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Very Urgent Letter from the Rector re Coronovirus

Dear Friends

Quite a number are asking ‘what next’ for church life in the light of Covid19 and all that we are hearing nationally and locally. As you know we get advice from the Diocese of Chichester, but we also get advice from the national church and Government – and not always the same! Ultimately, your safety is your responsibility. However, as a Church we are responsible for mitigating risk and following safe practice.

In consultation with Churchwardens and Safeguarding Officers we have drawn up a Parish Continuity Plan in line with national church advice which assesses risks and the churches capacity to resource services and events during this time of Corvid19 pandemic.

Further to this, the decision has been made that as of Sunday 15th March, and until further notice, one act of worship will be offered in West Wittering at 10am, Birdham at 9.30am and Itchenor alternating 8am with 11am. No refreshments will be offered at these services. All other services, church meetings and church run activities held in the church building, St James Centre and Wittering Church Room will be suspended until further notice.  However, we will continue with children’s services e.g. ‘Littles’ and activities until such time as schools close or we are told to stop them.

It has not been easy to come to this decision, but it reflects my very real sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of the congregations committed to my care. We are very blessed to share in active, vibrant and caring churches. I hope the following pastoral and spiritual provisions will give us confidence and encouragement in the days ahead and that Harbour Churches may continue to be a blessing to our communities.

Love of God, love of neighbour – love of self (Mark 12.30 cf)…

This is clearly a time of real anxiety.  Let us not lose sight of God’s love and faithfulness for us and the hope we have in Christ. We can all use this present situation to make the most of additional time at deepen our relation to God in Christ. Be encouraged in prayer and let your prayer be an encouragement to family, friends and neighbours. Look for God’s goodness in the world around and in the acts of courageous loving kindness that will be the blessing of this time. Read a ‘hopeful’ book and maybe avoid ‘those’ newspapers… And don’t forget the love God has for you and the fullness of life which is God’s gift in Jesus.

Don’t get isolated (even if you have to self-isolate)…

This is also a time of great potential loneliness. It’s important to stay connected with other people and to communicate well, even if you have to self-isolate for a while.

So DO pick up the phone and let people know if you have health concerns and especially if you are having to self-isolate. Give folk a call even if you’re well! Please let the Parish Office know and we can be in touch to offer pastoral and practical help and support e.g. prayer, appropriate visiting, shopping, prescriptions and dog walking etc. Very shortly we will be publishing a list of ‘Prayer Phone Friends’. You can call a PPF at anytime to share in prayer and be encouraged – whether you are unwell or not. This is also a situation that reminds us of the value there is in investing time and attention in all our relationships, both within the home (yes – get out the Monopoly!), community and further afield. And remember, a caring voice on the end of the line is so much more meaningful that an email or even a card through the letter box.

Stay physically well…

Turn hand-washing to prayer!  Since we’re all standing at the sink more frequently than usual, why don’t we adopt a prayer focus during our hand-washing routines? Perhaps you could simply pray the Lord’s Prayer or use the time to intercede for a particular person who is scared and vulnerable right now. Currently we can still meet together. We will continue to hold a Sunday service on the Lord’s Day and offer Holy Communion until we are told to stop. Clearly if you are unwell or feel especially vulnerable, you should stay away for now. The writer of Hebrews says: ‘Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, but encouraging one another…’ (10:24-25)

However, before entering the church building or facility we ask that you wash your hands at the place designated and that in church we are careful to keep a ‘safe distance’ (approx. an outstretched arm apart and no less than 1metre). We need to avoid contact e.g. hugs ‘n handshakes and as you know we won’t be having wine at communion. And please no elbow-bumps – they mean you’ll get too close!

The church leadership are continually reviewing the situation and we’ll give you ‘stay well’ updates as we get them.

Stay spiritually  well…

Prescient but true, the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is made up of two characters, one that means ‘danger’ and the other ‘opportunity’. A crisis is an opportunity to deepen our own spiritual lives and also to live more openly the good news we proclaim. People all around us are asking deeper questions than usual, because everything that previously seemed secure is being shaken (health, economy, jobs and their normal routines). What words of hope and encouragement will be our good news for them? Is it time to talk faith?

