St Stephen’s Coronavirus bulletin 30th March

Dear Friends,

I hope you are all as well as can be and able to get all you need at this time.

I also hope you managed to access the service yesterday. This is still on the website along with the podcast for younger members if you haven’t listened yet.

http://www.ststephenscanonbury.org.uk/sermons-services/

The reflection for Passion Sunday was on the cross as a place of God’s complete identification with our human experience. I included a quote from Richard Rohr’s book ‘The Universal Christ.’ This is it for any who would like to reflect on this further:

‘The Divine Mind transforms all human suffering by identifying completely with the human predicament and standing in full solidarity with it from beginning to end. This is the real meaning of the crucifixion. The cross is not just a singular event. It’s a statement from God that reality has a cruciform pattern. Jesus was killed in a collision of cross-purposes, conflicting interests, and half-truths, caught between the demands of an empire and the religious establishment of his day. The cross was the price Jesus paid for living in a ”mixed” world, which is both human and divine, simultaneously broken and utterly whole. He hung between a good thief and a bad thief, between heaven and earth, inside of both humanity and divinity, a male body with a feminine soul, utterly whole and yet utterly disfigured—all the primary opposites.’

It was great to catch-up with some of you on Zoom afterward. Sorry, this is accessible only to those with the technology to do so. I am trying to ring people on the old fashioned ‘telephone’ as well but please feel free to ring me on 02072267526 or 07946161098 if you would like to talk or receive prayer support over the phone.

We will make a Zoom meeting at 11.30 am each Sunday a regular event. I’ll put the link on the website at the top of the ‘Sermons and Services’ page. If you need some guidance about using Zoom you can contact John Woolf at: johnjacobwoolf@gmail.com

Not all of us have access to the internet. To try and include everyone, Katie Melville is heading up a postal service to keep in touch with those we can identify who are not connected.

If any of you would like the text of the services and sermons emailed to you let me know and I will do this.

Palm Sunday

Next Sunday is Palm Sunday. Usually, you would be given a palm cross but as we can’t do this year it would be great if you could find a way of making a cross to use as part of the podcast service. This could be simply finding a way to weave some paper into a cross, or collecting some twigs or long leaves from the garden if you have one. It doesn’t matter how you do it or how rough it is, see what you can do this week.

Prayer requests

From our Zoom meeting came a few prayer requests. I will build up a list of requests and keep emailing these regularly, so if you would like people or topics added to this please ring me or email on vicar@ststephenscanonbury.org.uk.

Please pray

Basil asks us to pray for the family of Nikos, a member of the security team at his work, who has died after contracting CV19
Anna asks us to pray for her father, Martin, and for her sister, Jenny, who is pregnant and understandably anxious at this time.
Joy and Rufin ask us to pray for Yemmi who has tested positive for CV19 and for his wife Liz now in isolation.
Sarah and Ian ask us to pray for Ian’s parents, Jim and Sheila. Jim is in quarantine in a care home and Sheila is unable to visit or call him.
Please also pray for Christian and Sandy. Christian is recovering from CV19 and Sandy is exhausted having been in isolation with the children for 10 days with at least 4 more to go.

There are plenty of prayer resources on the ‘Praying Together’ page of the website. This includes links to diocesan and C of E resources and ‘A litany of prayer for a worrying time’ to help you pray for our nation and the world as we face this together.

There is also a set of prayer colouring pages for children recommended by the diocese available from the ‘Praying Together’ page.

Lent Appeal

As we head towards the end of Lent, don’t forget our Lent Appeal ‘Wheels for Climate Change Emergency.’ This is to support our link Dioceses in Mozambique and Angola (through ALMA) to buy vehicles to help respond to climate change emergencies. There is plenty of information on the church website about this, including a link to the diocesan video that shows the devastation caused by flooding in Mozambique.

http://www.ststephenscanonbury.org.uk/st-stephens-lent-appeal-2020/

There are details of how to give. Please support the appeal as best as you can.

