A New Year update from Frances

I wonder how the latest lockdown makes you feel? I know that some feel afraid, whilst for others frustration, anger, or even despair are the overwhelming emotions.

This letter has two purposes: first, to remind you that, however you are feeling today, you are not alone; I think all of us are finding this lockdown more difficult than previous ones. Also, there are members of the church family (and the local community) keen to come alongside you and to support you in whatever way is right for you. You may wish to offer support: from chatting regularly on the phone, to ordering someone’s regular shop online, there are many ways in which to reach out and share one another’s burdens, which will be so important in these grey January days. The pastoral assistants will continue their vital role, as will the Life Groups. If you ever need or want to offer support, please be in touch with the church office.

The second purpose of this letter is to let you know that your PCC has taken the decision that, with immediate effect, the church building needs to be closed to the congregation and members of the public. Rapidly rising rates of illness in the local area, apparently due to the greater transmissibility of the new coronavirus variant, is the main reason we have taken this step. We want to keep you and all of us as safe as we can, whilst still providing spiritual nourishment and support. To this end, services will continue to be available (a mixture of live stream and recordings) each week at 10am on Sunday, and on the website for viewing whenever suits you.  Life Groups will also continue online or by phone. If you would like to be put in touch with a group, please contact Patrick Fleming via email. The PCC will look to re-open the church building for congregational worship as soon as it is safe to do so according to our risk-assessments and guided by both government and diocesan guidelines. In addition, Patrick (D) has created a Daily Prayer leaflet for us all to use at different times of the day, to keep our eyes upon our wonderful heavenly Father and to give us a sense of praying together every day.

Finally, these words from Psalm 92 came up in a Bible reading for yesterday:

‘It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night…

For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.’ (vv1-4)

The commentator wrote the following about the ‘virtuous circle’ which these verses contain:

‘Thanksgiving and praise give rise to gladness, which results in further praise, and praising makes us glad. The best thing we can do when we experience a dearth of gladness is to praise God.’

However it is that you choose to praise God, shall we try this together through this lockdown and see where it leads us in the weeks ahead?

Blessings,


 
 

Christmas services in church

I am pleased to write with the good news that, beginning this Sunday, 6 Dec we shall return to hold services in church. Spaces will continue to be limited (according to the safety guidelines) and booking via either the website or the church office will continue to be necessary.

Services will continue to alternate weekly between a traditional style and the less formal style of Oxshott Praise. Listen & Pray will form the core of each service, which will then be followed with a short form of Holy Communion for those in church. We will need to maintain all safety precautions, including wearing masks in church, no singing and overcoming the temptation to stand and chat with our friends outside!

Christmas services are on the horizon and information about each of these is available on the Weekly News, in the magazine and on the website. Some of our festive services will be ‘live streamed’.  We are really grateful to Mike Shand, John Henshall and others involved in installing new equipment to enable this.

We would encourage most people to stay at home and experience Christmas services online. However, there will be a limited number of places available in church, which can be booked. We shall once again give priority for key services (the 6pm Carols,  Midnight Communion and Christmas Day service) to those who have no access to the internet or to those who will be spending Christmas alone. We know most of those who are in these groups and will be in touch with them individually. Once we know how many spaces remain for each of these services bookings will be opened more widely: please check the website or contact the office in the week before each service.

A special element of our Christmas Day service will be the Christmas Greeting online zoom at 10.45am. Following our successful first attempt at this on Commitment Sunday, 29 November, we shall join one another on zoom to wish each other a Merry Christmas! Please do join in if you can.

Finally, another exciting prospect over the next few weeks is that the plans for our new ancillary buildings will be shared with all Life Groups by the BYC team, having been overwhelmingly approved by the PCC at their recent meeting. Anyone who is not currently in a life group and who would like to join for one of these presentations is encouraged to contact Patrick Fleming ( or via the office – 01372 842071).  Further presentations will be arranged for other audiences in the New Year as regulations permit. At the presentation you will be informed of the ways in which you can feedback your responses to the PCC. Do please pray for all concerned: for clarity of communication and for us all to capture the vision of which the plans for our buildings form merely a part.

Blessings,

An Update from Frances

As we enter the four weeks of the second lockdown, I wanted to write both to encourage you and to inform you about the new government restrictions and the way they will affect church activities.

