ‘read’ in the nucleus to produce RNA which is then transported into the main part of the cell to be ‘expressed’. RNA is a single strand made of a combination of RNA molecules called A, U, G and C. The RNA is read in groups of three ‘bases’, each group of three represent a single amino acid. So, RNA is read to produce a string of amino acids, which we call proteins. So, genetic information is stored in DNA from which RNA carries the code to the ‘workshop’ of the cell to produce proteins. It is worth reflecting here that the sequence of A, T, G and C in DNA encodes the entirety of nature, every animal, fish or reptile; every bacteria, mollusc or flee; every tree, plant or algae. All share the same ‘code’ stored on their DNA. Not surprising since they all have the same creator.

So, the sequence is: DNA à RNA à Protein. During cell replication (mitosis) DNA is replicated to produce two sets of chromosomes which then form two cells. And the process begins again.

Back to viruses. A virus will attach itself to a cell wall, bear in mind they are extremely tiny compared to a cell, which itself is extremely tiny. Viruses are so tiny that you can’t see them without an electron microscope. This explains why face masks are of little use, viruses simply pass straight through them. Having attached itself the virus injects its RNA into the cell. This RNA is then expressed by the cell to produce proteins making up the protein ‘envelope’ of the virus. But, how is the RNA duplicated? Well I’m glad you asked, because here is the really clever bit. On the RNA is coded a protein which, when expressed, makes an enzyme that puts things in reverse making DNA from RNA! This DNA is then read by the cell workshop to produce RNA – more viruses! Eventually so many new copies of the virus are made that the cell wall breaches, spilling out the viruses to begin the process again in other cells. And so it goes on.

What are viruses? Tiny pieces of the molecule that makes living things. They are not life in any way we could recognise. They simply reflect the shear fecundity of the very fabric of creation.

I do hope this helps!


No need to fear

A member of the congregation writes:

I’m sorry to say I have already forgotten the details of the discussion, but the one thing that has stuck with me from the Sunday evening service a couple of weeks ago was someone saying – Remember Jonah ran away when he was scared.

I have to admit I’m scared at this moment and I want to run. I have the pleasure of working in the NHS with some amazing people, but the current situation is very scary. Not because we are under pressure locally at this moment, we have nearly 150 empty beds (this is unheard of). The work that is going on at our local hospital to get ready is incredible, please be reassured you have some amazing people who have not stopped working to get us ready for what may happen over the next few weeks and months.

Personally, I have been rapidly promoted into a position where I have to take a lot of responsibility for a lot of people, my decisions at this time could impact directly on someone’s life – possibly someone who is reading this, or one of the team that are relying on me to get my decisions right.

I have to regularly remind myself that I am experienced at what I do and I have years of experience in this area.

But this brings me back to the point of writing these words. I need God in my life.

I am naturally someone who will question myself at every turn, worry constantly about what people think about me and I don’t want the limelight.

And yet I find myself having to lead by example, being calm and confident while making large decisions that impact on a lot of staff and patients, or spending millions of pounds on equipment and projects.

The only way I can manage to do my job is if I remember to pray, to ask questions and try to understand what God wants me to do. When I forget or stop praying, life gets harder, the decisions aren’t as easy and the time I wake up in the morning gets earlier and earlier.

The one thing to remember, which I have to keep reminding myself, If you remember to pray its incredible what you can achieve.

It’s a lot more scary without God in your life, I found God at 19. It seems a long time ago, but I still remember the lost feeing I had back then, how helpless it seemed. Then I think about how far I have come and what I have achieved while trusting to God.

I’m scared, but I have my faith in God. We will get through these next few months together.

To keep you going

Well, it looks like the present situation will be with us for the long term, at least until late summer anyway. I don’t know how we’ll all cope shut up inside, especially as the weather gets warmer. I guess we just have to remain stoical and remember the wartime motto, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. At least we get to explore all those amazing applications of current tech we might otherwise have missed. Talking of which, I am streaming ‘Morning Prayer from the Rectory Breakfast Table’ each day at 8am. Why not join me? What better way to start the day.

Also, I am posting a daily thought each day on our YouTube channel. Each one around 10 minutes long from different members of the team, and designed to spark your thinking and praying. I hope you find them useful.

Please let us know if you find either of these things in any way helpful. Send us your ideas and questions too. There’s a ‘Contact’ page on this site, or you can add comments under the videos (do bear in mind that comments under videos are public).