Looking after yourself

This is a stressful time and as well as doing all you can to maintain social distancing or isolation to minimise the potential of catching CV19, it is important to think about your mental health as well. Anxiety and fear can build up without us being aware and can quickly become an issue for any of us. Prolonged exposure to the 24-hour news feeds on TV and online can distort your sense of proportion about the risks you face. Isolation on your own can make you feel ‘alone’ rather than just in isolation and isolation with others can put a strain on relationships even with those you love the most.

There are some useful tips and further information at

https://www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/mental-health-resources#main-content

and

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-outbreak

Talking to people to restore a sense of balance to your thinking is often important. Talking about things other than Coronavirus is vital. Check-in with a trusted friend and tell them how you are feeling but be honest, all of us will find this a struggle for many different reasons from time to time. Feel free to ring me 02072267526 or 07946161098 or email vicar@ststephenscanonbury.org.uk at any time.

With prayers and best wishes for you all

John


St Stephen’s news update Thursday 26th March 2020

Visit the church website – www.ststephenscanonbury.org.uk – for information about what we are able to offer during the Coronavirus crisis.

Greetings to you all,

I hope you are all managing to keep safe and well and finding ways of managing this time of confinement.

Here is a bit more information about the latest guidance for churches and what you can access as we seek to still pray and worship together. All our news updates and bulletins can be found on the website

http://www.ststephenscanonbury.org.uk/coronavirus-information/

Podcasts for this Sunday

There will be 2 podcasts again for you to use this Sunday. A service and reflection for Passion Sunday and a podcast for our younger members.

http://www.ststephenscanonbury.org.uk/sermons-services/

Once again you could use the service and the podcast for young people as a Sunday School session while you listen to the reflection.

Zoom meeting at 11.30am on Sunday

We encourage you to listen at 11am on Sunday and after this, you are invited to log into a Zoom meeting to catch up and discuss the service and reflection. This will be hosted by John Woolf.

The details are:
Topic: St Stephen’s Church Discussion
Time: Mar 29, 2020 11:30 AM London
https://efedu.zoom.us/j/971221460
Meeting ID: 971 221 460

If you haven’t used Zoom you need a tablet or laptop with a camera and microphone. All you do is click on the link and follow the instructions. Do join us if you can. Young people are welcome as well to tell us about their podcast.

If this works we will try to offer this each Sunday.

Holy Week and Easter

It will be very strange not to be meeting for worship during Holy Week and Easter. I will put some extra resources on the website for you to use over this time. These will include:

  • A recording of the Gospel according to Mark for you to listen to in episodes each day during Holy Week.
  • A Maundy Thursday reflection
  • A Good Friday reflection
  • Services and a podcast for young people for Easter Sunday

Keep praying

We are all encouraged to pray at 7pm each Sunday and to place a lighted candle in your window as you do. Visit the website at
http://www.ststephenscanonbury.org.uk/praying-together/ for material and links that you will find useful.

Keep praying for:
* NHS staff and volunteers working at this time.
* The Manna still working to support the most vulnerable homeless in our community.
* All working to find accommodation for the homeless.
* Urban Hope offering online contact and activities for young people.
* All who are feeling isolated and anxious.
* Families with children at home.

Keep in touch

I will try to ring or email to catch up with most of you. Many of you will be in contact with each other through social media as well. Please do not hesitate to ring though at any time 02072267526 or 07946161098.or email vicar@ststephenscanonbury.org.uk

Other news

The bishops have placed further restrictions on all churches. As well as suspending all public worship, all Churches have to close to the public at all times. No baptisms, weddings or funerals can now take place in Church of England Churches.

Funerals can only take place at Crematoria or at a graveside with the minimum number of the closest family present.

Our next news update will be on Monday 30th March. All the updates and bulletins are on the website though.
http://www.ststephenscanonbury.org.uk/coronavirus-information/

With prayers for you all.

John


St Stephen’s mailing 23rd March 2020

Dear Friends,

I hope you are all as well as possible and coming to terms with the new reality for all of our lives.

As is often said, we are in a fast-moving situation and as part of this, the Bishop of London and the area bishops issued a notice on Sunday that all Church buildings should be permanently closed to all visitors until further notice. So, unfortunately, as well as no public worship, Churches will no longer be open as sanctuaries for prayer and stillness during the week.

