United Benefice of Altham and Clayton-le-Moors

Vicar: Revd Toby Webber, The Vicarage, Church St, Clayton-le-Moors
(01254) 384321   tobywebber@btinternet.com

May 2020

Dear friends

Well, how are you doing?  I have managed to speak to some of you (whether on the phone or at a distance when passing during exercise) and have seen social media updates or had messages from others.  Some I’ve had updates of from our pastoral team, who are ringing many of our ‘older’ parishioners on a regular basis.  Others I haven’t had any contact with and I hope that no news is good news.  Don’t be afraid to get in touch one way or the other if you’d like a chat or yourself or someone else to be kept in prayer (publicly or privately).

I know that a number of you or your loved ones have been directly affected by the coronavirus.  A few have been very ill, and others more mildly so.  A few have lost loved ones during this time, in some cases with Covid-19 as the main or contributory cause of death.  Others of you are already living with bereavement or sickness of yourself or a loved one and are having to do so without the physical comfort of relatives or many of the activities and services which can help us through.

Nationally it is good to observe that we are ‘past the peak’, but shocking to recognize that at least 30,000 lives have now been taken by this virus in our country already.  I note, too, that numbers of people in hospital with Covid19 here in the North-West remain high, in recent days overtaking the number in London.

I think that by and large we are all trying to remain as positive as we can and ‘get through’ but we will need to allow time individually and as a society to work through the trauma of this experience.  I pray that we will also take the time to think through carefully what we need to learn from it and how life can and should be different, post-pandemic.

Some of you are in one way or the other on the ‘frontline’.  The whole parish is proud of those of our number who are nursing the very sick and at times accompanying the dying.  Everyone’s thoughts and prayers are also with all those whose work brings them into heightened risk from this virus, whether as carers, in shops, in the emergency services or whatever it may be.  Whilst many of us seek to stay safe and work from home, you are out there day by day.  Our schools and their staffs are working very hard to support home learning, to care for those who need to be in school, and to keep in particular touch with those where there is a special need for support.

We are now in the seventh week of lockdown.  We are now beginning to look for how it will be eased and a gradual move towards greater freedom made be possible, hopefully without compromising public health.  The very simple message will become more complicated and so it will be very important that we continue to follow the instructions we are given.  A good number of you fall into the clinically very vulnerable group and have several more of your minimum twelve weeks minimum ‘shielding’ yet to come.  Our thoughts are with you as you cope with these strictures , especially those who live alone.

We are now well into the Easter season.  For many of us going through Holy Week and Easter without going ‘to church’ was very odd.  However, I hope whether through the services on facebook or through your own times of worship at home, you were still able to feel the reality of the Easter gospel of God’s redeeming act in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  And I hope that whilst physically apart we still feel ourselves to be members of one body, as indeed we are, the body of our risen Lord Jesus Christ.

I hope that everyone is now aware of our Facebook live services (Sundays from 10:45, Fridays at 6:30pm) and prayer times (Wednesday and Friday morning prayer and litany at 10am, daily night prayer at 9:30) and that you can access these on-line even if you do not have a Facebook account.  Google ‘Facebook All Saints Clayton’ and you should get the link.

If you aren’t on-line then I hope you have found the Sunday worship services on BBC television or radio.  There is now also a facility to access a FREE Church of England resource called ’Daily Hope’ by ringing 0800 804 8044.  There is a choice of listening, from hymns to a full service and the Mothers’ Union midday prayer.  Also, to enable you to join in the Night Prayer that some of us are sharing in at 9:30pm, I’m including the order of service with this mailing.  It is a very peaceful way to reflect and wind down at the end of the day and to place ourselves and the hurting world into God’s hands in prayer.

Some of you have asked about giving during this time.  The PCCs of both parishes are very grateful to those who give by standing order and whose contributions have continued.  They are very conscious that for some the lockdown has brought financial difficulties through unemployment, being placed on furlough, or the self-employed losing their income.  We quite understand where individuals need to suspend or reduce their giving.  Others who normally give by envelope may wish to help by giving via standing order, or if preferred via one or more one-off BACS payments.  Details for giving to All Saints’ can be found on the church website – or simply get in touch with me or Les Moore at Altham or Linda Bracewell at All Saints’ for details or a form.  Alternatively, you can simply accumulate your giving and bring it when the churches finally re-open.

Both our churches pledge to give 10% of our general income in charitable donations.  As part of this, All Saints’ PCC have now gifted £1000 during the lockdown to Clayton Baptist Church to help them help our community.  They are very active  as part of the Hyndburn Hub, and at the request of social services also helping needy families more widely across East Lancashire.  Some need a food parcel to tide them over, or because they have no-one to go shopping for them.  Others have come out of prison, or left an abusive relationship or similar and have absolutely nothing.  The Baptist Church on Sparth Road is open daily and you can always drop off food, household essentials, toys/colouring/craft things for children.

One effect of these strange times is the rediscovery of prayer by many who had perhaps given it up as old fashioned or irrelevant.  I’m sure that those of us who pray anyway have found ourselves praying more intently and regularly as we seek God’s peace, his healing for the sick, his strength and protection for the carers.  In prayer may we know his strength to carry us, his peace that passes understanding and courage for the path each of us is called to walk.  And in prayer may we seek his will, his direction for our futures, and that his kingdom come, on earth as in heaven.  Here is a prayer you might like to use:

Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may all rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

With my love, prayers and best wishes,

Toby