This first weekend without public worship was most certainly not a weekend without church. Thank you to every one of you, whether you live-streamed, said virtual prayers for Mothering Sunday, or lit candles in your windows. Whatever understandable trepidation we may have felt in recent days has been eased by these joyful stories of vibrant church life, showing what will be possible in these weeks ahead.
There are too many examples to name here. St Mark’s Pennington’s Sunday live-streaming involved not only Bishop Debbie but featured on BBC South Today, while All Saints Odiham’s Facebook service included hymns, songs, Bible readings, short reflections and times of prayer. Like many others, churches in North Stoneham and Bassett are using the video conference platform Zoom to keep people in face to face contact, and ensure neighbours stay in touch with one another to reduce isolation. Avon Valley Churches even featured on the front page of today’s Daily Telegraph. Away from our parishes, our chaplaincies continue to offer vital work, particularly in hospitals where pressure is beginning to mount already.
Your stories are more important now than ever. Please continue to share them on social media (our handle is @cofewinchester on facebook, twitter, and instagram) for others to see, and so we can promote them further. As ever, if you need additional support from the Diocesan Media Team, contact them directly so that they can help publicise what you are doing locally. Journalists are especially keen at the moment to hear of the different ways in which we are keeping in touch with our communities, supporting those in most need in these exceptional circumstances.
Finally, you will be aware that yesterday evening, dioceses across Greater London took the difficult decision to close church buildings, on account of the need to encourage and maintain social distancing. The National Church has today been continuing to discuss the implications of this move for the rest of the country, and we will of course continue to keep you updated. As a church and as Christians concerned for the wellbeing of key workers and the most vulnerable, we are responding to the Government’s call to stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives.
With our prayers and best wishes
The Bishops and Bishop’s Staff Team