May God bless you.

Questions, questions

A crisis like the one we are currently facing inevitably leads to questions. How can I make sense of what is happening? When will it end? Even, will I survive it? These are quite apart from the theological questions about God’s part in it all. Well, I hope to write some articles here over the coming weeks to help us think through these questions. However, there is no point reinventing the wheel, and there are some pretty good (as well as some, frankly, terrible) pieces already available in the blogosphere. So, for starters, have a look at these:





Keep Calm and Carry On

some thoughts from a retired GP and church member.

There is a lot of anxiety and misinformation around which is made worse by uncertainty. We do not know who is infected, how fast it will spread, what other measures we may have to take but we do know we have a faithful God who loves and cares for us. He does not want us to fear. For God has not given us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self control. II Tim 1 v 7

It is not easy to strike a balance between appreciating the seriousness of this pandemic and becoming over anxious. If you have a particular issue you need to resolve then think it through until you reach an practical conclusion. This could be how best to support an elderly relative or how to get enough toilet paper. Worrying about maybes and what ifs does not help you or your family or honour our loving Heavenly Father. I Peter 5 v7 says ‘Cast all your care on him for he cares for you’. We cannot predict the future so we should make the necessary changes and then deliberately choose not to worry. For those who struggle with anxiety this website might help:

A lot of people are spending too much time obsessively checking the internet and social media for information or opinions. This is unhealthy and may lead us into reading things which are wrong or misguided. It generates anxiety. Stick to the reliable websites and facts:

We can focus on positive activities and consider how to love our neighbour as ourselves. We should be more concerned about the welfare of others. How can we protect others by our choices? How can we help people self isolating or unwell? How can we encourage people who are feeling anxious, afraid or lonely?

We need to take sensible precautions and follow advice. It will be inconvenient and severely affect how we live and interact with each other. We must not think the advice does not apply to us. We also need to respect those given authority to make decisions and support them.

Washing your hands properly and often is essential every time you go anywhere. A thorough hand wash with soap is better then hand gel so don’t stress if you have no gel! Watch the videos, practice with your family, get in the habit of doing it well. If your hands get sore use moisturiser.

Avoid unnecessary contact. Keep your distance. Don’t hug or kiss even close friends. Find personal inventive ways to greet each other.

Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands. We do it without thinking about it and need to train ourselves not to do it. Follow advice about how to cough or sneeze into bent elbow or tissue.

You personally are not immune to becoming infected or passing it onto others. You could be infectious before developing symptoms. Please take self isolation seriously if you do have symptoms. We will find new ways to connect with each other. If we minimise the risk and allow the infection to sweep through the population unchecked then we risk losing more people and overwhelming services.

80% of those infected will have a mild illness but 20% will have more serious symptoms and are more likely to be older or have other health conditions. They are likely to need hospital admission and may need access to scarce resources for breathing support.

If you are working, especially if providing physical care to others, be sensible but do your job well. We are so grateful to everyone working in health or social care services or supporting family or as volunteers. Thank you.

We can continue to be grateful for what we do have; homes, access to food, family and friends, while remembering those who do not have these things. We can share what we have, not complain when appointments or events are cancelled, but continue to trust God for the future whatever happens. Pray for mercy on our nation. Be positive and sensible. Keep well. Sheila Matthews


What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer        heJoseph M. Scriven

All Stop!

It is with deep sadness that we now have to suspend all Sunday services with immediate effect. As this Sunday is Mothering Sunday, flowers for you to give mothers will be available at the church gate, please help yourselves. We have postcards available should you wish to use them to offer support to neighbours. If you would like some, let the office know and we’ll drop them around to you. For the time being Link and 1eighty will continue to meet as usual. We will continue to meet at 8am each weekday morning for morning prayer, you are very welcome to join us.

Please keep an eye on the website ( where we will be posting updates. We also hope to make short services available for you to use at home.

We continue to pray for a swift end to this present crisis, God holds us all in gracious and loving hands.

The LORD looks down from heaven
and sees the whole human race.
From his throne he observes
all who live on the earth.
He made their hearts,
so he understands everything they do.
The best-equipped army cannot save a king,
nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.
Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—
for all its strength, it cannot save you.
But the LORD watches over those who fear him,
those who rely on his unfailing love.
He rescues them from death
and keeps them alive in times of famine.
(Psalm 33v13-19, NLT)