Weekly Pastoral Letter - 24 July 2020

From Revd Catherine Bowstead

Dear Friends,

Our Church Council met on Zoom on Wednesday and you’ll be pleased to learn that they have approved a phased reopening of our church premises.

Our café will open with limited hours from Tuesday 4th August. Our plan is to be open from 10 till 12 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Obviously, the way we operate our café is having to change to make us COVID compliant, but I hope that we will still be able to offer the warm welcome that is our hallmark. Claire is preparing a letter that will tell customers what to expect when they come to the café.

The next stage of reopening is to resume worshipping in our building on Sunday mornings. We’re planning to do this from Sunday 6th September and our stewards’ team are working with me on our plans for this. Thank you to all those who have returned a questionnaire, for this is helping hugely with our planning. Our worship together will have to take a new format, and some of the things that we value most about worshipping together will inevitably be different for a while. Our “live” worship will complement our “on-line” worship and much of the content for both services will be the same.

We are hoping that some of our rooms will be available to hire by early September, and we are in the process of contacting the people who use our buildings to see how they can be accommodated.

It’s an exciting time for us but is involving a huge amount of work for a few key people, and we are very grateful for their expertise and enthusiasm. In anticipation of opening our café again we will no longer be holding Zoom coffee mornings. We thank Claire for organising these throughout lockdown – they have been a really good way to see people and catch up with news, and it was especially good to have some of our friends from CLASP joining us on our Thursday morning Zoom.

David Morgan is leading our on-line service for Sunday. We’ll be looking at some more of Jesus’ parables in Matthew 13 and seeing what we can discover about God’s Kingdom. It’s pleasing to hear from our questionnaire how much this on-line worship has been appreciated. People have commented that they find it easier to concentrate, that they appreciate hearing a variety of familiar voices, and so it continues to be a good way for us to worship together. Our recorded service, as ever, will be available on our church website by Sunday morning.

You will recall that the Methodist Conference met by Zoom last month, and you might be interested in the discussions and decisions that they made. The “Conference Digest” is here. You will notice that the President elect for 2021-22 is Revd Sonia Hicks – Sonia is currently the superintendent of the Thames Valley Circuit (which neighbours ours) before she moves to become a superintendent in the London District in September.

We’re looking forward to the arrival of a new Methodist colleague in September. The Revd Soba Sinnathamby and his wife Nava will be moving into the manse on Woosehill in early August and our Circuit Stewards are working hard to prepare it ready for them. Soba will have pastoral charge of Woosehill and Bracknell churches and will share responsibility for the Church@The Pines with the Anglican parish. Soba’s welcome service will be at Woosehill on 8th September and further details will be available nearer the time.

I hope that you have a good weekend and I look forward to seeing you soon.

With every blessing,

Weekly Pastoral Letter - 17 July 2020

From Revd Catherine Bowstead

Dear Friends,

What have you been up to this week? Some people have taken advantage of the easing in lockdown to have haircuts, although others seem to like their new lockdown style. Others are staying put at home until they feel a bit safer. I wonder if you have you got a mask ready for when you venture out? Although there has been quite a lot of discussion about wearing masks, I think that wearing them in an enclosed space is a responsible thing to do, both to protect yourself and to protect others.

Lovat HouseClaire and I went to Lovat House this week to deliver some more goody bags for the staff and treats for the residents. The staff were incredibly pleased to see us, were very appreciative of the gifts and asked us to pass on our thanks to everyone who has contributed - thank you.

On my way back home, I walked through Peach Place and paused to look at our beautiful fish mosaic. I thought back to that wonderful afternoon a year ago when our fish were unveiled, when we celebrated our achievement and looked forward to the future with great hope. What a lot has happened since then! Our fish are a sign of great encouragement for me: their swooping shape towards our entrance doors assures me that our buildings will soon be open again, and we can once more offer people a welcome and the message of God’s love.

BradburyCentre 0937W

You will recall the significance of our fish, which remind us of our calling to “fish for people”. Our time of lockdown has made us realise that the work of the church is not confined to our church buildings, for we have been able to worship, care for each other, learn about our faith, serve others and share our faith in other imaginative ways. We have learnt so much and must take these insights forward with us as we discover new and exciting ways of being church as well as re-acquainting ourselves with the old, familiar ways.

Plans are being made for the reopening of our buildings. The Church Council will meet (via Zoom) next week to consider the plans so I hope to be able to explain these and our timetable for reopening in my letter to you next week. Thank you for all those who have replied to our questionnaire. This is helping us greatly with our planning and it good to know that you have appreciated our online worship and have found it helpful.

