Response to the COVID-19 pandemic
Update from Jonathan Croucher, our Vicar, 13th May 2020
We are now living in a time of evolving response to the Pandemic. London, which has been at the centre of the outbreak of COVD-19 in the UK, is thought to have passed the peak of infection, although concerns remain about the ongoing impact of the illness in care homes, and the risk of a second wave of infections. We continue to pray earnestly for our community and our nation, and particularly for those who serve at the frontline of care in the NHS and in social care, whether in care homes or the community. We give thanks for the positive response of the community to the steps taken by government in light of the virus, and pray for safety as steps are taken to move into a new phase of community response.
The most recent government guidance requires that our churches remain closed for public worship and for private prayer. That means we are not able to gather physically in church on Sundays, and that our other activities in our church buildings and halls are suspended for the time being - and potentially for several months. Following the meeting (by Zoom) of the House of Bishops last week, the Bishop of Southwark has given permission for clergy to livestream services from our church buildings and we were able to take advantage of that permission for the first time on Sunday 10th May, and will continue to do so whilst the current guidance permits.
Many of our small groups are continuing to meet online, and as well as our online services (see the calendar page), we will continue to offer our regular thought for the day through our Facebook page and other prayer events by Zoom.
We have implemented a system of telephone calls to stay in touch with one another - knowing that we are all vulnerable to isolation, irrespective of age or physical health. If you would like to receive a regular call from a member of the congregation, please call our Vicar, Jonathan, on 0208 670 0799.
If you have other ideas for how we can respond to this extraordinary time, please pass them on to me: there is no template for action. The staff team will be available by phone and email.
The Prime Minister and government have come under some flak for the new guidance, and particularly for the ‘Stay Alert’ message. We are reminded though of the biblical imperative to ‘be alert’ - on the look out for God at work, waiting on Jesus, conscious of our need for spiritual nourishment and the danger of the devil’s prowling (1 Peter 5). So we encourage one another to find a new spiritual discipline during this time of separation - making time and space for prayer, for reading the bible, and looking out for some of the many ways now offered online of deepening our faith and finding encouragement in our daily walk with Jesus. We may be physically separate, but we continue to be blessed by the knowledge that we make this journey together as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
As well as exploring ways to help those in our community who feel isolated or alone, many of you will be wondering what else we can do.
Our Open Door kitchen has re-opened, with funding support through Friends of Gipsy Hill. Danielle and Ina are cooking on Tuesdays and Thursdays and we have a team of volunteers delivering meals to people’s doorsteps in the wider Gipsy Hill area who might otherwise struggle to put food on the table. If you would like to volunteer with Open Door kitchen, please email Emma on firstname.lastname@example.org. If you or someone you know would benefit from delivery of meals on this basis, please email email@example.com and one of our team will be in touch.
Foodbank are seeing an increased need for Foodbank vouchers as a greater number of people find themselves in crisis, leading to an increased demand on stock levels. To enable Foodbank to get the food items they need, people can use www.bankuet.co.uk or www.givefood.org.uk - with both websites delivering directly to Foodbank. If you are out shopping, download the Foodbank app and find out exactly which items they are short of. You can also donate cash to help them buy items as shortages appear by texting Dinner followed by one of the following amounts - Dinner 5, Dinner 10 or Dinner 20 to 70085. You can also donate via the website https://norwoodbrixton.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/donate-money. If you are interested in regularly volunteering, please do get in touch with them. Finally, if you are in crisis, I can provide a confidential referral which will enable you to access both emergency food provision and the significant advice and other support that is available at West Norwood.
Lastly, please pray as we face these challenges with God’s help. We as a church can all pray, whoever and wherever we are - for all affected, globally, by the virus, for those who have lost loved ones, for those in government and public health providing leadership and advice, and particularly for those on the frontline providing care and treatment to those who are sick.
If you are struggling to pray, here is an offering from the Dean of Southwark Cathedral:
source of healing and comfort,
fill us with your grace,
that the sick may be made whole,
that those who care for us may be strengthened,
that the anxious may be calmed,
and those most vulnerable be protected
in the power of Spirit
in the faith of Jesus Christ our Lord.
May we know God's presence, and comfort, and the power of his Spirit, in these testing times.
With much love.