We have consulted with the Bishop of Stepney though and are allowed to keep using our building for some Manna activities although in a very different form. Manna will be serving the street homeless and most vulnerable of its clients but encouraging others to stay at home and self isolate as recommended. Contact will be maintained through phone-calls and email/social media. Take away meals will be available for a few and a limited number will be able to access the shower and do their washing.

You may have heard that the Mayor of London is working with hotel chains to make rooms available for the street homeless and we hope and pray that many will accept this offer and be safe during this crisis. Please pray for the Manna team as they seek to respond in the best way.

Manna is still keen to have donations of old mobile phones and chargers, radios and puzzle books and games for one person.
If you can donate any of these items please ring the Manna office on 02072265369 or email themanna@ststephensccanonbury.org.uk

I hope you managed to listen to the podcast service and podcast for younger people yesterday. If you haven’t yet they are on the church website – www.ststephenscanonbury.org.uk – and click on ‘Sermons and Services. We will post a new service and podcast for young people each week. You can let me know if you found this useful and easy to use by email at vicar@ststephenscanonbury.org.uk

On the ‘Praying Together’ link there are new links to material from the Church of England to help you pray regularly for our community, nation and the world at this time. Also a litany of prayer for a worrying time to help you pray for God’s blessing upon us all.

A number of people are praying at 7.30 am and 7.30 pm each day. Please pause to pray at these times if you can.

Life is changing for families with children as schools have closed and there are at least 2 or 3 months ahead with children at home and limited activities to enjoy. If you have children at home be assured that many people are praying for you.

If you are self-isolating or in any kind of need do ask for help if you need it. All borough councils have special help and advice lines available on the phone and by email. Visit your council’s website for information. In Islington this is:

Islington Council helpline – ‘We are Islington’
02075278222
weareislington@islington.gov.uk

In Canonbury help and support with practical issues is available from the ‘Canonbury Mutual Aid Group.’
0203 026 4438.
canonburymutualaid@gmail.com

I am always available on the phone to talk, pray and offer support. You can ring me on 02072267526 or 07946161098 at any time.

I am also working to set up a telephone buddies scheme to make sure everyone is kept in touch with. If you are willing to be a buddy and phone someone each week or if you can suggest people who need to be contacted for support, please email or ring me and let me know.

In these unprecedented times as so much of what we have come to regard as vital to our lives is stripped away, the closing verses of 1 Corinthians 13 seem very appropriate. Paul says that once all other things are taken away just 3 things remain – faith, Hope and Love. Let’s pray that these are the qualities that triumph at this time and are revealed as the qualities of lasting value that we all need to sustain us through the struggles and difficulties of life.

With my continuing prayer for you all at this extraordinary time.

John


St Stephen’s news update Thursday 19th March 2020

Visit the church website for up-to-date information and postings
www.ststephenscanonbury.org.uk

Greetings to you all.

As we are prevented from meeting together for worship, our communications become all the more important. This news update will outline some of the ways in which we can keep in touch and remain a praying, worshipping and serving community during this time. This is though a fast evolving and changing situation and what we hope to do is dependent on our communications infrastructure remaining up and running, what further restrictions might be placed upon us and on people staying well. So keep watching for emails and checking updates on the website for the latest information.

At this extraordinary time let us remain a distinctive community with prayer at its heart for our communities, the parish, London, the UK and the world.

Stay safe

Most important for all of you is to stay safe and adhere to the latest guidelines and restrictions. Isolate when necessary and observe social distancing at all times. Ask for help when you need it and don’t think you need to ‘struggle on.’

Communication and support

We will issue regular email updates and news and post information on the website. If you would like to share any news, ask for prayer or support or anything else please email or phone John on 02072267526 or vicar@ststephenscanonbury.org.uk

Many of you will be keeping in touch with WhatsApp and Facebook. We also want to make sure everyone receives regular phone-calls as well and are setting up a telephone ‘buddy’ scheme. Please let John know by phone or email if you can be a buddy. You will just have to ring 1 or 2 people a week for a chat.