The first, difficult news is that in this period, we are no longer permitted to allow anyone to attend services in church.  A few of us can be in church to lead and broadcast services, which we will continue to do on Sundays at 10am.  You will find the links to join in on our home page.  If you have any difficulty accessing these – or have any other issues around using your device to join in – there are people who would love to help you, so please ring the office (01372 842071) in the first instance.

Additionally, any meetings planned need to be held virtually, rather than in person.  This applies to everything from PCC meetings to Life Group socials.  Many of you have told me how much you dislike zoom (or its equivalents).  However, if we can regard it simply as a helpful tool to enable us to gather in ways that otherwise are not possible (especially important for those of us living alone) then I hope many of our vital group gatherings can continue.  Again, if you have the technology but are worried about using it, please contact the office to seek support.

The good news is that we can continue to visit the church building for private prayer on Wednesdays from 4-5.30pm, so please do continue to book for that via the church office or the booking page. Let’s use this opportunity.

I end with the encouragement of this verse, used in previous pastoral letters:

‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.’     (Romans 12.12)

Our hope is not just about the end of the pandemic or the invention of a vaccine. It is based on Jesus and all that he has done for us on the cross, opening the way for an intimate relationship with our loving heavenly Father, beginning now and lasting into eternity.  When this hope feels distant may I suggest you turn to the Psalms?  They are wonderful verses containing every raw human emotion.  Peace is found as the psalmist acknowledges afresh that God both knows how he feels and is in control. And this applies to us too.

The pastoral assistants, members of the bereavement and ministry teams and clergy are all still available to help you or someone you know who may be struggling, so please get in touch so that we can support one another in any way over these next few weeks.

Blessings,

 

 

 

 

APCM arrangements

I am writing to you this week primarily about the APCM (the Annual Parochial Church Meeting) which is to be held, as many of you already know, on Sunday 4 October at 7.30pm.

I am sorry we were unable to send this letter last week, as intended, but we have had to wait to receive the go ahead from the diocese of Guildford in light of the government’s latest guidelines which came into force on 14 September.

Priority Booking

Given that we need to accommodate the various church ‘officers’ (the two churchwardens, myself and the treasurer), plus those involved in enabling the APCM to run, we are limited for spaces in the church. Therefore, the wardens and I suggest that, as with our first services in church, we give priority to those who cannot easily access the meeting via the internet (we have a list of these members of our church) to book in for the meeting. Therefore, if this applies to you, we would be glad if you would please ring the church office (01372 842071 between 9am and 1pm, Monday to Friday) by Monday 28 September to book your place. If any places remain there will be a booking form on the APCM information page from Tuesday 29 September listing the number of spaces available on a first-come, first-served basis. If this does not appear, this means there are no spaces left.

Zoom Booking and Signing-in

Please join the zoom meeting at 7.30pm on Sunday 4 October.

To join by audio only from any phone, dial 0203 481 5240 (charged at local rates) and when prompted enter the following:

  • Meeting ID: 853 6541 1762
  • Passcode: 578360013

Annual Report and Meeting Agenda

The agenda and annual report will be available on the APCM information page. If you require a paper copy of either of these, please contact the office team, who will print them and arrange to deliver them to you.

Other presentations made during the course of the meeting will be shown on the church screen and on zoom.

Nominations

Nomination forms for both a new churchwarden and up to 6 members of the PCC will be available on the APCM information page. If you wish to have any of these posted to you, please ring the office.

All nomination forms should be returned please to the PCC secretary, Mrs Sue Procter: 

In theory, nominations are accepted right up until the meeting itself. However, as they require both the nominee, plus a proposer and seconder to sign them, in practice this takes a little time and preparation. (Please note that we have decided that scanned signatures are acceptable this year.)

Please pray carefully about who to nominate and give your nominee the time to prayerfully reflect upon whether this is the right step. The wardens and I are happy to receive enquiries from anyone considering standing for the PCC.

Voting

Voting is an integral part of any annual meeting and so we are making careful preparations for counting votes both from those physically present in the meeting and from those at home on zoom. Please rest assured that this will be a ‘real’ meeting in all respects and voting will be explained clearly on the night.

Questions

It would help us enormously if you could please submit questions in advance of the meeting. To this end, please send them by Thursday 1 October to Sue Procter, the PCC secretary, using the email address for her given above.

The Churchwardens, Treasurer and I are really looking forward to being able to celebrate with you all that God has done in and through Your Church – St Andrew’s Oxshott over the year from April 2019 – April 2020, so please do join us if you possibly can.

