United Benefice of Altham and Clayton-le-Moors

The Revd Toby Webber, The Vicarage, Church Street, Clayton-le-Moors, BB5 5HT

(01254)384321    tobywebber@btinternet.co

March 2021

Dear friends

Return to in-person worship

As you may already be aware, both churches have now resumed for public worship on Sunday mornings (Altham at 9:30am as usual and All Saints’ at 11am and Wednesdays at 10am).  11am services will continue to be livestreamed on facebook.com/allsaintsclayton and be available to watch later. Friday Praise will continue to be online only (termtime) until further notice.  Night prayer continues to be shared online nightly (except Fridays) at 9:30pm.  You can also find Sunday services from a different church each week and midweek messages, along with material for children and youth, on the diocesan Youtube channel.

We are yet to hear when small groups of singers will be allowed to lead worship again, or when we may expect congregational singing to resume.  However, it is great that – as I hoped – we will be able to be in church again for Holy Week and Easter.  Don’t forget that for now all the same guidance applies as before.  Sanitise your hands on entry, wear your face covering, avoid the pews which are marked as out of use and keep a safe physical distance from anyone outside your household or support bubble.  We need to be particularly careful not to mingle together for conversation before and after church, particularly indoors.  Do be aware that although rates of transmission are much reduced there are still cases of illness occurring in our own parish community.

I have already taken a good number of Baptism bookings from July onwards.  Do be in touch before too long if you would like to discuss the baptism of a child in the forthcoming months.

A year into lockdown

As I write, we have already passed the anniversary of the first death in this country from Covid-19 and soon we will mark the anniversary of the initial spring lockdown.  In that time approximately 125,000 people have died having tested positive for coronavirus.  A massive number.  Over that time 450,000 people have been ill enough to require hospitalisation.  And there have been over 4.2 million confirmed cases – to which could be added all the cases never confirmed by test during the first wave.  At the same time a cumulative total of 11.2million jobs have been ‘furloughed’ under the job retention scheme.  Others’ jobs have been lost entirely.  Everyone has lost out massively in terms of social contact – and in particular those in care homes have been deprived of visits by their loved ones.  For two substantial periods schools have been closed to all but a minority of children, and in between many suffered the disruption caused by classes having to self-isolate.

One year since the initial ‘stay at home’ order seems to be an appropriate time to and take stock, a very important thing to do before we begin to move forward with the next steps of ‘unlocking’ and moving forward.  Marie Curie have taken the lead in promoting 23rd March as a ‘National day of reflection’.  We are supporting this and would encourage everyone to share in the day in a way that is appropriate to you.  And if you yourself have lost loved ones to covid, or your own health has suffered, or your circumstances strained to the extreme, then I hope that you will know that everyone’s thoughts are with you, more than ever, on this day.

Church will be open for times during Tuesday 23 March – 10:30am to 12 noon and from 3pm to 5pm.  Anyone who is free at those times is very welcome to come and sit in church to reflect and pray.  At 12 noon, as with many churches around the country, the bell will toll in remembrance of the many victims of this virus.  And at 5pm there will be evening prayer with special prayers.  You will be able to attend this service in person or watch it on-line.

Holy Week and Easter

Last year Holy Week was entirely ‘online’ (or the provision on TV and radio) and had a very particular character in the depth of the first lockdown and at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic.  Only the most pessimistic back then anticipated all that we’ve been through since and the fact that we still need to keep social distancing and forbear from song.  This year Holy Week will still feel far from normal.

Whether you join online or in person, or a mixture of both, we come now to the central celebration of the mystery at the heart of our faith, of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.  Jesus indeed was delivered over to death for our sins – and he rose again for our justification.  In him is our only hope and our only salvation, now and in the day of judgement.  From all our apartness let us be united with one another and with Christians around the world as we journey to the cross and the empty tomb.

See the programme of Easter week services here.

God bless you this Passiontide and Easter

Toby