Prayer and Worship

As you know, all public worship has been suspended, but we can remain a praying and worshipping community in other ways. Prayer resources for you to use will be posted on the website over the next few days. Special prayer resources to use during the week will be put under the ‘Praying Together’ link. These are for you to use as you wish. We will also include links to Church of England prayer resources specially developed for this time. I know some of you have already agreed to pray at home at 7.30 am and 7.30 pm each day, everyone is welcome to join with this.

We will also post 2 podcasts for use on Sundays. One will be a short service with a reflection, the other will be for children and younger members of the St Stephen’s family with a story and some other thoughts. These will be audio files under the ‘sermons’ link and should appear on Friday each week.

Manna

At Manna, we will do all we can to continue to support the most vulnerable clients. While it is possible, restricted sessions will run for the street homeless and those whose health and circumstances make them particularly vulnerable at this time. This will, of course, depend on staff and volunteers remaining well but we will do our best to keep going.

Manna are seeking donations of a number of items to help clients through this time and particularly for those who have to isolate due to age or health conditions.

We need:
Hand sanitiser
Thermos Flasks
Old basic mobile phones and chargers that you might have lying around the house.
Radios
Puzzle books, playing cards, individual games etc

If you can donate any of these items please ring the Manna office on 02072265369 or email themanna@ststephensccanonbury.org.uk

A number of volunteers have had to withdraw from Manna activities due to their age or health conditions. If you feel you are young and fit enough and would like to offer to volunteer please ring or email as above.

Urban Hope

Urban Hope is planning to continue to offer support to smaller numbers of young people and individuals which is particularly important as schools close. There will be face to face contact as well as support on the phone and via social media.

Your local community

Community groups are springing up via Facebook and other social media that are coordinating volunteers to offer help to older and vulnerable members of the community. If you can, see if there is one in your area or on your street.
‘Help on your doorstep’ is a support network across Islington with an office in Canonbury. Visit www.helponyourdoorstep.com to find out how to get in touch and offer to help. A new Canonbury community group can be contacted at canonburymutalaid@gmail.com or via Sarah Strang. Importantly though, look out for your neighbours. Not just the elderly and disabled but, as schools close, families as well. Many people will be under a lot of pressure and strain over these months. Sometimes just a few brief words of understanding can make all the difference. The Citizens Advice Bureaux is a place that people can contact for advice on financial support and extra benefits that may be available during this time. For elderly people ‘Age Concern’ is also a great source of information.

Office and Admin

Rose will be home-working from now on but will be dealing with admin work as usual. You can email her on administrator@ststephenscanonbury.org.uk

PCC and Annual Meeting and Elections

The PCC will not be able to meet during this time and the Standing Committee becomes the principal decision-making body for the church. Just so you know, this is: Janice Emslie (Church Warden), Ralph Dunham (Treasurer), Joy Faulkner-Mpeho (secretary), Katie Melville (Chair of staffing committee) and Suzanne Roberts (Lay chair of PCC), along with John. The Standing Committee will deal with any pressing issues by telephone and email.

The Annual Meeting is very unlikely to take place on 26th April as scheduled. We are awaiting guidance on how to manage this. We still need you to think and pray about whether you might take on one of the vacant roles when we do get back to normal though.

2 Church Wardens
2 Deanery Synod Reps
4 PCC members

You can contact John to talk about any of these vacancies.

It is still possible to join the Electoral Roll if you are 16 or older by 26th April and attend St Stephen’s regularly or are a resident of the parish. You can find out more from John and we can email/post you a form.

John and Natalie

We will be isolating ourselves because of some health conditions but hopefully that will mean I can stay well to coordinate and issue material on the website. I will be phoning round to see how people are and can always pray on the phone or by email. Please do not hesitate to get in touch at any time and for any reason.