Blessings,

Services of Holy Communion at St Andrew’s

It has been so wonderful to see a good number of you in the past month in church, either at private prayer or for Listen & Pray. I think many of us have been surprised by how unexpectedly moving and emotional these simple gatherings have been.

Building on this positive experience to date, I am glad to write that (unless anything untoward happens between now and then) we shall resume holding services of Holy Communion at St Andrew’s, starting on 6 September. This letter is to inform you of the details, so please do take note and pass the news on! I shall set these out as a list to make referring to them straightforward:

  1. Identical Communion services 10am on Sundays and Wednesdays from September

    From the first Sunday in September we shall hold two identical services of Holy Communion each week at St Andrew’s until further notice. Both will take place at 10am.  One will be held on Sunday and the other on Wednesday morning. This is because current capacity in church due to observing the Covid-19 guidelines is limited to somewhere between 25-35 at any one time. Listen & Pray will still be available to everyone via the website and will be screened during both Communion services.

  2. How do I decide which service to attend?

    The wardens and I strongly suggest that if you are at work during the week you should come to the service on a Sunday. Conversely, if you have flexibility over how you use your weekdays, please would you attend the service on Wednesday mornings. If in doubt, please ring the office.

  3. Booking

    We need to ask you to continue to book for these services, as previously. In summary, please go to Bookings for Listen & Pray in church or ring the office (01372  842071) between 9am and 1pm, Monday to Friday.  There will always be some spare capacity for visitors.

  4. What will it be like?

    Things will remain much as they have been during August, with everyone required to wear masks and seated 2m apart during the services (except for those sharing a bubble, who can sit together). As you book a place you will be sent (via email or post) a document giving further information about what to expect. Please contact the office if you have any concerns or queries.

 

I know that these arrangements still fall far short of what we would all prefer. However, let us do as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5.11

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Blessings,

Listen & Pray in church

St Andrew’s church building has been open now for four occasions for private prayer, and although numbers attending remain small, I know it has been a real comfort to some. And so we move to the next stage: opening the church for a ‘service’. This will first happen on 9 August and will continue through to the end of the month, by which time we are planning further opportunities to worship together, including celebrating Holy Communion.

These summer ‘services’ will simply be Listen & Pray screened in church. We had planned to have the preacher and pray-er deliver their parts ‘live’ but the obligation to wear masks in church has meant a change to our plans as these will make it more difficult to hear people speak (and impossible to lip-read), especially for those of us who have hearing difficulties. However, I hope that some of the disappointment will be assuaged by the fact that myself and Patrick, our new curate, will be present in church to welcome you in person, as well as the assembled group of around 25 people (depending on how many ‘bubbles’ there are): it really will be good to see a few of our church family. 10am has been chosen as that is also when it is suggested that internet-users watch Listen & Pray online so there will be quite a community of us gathered simultaneously!

Sadly, we need to ask you to continue to book to attend anything happening in the church building, in order that we are abiding by all the rules and guidelines sent to us on a worryingly regular basis from the government, the House of Bishops and the diocese of Guildford. The wardens, office team and I long for the day when we can just let everyone come! However, please rest assured that everything we are doing is for the safety of everyone, including the most vulnerable among us.

For the first Listen & Pray in church we want to give priority to those (around 20 or so) whom we are acutely aware have been unable to join in with anything posted on the website as they have little or no access to the internet. The office will be sending invitations to these people on Friday. If you receive one, please ring the office by 1pm on Tuesday 4 August to confirm whether you are able to attend, otherwise, it will be assumed that you do not intend to come.

From Wednesday morning 5 August, can I encourage everyone else who wishes to attend to book themselves and their family in, either using the booking form on the church website or by ringing the office between 9am and 1pm up to and including Friday. The list will close on Friday at lunchtime. Booking enables us both to track and trace and also to set out the chairs in the correct configuration for the particular combination of ‘bubbles’ of people attending for that particular week.

For the following Sundays in August, all are welcome to book for this short service of Listen & Pray, so please be in touch via the website or by phone. It will only be possible to book for the following Sunday and (if booking by phone) during office hours from Monday to Friday lunch-time, when the list for that week will be closed. If you are in any doubt, please ring the Church Office on 01372 842071.