We’ll also be giving information of inspiring websites and Apps for prayer and spiritual guidance and support. And don’t forget that when we pray to our Father in Heaven we are in fellowship with all the community of saints across time and space.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbours – practically.

There’s so much we can do just as we are to be a practical support to those around us. As a church we are aiming to offer a ‘Helping Hub’ with volunteers able to meet a range of practical needs but please don’t wait – do what you can, how you can, when you can. However, with our church families being 90% over 70 themselves, we are an at risk group and very vulnerable. So, yes, let’s be loving in word and deed but please, please, be WISE in works and do not do yourself harm in trying to help. If you are a less vulnerable member of the church family this is a time when we (‘cause I am) can rise to the challenge of self-giving service.

And last but be no means least….

In the Psalms we read:  ‘The Lord is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.’ (46:1-2). And in Christ, God has promised to make all things – even these present challenges – work together for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28). We have a long way to go yet and things may get very difficult for a great many. Nevertheless, we have a Gospel to proclaim and it is good news to women and men in all the world.

I’d like to share with you a testimony that I read in a letter sent out by Emmaus Rd Church, Guildford – whose advice I have found so helpful.

A follower of Jesus in Wuhan, China, where the Coronavirus began, just wrote this on her 48th day locked-down in her family apartment:

“Here is GOOD NEWS from the epicentre of the coronavirus: Our family life has never been better. We’ve learned how to accept from others. Spring here is absolutely stunning. My cooking has got way more creative! We take naps in the middle of the day. We’ve all been reading so much more. We had church by internet this morning. Coronavirus wants you to isolate and stock up and take care of your own first. Instead, look to Him first while you take care of others. In community we can do so much more than we can do on our own.”

At a time of such uncertainty and isolation, it is a blessing to be part of a community – a family – Harbour Churches.  Thank you for the blessing you are – and may God keep you and +bless you.

As ever

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Prayer & Preaching 15th March

Don’t hang out in crowds….

I was a little off colour earlier in the week and used the time to sort out emails from mid-January – 1,843 in total. Most had been read but yes, a few had slipped through the net. To my alarm there was an email from Bishop Martin ‘for communication to all Parishes in March…’

However, the Bishop’s communication (see below) read as if it had been sent in another time. Presently, all clergy are on tender hooks awaiting updates from the Diocese in relation to Covid19 virus. Of course, Bp Martin’s email, written a fortnight ago, said nothing about

In the coming days and weeks, I anticipate I will be hearing a lot more from the Bishop on how we, as parish churches, are to respond to this real and present pandemic. I am particularly concerned that the congregations committed to my care are 90% (yes 90%), over 65 yrs. and, combined with other health issues, represent the most vulnerable members of the population.  Whilst it is still deemed appropriate for us to gather for congregational worship, I would want to assure you that not attending church because you recognise your vulnerability (coupled with right concerns in relation to meeting in one of the most hazardous environments for spreading a virus; confined building space, close seating, poor air flow and limited light + SINGING!) does not compromise your Christian duty to worship God in spirit and in truth and in fellowship with the household of faith.

Please do ensure you understand the government advice on how we respond to the virus. I was concerned to hear that some people are ‘self-isolating’ yet still doing the shopping and going into work. That is not self-isolation.

I will be meeting with the ministry team very soon to consider appropriate measures for pastoral support, including how we can offer practical support e.g. dog walking, prescriptions, shopping etc.

Further, we are to withdraw the chalice from the distribution of holy communion and continue to avoid any physical contact e.g. exchanging the peace etc. Those presiding at the eucharist will use anti-bacterial alcoholic gel.

So, please follow all the advice we are being given and do check daily for email newsletter updates as to how church life is being affected. But above all let us take to heart in word and deed the ‘golden rule’ and do all we can to love ourselves as God loves us and so make that love known in our relationships with others.