Lent Appeal

This year’s Lent Appeal is to support the Bishop of London’s Lent Appeal for ALMA (The Angola – London – Mozambique association). The appeal is called ‘Wheels for Climate Change emergencies’ and is to help buy vehicles for the dioceses in Angola and Mozambique to use to respond to emergencies caused by the effects of climate change. Mozambique has been hit by storms and floods and Angola is affected by drought. The dioceses are often the first to respond with aid and support. There is more information in our Lent Appeal flier along with information about how to make a donation. There is also a page on the website with plenty of information and stories from Angola and Mozambique.
Thank you for your support.


Coronavirus update – 17th March 2020

Dear Friends,

As you know, we are living in extraordinary times that none of the post World War II generations have seen the like of. As we are all asked to change the way we live in fundamental and challenging ways, the Church of England has had to find a way of responding that enables us to play our part in combatting the spread of the Coronavirus. You will have heard that the major element of this response is the suspension of public worship until further notice announced by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York today.

This means that there will be no Sunday services at St Stephen’s until we are told it is safe to resume these. Although no date has been suggested for this, it is likely to be an extended period of 3 months or more.

The Archbishops writes:
‘As the challenge of the coronavirus grips the world, and as the Government asks every individual and every organisation to rethink its life, we are now asking the Church of England in all its parishes, chaplaincies and ministries to serve all people in a new way. Public worship will have to stop for a season. Our usual pattern of Sunday services and other mid-week gatherings must be put on hold. But this does not mean that the Church of England has shut up shop. Far from it.’

At St Stephen’s we will do our best to keep a service available to the most vulnerable members of the Manna community. We will inevitably be discouraging some of our Manna regulars from attending if their needs are not so great, but we do this in order that we can keep a service running for the most vulnerable for as long as is possible, depending on available staffing and volunteers. Equally, at Urban Hope we will continue to offer restricted support through clubs and drop-ins and one-to-one work for the young people of this area (particularly for those who will suffer the most when schools close for an extended period) for as long as we can, depending on available staffing and volunteers.

We will still remain a praying and worshipping community but will have to do this at home. Each week a service will be posted on the parish website www.ststephenscanonbury.org.uk for you to use on a Sunday and for those who do not have access to this technology, we will post information and a service to use. I encourage you to use the ‘Praying Together’ material on the website and the special prayer for each week along with the special prayer for the Coronavirus pandemic that you can find there.

We will look for opportunities to support and stay in touch with each other. You are invited to join the telephone ‘buddies’ scheme by emailing me at vicar@ststephenscanonbury.org.uk. In this way, through regular phone calls and emails we can encourage each other and share prayer requests. I am sure others will do this through WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

This is also an opportunity to look for new ways to serve the wider community. Different community groups are springing up to co-ordinate this, see if there is one in your area. As I hear about these I will circulate information but as many of you live outside of the parish and Islington it will be quicker for you to investigate these yourselves. On a simpler level lookout for your neighbours. Speak to people you’ve seen but never spoken to before. Make contact and check up on the more elderly people on your street or in your block and help if you can (while observing guidelines for distancing and safety).

On Sunday 22nd March (which would have been our Mothering Sunday celebration of course) we are all called to pause to pray at 7 pm and to place a lighted candle in our windows as a sign of solidarity with the local community. I encourage you to join with this. The Church of England will be publishing prayers to use, I will email a link to these when they are available.

Churches that are able to are encouraged to keep their buildings open so people can find a space for personal prayer and reflection. Unfortunately, this is not something we can easily do at St Stephen’s but other local Churches, St James and St Mary’s in particular, will be open during the day for visitors to use.

Over the next few weeks we will be learning a lot about what it means to be church when we no longer have a ‘Church’ to meet in. As difficult as this current situation is, there is an opportunity here to learn things that we will take forward beyond this time as we seek to be a relevant church for the 3rd decade of the 20th century. Let’s share this challenge together and ask God to use even this time to reshape us more into the image of Jesus Christ our Lord.

I will be issuing regular updates and information and in time giving you opportunities to share what you are doing and how you are affected by these challenges.

In the meantime follow the advice from government via Public Health England and trusted sources of information. Although it is difficult at times, do not let the ‘voices of doom’ colour your heart or your thinking but give all of this to our God for whom nothing is impossible.

With my prayers and blessings for you all.

John