Everyone attending is asked to follow the instructions of the Welcomers and is strongly advised to wear a mask, please. Wearing these is not for our own sake but again to help protect the most vulnerable among us.  Please bring your own mask if possible, although a small supply of them will be available. Similarly, please bring your own Bible with you.

Finally, I want to thank all the Warden, Office, Welcomer and Publicity teams (especially Mike Shand), for working so hard to complete these arrangements to enable more of us to meet in church again; it really has been a huge task and I am so grateful to them all. Perhaps you could encourage them too if you see them!

I am very aware this is rather a detailed letter so please, if you are confused, do ring the office, where Rowena will be very glad to help you.

Blessings,

Summer time at St Andrew’s

It’s exactly twenty days since I wrote my last pastoral letter and I wanted to let you know of a couple of new developments coming up at St Andrew’s, Oxshott.

The first is that, starting this week, we shall switch to classic Oxshott ‘Summer-time’.  This means that whilst we will continue to record Listen & Pray every week for the foreseeable future, the style of the images, music and prayers around the talks in our summer series on Luke will vary on alternate weeks between a more traditional 9.15 style and a more informal 11am one.  This is similar to what we usually do in the school summer holidays; namely, hold all our services at 10am and vary the style between Holy Communion and Oxshott Praise.  I do hope that in doing this with Listen & Pray, we can appeal to the full range of worshippers who are members of the church family at St Andrew’s and those who have newly joined us via the internet.

We shall begin this Sunday 26 July, with an Oxshott Praise style Listen & Pray. On 2 August it will have a more formal style and continue to alternate throughout the rest of July and August.  There will be a reminder in the Weekly News available on our website or posted direct to your home.

Secondly, last night the PCC agreed that we could start to hold a short form of worship in church on Sundays beginning on 9 August  –  provided nothing changes in the meantime.  This will essentially be Listen & Pray done in real life.  For the first week, we intend to invite those who have not been able to watch and participate in Listen & Pray online because they have no access to the internet.

Your wardens and I will be continuing to work hard on the arrangements and paperwork involved in this exciting next step and we would be really grateful for your prayers as we do so.  There will be information to pass on about this, which I will send out in a further letter next week, so please watch this space!

As I write, the third session of opening the church for private prayer has started and I am pleased to report that all is going well. The Welcomers have been excellent and are pleased that things have gone smoothly. Those coming to pray have felt safe and free to spend time on their own in the familiar, peaceful surroundings of the church building.  We currently have room for more to attend each week, so do encourage friends and neighbours to come, preferably by booking ahead please.

Finally, a prayer of blessing from Romans 15.13 (NRSV)

‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’

Church re-opening for prayer

I know that for many, the closure of our church building has been one of the most difficult aspects of the whole of lockdown. Therefore, I am really pleased to let you know that we are ready to open St Andrew’s, Oxshott, for individual, private prayer beginning on 8 July. Preparation to reach this point has been exacting and time-consuming and I am very grateful indeed to the wardens and office teams especially, plus the members of the PCC, Ministry team and Welcomers who have worked hard and will be working hard to make this possible.

We shall be starting small with a maximum of 6 people at any one time (5 booked places and space for one ad hoc visitor) on a Wednesday afternoon between 4 and 7pm. The timing is to enable the widest range of individuals to attend. The day was chosen because it fits with the availability of personnel to assist those who visit our church (and it also enables the important 72-hour interval required between different people entering the building).

People will be able to book a 30-minute time-slot for prayer by either visiting the website and booking direct or by contacting the office: we believe that a booking system is necessary for tracking and tracing people in the event of a local outbreak of the virus. Each person with a booking will be told the time which they are expected to arrive. By using this system we aim to avoid large groups of people and to protect the most vulnerable in our community. Bookings will close at 5pm on a Tuesday for that week’s opening, so that welcomers will know they have an up-to-date list.

When someone arrives, a monitor will check that person’s identity and contact details and that each visitor washes their hands with hand sanitiser (which will be provided). Everyone coming into church will also need to wear a mask (there will be a small supply available, but you are encouraged to provide your own if possible, please). Each person will then be asked to follow the one-way system signage to an empty seat for quiet, individual prayer. All chairs will be set at a 2m distance from each other, to comply with Church of England guidance. We will also be using the un-upholstered chairs to enable effective cleaning between each visitor. Everyone will leave via the south door of the church where there will be a second person available to help and make sure each person washes their hands with sanitiser once more.