Our service this week is led by Doreen Murgatroyd. She is looking at the parable of the wheat and weeds in Matthew 13, which follows on from the parable of the sower that we heard last Sunday. It is interesting that so many of us “tune in” to listen together at 10:30, and I hope that you have some awareness, as I do, that although we are each in our own homes, we are joining together as our church community.

I came across this prayer by Revd Steve Wild, Chair of the Cornwall District. I found it helpful, and I thought that you might too:

Transforming God, give us your deep love and grace so that things may change around us.
As Disciples of Jesus, may we sow transforming seeds of love, not of division.
May we show love and encouragement, rather than criticism and disapproval.
May we speak kindness into discord, comfort into mourning and hope into hopelessness.

I hope that you have a good weekend.

With every blessing,

Weekly Pastoral Letter - 10 July 2020

From Revd Catherine Bowstead

Dear Friends,

Mike and I enjoyed our “holiday at home” last week. The weather wasn’t very kind to us, but we managed to walk some of the Ridgeway and visit some National Trust properties, and it was good to have a change of scenery and have some rest. I hope that you have been able to take advantage of the slight easing of lockdown to visit somewhere different and meet up with friends and family – in the socially distanced way to which we are becoming accustomed, of course. Maybe you’ve been able to have a haircut!

The easing of lockdown means that we are now able to start the process of using our buildings again, and a small group have been working hard on the plans for re-opening our church buildings for worship and other activities. There is a great deal of work to do in order to ensure that the buildings are safe and COVID compliant. You can see the guidance, checklists and risk assessments that we are working to on the Methodist Church website. Please be patient, as this work will take some time.

To help us to be ready, our Stewards Team have produced a questionnaire about returning to worship. Whilst it will be wonderful to be able to use our building again, we would like you to be aware that worshipping together will be quite different from what we have been used to. We will have to sit in separate household groups, and there will be no opportunity for fellowship over coffee for example. We will continue to provide our on-line worship and it may be that this will be your preferred option for some time. Please do return the questionnaire as this will help us in our planning.

Our recorded service this week is based on the well-known parable of the sower. You might like to read it in Matthew chapter 13 before Sunday. We will also be hearing from Isaiah 55:10-13 and thinking about how God’s word in us can produce generosity. We will remember that we worship and serve a wonderfully generous God, and think about how we can be generous in return. This could be in sharing our money or possessions with others, but it could also be about being generous in our friendship or appreciation of others. Perhaps most importantly, we can be challenged as to how we share God’s love with others in a generous way to enable others to experience God’s love and generosity for themselves.

I hope that you have a good week and I look forward very much to seeing you again soon,

With every blessing,

Weekly Pastoral Letter - 3 July 2020

From the senior stewards Christine Morgan and Chris Rooke-Matthews

Dear Friends,

Catherine is on holiday this week, hopefully enjoying the sun at home.

Like many of us, the Bowsteads’ holiday plans have gone by the board and our trips out have been restricted with overnight stays not allowed. However, from Saturday two households will be able to stay overnight in the same place. Do you have plans? Christine’s daughter and her family booked in with them as soon as the announcement was made: they can’t wait to have a change of scenery and some help with the children!

For many the days ahead will seem strange after over 100 days since the start of Lockdown. It is still important to social distance as the virus is still very much alive. Life will not yet return to anything like the way it was before March. The Church stewards met on Zoom this week to look at the risk assessment and guidelines for worship in our sanctuary that Claire, Ian and John worked on last weekend. It is certainly not something to be rushed. Our on-line worship will continue for some time to come.

Life in our households has slowed down considerably over the past few months and new routines have developed. We have appreciated the quieter Sundays with time to take the opportunity to access worship from different places as well as our own services on the web. Also, the time to notice the wildlife and seasonal changes in our gardens – Chris even discovered that she has a visiting hedgehog, who tends to come as dusk is falling! We have found plenty to keep us busy, but we have also had an opportunity to do things differently, and for that we are grateful. Have you been able to take time to ‘count your blessings’? We’ve been encouraged by the many ways people have been keeping in touch and helping each other over the past few months. Perhaps getting to know each other better, and understanding more of each other’s situations.

However, many are suffering from anxiety as the rhythms and patterns of life have changed. Our gospel reading this Sunday from Matthew chapter 11 offers hope in these times of uncertainty. Jesus says: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’ If we respond to this call and rely on him, we will receive comfort. We will learn from him, finding new ways of being, and we will be able to rest in him because he eases the uncertainty that comes with change.

With every blessing,
Christine and Chris