My prayers

Bishop Martin’s letter

I was recently asked by a reporter whether in the diocese of Chichester Ash Wednesday has become more popular – like Christmas is.

My own experience of offering “ashes to go” outside Brighton station was very informative. Generally, people on their way to work were not very interested and sometimes hostile.

People with a bit of Christian formation and experience were more pleased to see us. I sensed that for some of them, this was an invitation to re-connect with the season of Lent and the renewal of their faith. For others, it was encouraging, giving permission for the hidden, private practice of their faith to be affirmed by someone else in public.

The message of Lent is cheering and simple: God loves you and the Church is starting preparations to celebrate that fact at Easter.

But this year, in particular, the ashes with which we began this season of Lent offered a serious statement of protest.

As destructive fires raged in Australia, ash was everywhere. Our ashes were an identification with all who are the victim of climate change and environmental damage. But perhaps more importantly, ash was an even clearer symbol of the Christian call to repentance, a radical change of heart.

Extinction protests have certainly become more popular. But we might have more yet to do to make the Lenten discipline of repentance more popular within the Church, in order to become a catalyst for repentance in society and global change.

My hope and prayer is that we might emerge from this Lent with a greater sense of reverence for the earth and all its inhabitants. The celebration of Easter will then be marked by a different, freer, lighter way of living, rather than a return to damaging habits we had tried to give up for the time being.


Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen

We continue to pray for:
Claire Ralf, Derrick, Clive and Max

And those who have recently died and their loved ones:
Barry Russell, Grant Devonshire, Stewart Becker, Alex Thavenot and Ania

If you know of anyone who needs our prayers or would appreciate a visit, please let the Rector or the Parish Administrator know.

Should you wish to contact the Rector his mobile number is 07538 011579.

Services for this weekend

8.00 BCP Holy Communion at West Wittering and Itchenor

At Birdham (9.00) Susan Monks theme for Little Jimmies will be ‘God’s World’ and at 9.30 her sermon theme will be “This is my Song”. At West Wittering at (10.00) Sarah Manouch’s  sermon theme will be ‘God’s peace – shaking hands optional’. 

There will be Evensong at West Wittering at 6.00pm

Sunday 15th March – Third Sunday of Lent
Exodus 17. 1-7; Romans 5. 1-11; John 4. 5-42
Ephesians 5. 1-14; Luke 11. 14-28
Joshua 1. 1-9; Ephesians 6. 10-20

Sunday 22nd March – Mothering Sunday
Exodus 2, 1-10; Colossians 3. 12-17; Luke 2, 33-35; John 19. 25-27
Hebrews 12. 22-24; John 6. 1-14

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Lent Talks 2020

LENT 2020

This Lent we invite Harbour Churches to face up to one of the most urgent issues we face… the climate emergency.

Together we will mark the forty days of Lent accompanied by the Archbishop’s :

Copies will be available through the Parish Office. Contact assoc.vicarsarah@gmail.com

LENT TALKS will be given every Wednesday in Lent continuing tonight

Wednesday 11th March 7 – 8pm @ SJC

at which we will explore the challenge for our faith of caring for God’s creation.

Tonight’s talk: Hope in Darkness

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Organ Recital at West Wittering Church

Exciting news! Roger Judd will be giving a recital on Saturday, May 30th at 7pm.  His long musical career started as a chorister at Winchester Cathedral and his last post before he retired was Assistant Organist at St George’s Chapel, Windsor.  In that capacity he was the organist on several royal occasions.  More details to follow but please put the date in your diaries and contact Stella on 673470 if you’re able to help.  The recital will be in aid of the Friends of West Wittering Church.

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The Story of Easter

Sunday April 5th 4-5 pm

Palm Sunday

Come and Sing with Birdham Village Choir

The Story of Easter

with music from Handel’s Messiah, Stainer’s Crucifixion, Godspell and Children of Eden with soloists from the University of Chichester

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The time has come!

Saturday 28th March
Workshop with Polly Meynell

Learning to stitch our new kneeler cushions in the Chancel

All welcome: refreshments

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