Parts of the church building will necessarily be inaccessible, and this will include the toilets, although the disabled toilet will be available for emergencies.

These protocols and systems may initially seem both rather baffling and unnecessarily restrictive. However, we are concerned to enable the church building to re-open in Oxshott in the safest way possible for the largest number, including those of us who fall into the vulnerable categories identified by the Government at the outset of the pandemic.

We are also keen to enable someone who visits the church building on the off-chance to come in to pray. To this end we will try always to leave at least one seat free to accommodate such visitors.

As I mentioned above, we are starting small in the hope that over time we might be able to add to what will be available from Wednesday 8 July. We will also keep this system under constant review. Naturally, if we need to, we will suspend church opening immediately.

 A short summary of the main points:

In everything we have outlined above, we are trying to keep the most vulnerable people in both our church family and community safe. As I have written before, we follow this principle:

But God has so arranged the body… that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it. (1 Corinthians 12.24-26)

It will be so wonderful to be able to open the church doors again and welcome those who wish to pray!

Blessings,

Black Lives Matter

I wonder how you respond to this headline: with frustration, anger, approval, exasperation?  You may even be cross with me for bringing this subject up. But as it has featured in my email communication with members of the parish recently, I wanted to reflect publicly about it.

Recently, a black friend of mine told me the story of how, shortly before lockdown, she was walking through a local shopping centre when she was approached by a man of approximately 20–30 who walked straight towards her. At the last moment she swerved to make way for him only to hear him mutter, ‘Ooh, ooh, ooh!’ and raise his arms in imitation of a monkey as he walked past her.

We may believe that racism is a thing of the past in a civilised society, but, sadly, my friend’s experience in 2020 shows that it is still alive and kicking, whether overtly or perhaps even more likely covertly in our unconscious biases and stereotypes.

We may want to counter by saying that, ‘All Lives Matter’. And clearly they do, for God both created and loves everyone.

‘But just at the moment, it is vital that we acknowledge how Black Lives Matter – in our words, deeds and imagining,’  

 as Bishop Jo, Bishop of Dorking wrote to all Guildford clergy on 18 June. I commend her whole piece to you – you can find it here.

In a tweet on 8 June, Archbishop Justin Welby wrote this:

‘The racism that people in this country experience is horrifying. The Church has failed here, and still does, and it’s clear what Jesus commands us to do: repent and take action.’

I wonder if and how racism has affected you? I do hope that if you are from a BAME background that you have been made welcome at St Andrew’s or in any of the Oxshott community activities. Perhaps we could all take the opportunity to do what the archbishop says. First, to examine ourselves (including in prayer, asking God to help) and, if necessary, repent of our attitudes or actions (or even our inaction). Secondly, we might consider what actions we as a church or as a community might need to take to be welcoming to everyone, because ‘All Lives Matter’ to God and to all of us. This is a huge subject and we will return to it but do please let me know if you have any reflections on this.

Blessings,

 

Getting connected

Our new grandson is now a full 3 months old, which means we have been in lockdown for over 9 weeks. Communication – whether through letters, hand-written notes, emails, the internet or phone calls – has been so important in helping us to keep going.

However, the significance of being able to see each other face-to-face was underlined for me yesterday when an elderly member of the St Andrew’s family made it onto an online gathering for the first time. Not only was she extremely pleased but the effect on the rest of us was amazing: we were absolutely thrilled to see her smiling face!

We now know that there is the potential for those who are not shielding to meet with up to 6 others (providing they keep to the government’s guidelines): praise the Lord! However, with ‘normal’ services and gatherings in church still a distant hope, we are concerned to help anyone who wishes to gain access to all the good things that continue to take place as part of St Andrew’s online.

Do you have an internet connection but are anxious about using your computer? Do you find navigating our website a challenge? If this describes you, or someone you know, then please let us know, as we are thinking of offering group tutorials to help people learn to do this. Alternatively, you might like help to investigate using a device (such as a mobile phone). Again, please let us know how we can help.

Of course, some of us are thrilled that we cannot easily be contacted for this time and are enjoying ‘time out’, so no one need feel under any pressure to join in! The important thing is that no one should feel alone. As the apostle Paul writes in several of his letters, we are members of Christ’s body together and when you hurt, the rest of us do too.

But God has so arranged the body… that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.  

(1 Corinthians 12.24-26)

So please allow us to help you if we can.

Blessings,