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Opening Churches

On your marks…

The announcement last week that churches may begin to open for private prayer reminded me of an Olympic athletics event, with the announcement being the call of ‘On your marks, get set, go’. We’re ‘On our marks’ and about to enter the ‘Get set’ phase, but we are running a marathon not a sprint and we are not yet ready to shout ‘Go’.

As I write we have just received the latest guidance from the Diocese, to supplement that already sent, and we are currently discussing its implications, so that we can ensure the churches are prepared, to ensure that we are prepared to welcome you all for Private Prayer in safety.

So, what are we doing, and what do we need to do to ‘Get Set’?

What are we doing?

The Leadership Team are working on plans to prepare the church buildings. We have taken the decision to remove hymn books and kneelers and to designate appropriate seating. We are sourcing hand sanitiser for each church as well as gloves and cleaning materials for volunteers. We are printing signs and prayer cards, roping off surplus pews and preparing guidance for everyone.

What do we need to do?

We need volunteers!

We have decided to ask for volunteers to help facilitate each prayer session and also to prepare our churches for opening. Although this is not a requirement of the guidance, we believe that it will provide reassurance for those who come to use the churches. Each session of private prayer, in each church, needs 2 appropriate volunteers. Volunteers need to be under 70 and in good health, and have not been advised by the NHS that they should self-isolate or shield. Is that you? If you would like to help, please contact me by email at assoc.vicarsarah@gmail.com.

The plans at the moment are to open the churches on a Sunday afternoon for 2 hours initially, from 3pm – 5pm, with each pair of volunteers covering 1 hour. Volunteers are needed to prepare the churches over the next couple of weeks ready to open, to welcome and monitor numbers entering the church and to ensure each person can pray in safety and in confidence, to ensure everyone uses hand sanitiser as they enter and leave, and to ensure the pews are cleaned after they leave.

Full instruction and guidance will be given to all volunteers.

What does all this mean?

The latest guidance does not specify the number of people allowed in a church at any one time, because each church is unique. The Leadership Team have looked at our 3 church buildings and have agreed the numbers that we believe we can safely allow in at a time. At this stage we plan to open 1 pew on each side of the church, which means 2 individuals, 2 couples or 2 small household groups, in any combination. We will also ask people to be aware of those who may be waiting and so we may need to ask people to limit their prayer time to 10 mins as we want to enable everyone who wishes to pray to be able to do so. As with everything during lockdown, we will be reviewing all our plans regularly.

All of you have been supporting each other in whichever way you can, practically by shopping for family and neighbours, sewing urgently needed supplies for front line workers, through phone calls or web chats, but most importantly you have been praying, for each other and for the Ministry team, for which we thank you. During this time of lockdown I know many of you, like me, have also been praying for the time we can return to our church buildings, they are important, they are central to the villages, they are central to our faith, they are the House of God, but this time has also allowed so many of us to have a deeper prayer life while inhabiting the Garden of the Lord, our homes, our gardens, creation. The opportunity to pray in Church is a chance to enhance that prayer life, not to replace it.

What next?

We’d like to thank you for your patience and understanding during lockdown, and to ask that you continue to be patient as we finalise our plans. Yes, you will hear of other churches opening earlier, yes, you will be frustrated that you cannot enter your own church yet, but each parish, each church, is different, every congregation is different, and so please be assured that we are working hard to get to ‘Go’ as soon as we can, within current guidelines, and within our particular circumstance, but these are your churches, and we need your to help prepare them and support them.

Our plan is to open for the first time on Sunday 28th June, which is when we would be celebrating the Feast Day of St Peter and St Paul. To open again on the Feast Day of the Keeper of the Keys, St Peter, will be very meaningful and symbolic, and we pray that it will inspire us to once again be the rock on which we can continue to build, rebuild and extend our church family; and work towards God’s Kingdom here on earth.

Revd Sarah
on behalf of the Rector, CWs and Leadership Team

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Harbour Churches Wednesday Meditation “Was blind…..”

Harbour Churches Wednesday Meditation: ‘Was blind, but now I see.’

‘Out of the depths I cry to the Lord.’ Ps.130

A heartfelt and personal reflection on living-faith in lock down in the light of racial injustice, marking the day of George Floyd’s funeral.

We invite you to join us in a time of ‘witness’ on Saturday 13th June @ 10-10.30am to express support and solidarity with those who are victims of racism.

The Zoom invitation will be on our website:


You can also make a financial contribution to those working to end racial injustice by supporting the Equal Justice Initiative: eji.org

It would be a blessing if you could share this information with others.

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Helping Hands Hub

Harbour Churches

During this challenging time, your Parish Church has set up a Help Hub to meet needs many will be facing over the coming weeks and months. We can help those who are self-isolating due to illness or vulnerability with:

•     Light shopping
•     Collecting ordered shopping
•     Collecting prescriptions
•     Posting mail
•     Dog walking
•     Regular phone calls as a ‘phone buddy’

If you or someone you know needs help or you would like to volunteer as a ‘helping hand’, please contact:


Parish Office 01243 514057
Birdham & Itchenor 07368 554188
West Wittering 07529 221288

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Newsletter Appointment

‘One more step along the world I go….
….keep me travelling along with You.’

It is my privilege to share with you some very important news about our Associate Vicar, Revd. Sarah. Read on….

Dear all,

Today the Bishop of Chichester announced that I have been appointed as Incumbent of the Valley Parish which includes East Dean, Singleton, West Dean and surrounding villages. The appointment is exciting, humbling, and just a little bit scary. It is also tinged with sadness that I will be leaving you all, but I believe this is what God wants me to do, and where He is calling me to serve.

I will be writing more fully to you all in the next Parish magazine, but I wanted to take this opportunity to simply say Thank You! My 5 years serving in the Benefice have been the most important 5 years of my life so far and I have learnt so much from you all, about welcome, about faith, about friendship, and about myself.

I have to say a special thank you to Jonathan, our Rector, who, to quote ABBA, took a chance on me! The opportunities and experiences that he has encouraged me to take, both in worship and the wider Benefice, have given me skills, and the confidence, that I hope will stand me in good stead in my new Parish.

I will continue to serve as a Self-Supporting Minister and so will also still be working in the St Olav’s Bookshop and will be dividing my time between the family home in Chichester and the Rectory in Singleton.

At this stage, due to the current situation, we don’t know when I will be beginning the next stage in my Priestly calling, although my last day in the Benefice will probably be at the end of August. However, I want to assure you that I will continue to serve you all, to the best of my ability, until I leave and that you will continue to be in my prayers and in my heart.

Thank you for all that you have given me over the past 5 years, you have been a true blessing.

… and of course, we will want to join together as Harbour Churches and give Revd. Sarah a proper farewell – and we’ll throw in a bit of ABBA too!

The picture above (taken at the end of celebrations for her licensing as Associate Vicar) is very special to me. I think it captures all that we know to be so special about Revd. Sarah – we have been very blessed to share together in her priestly formation. Please hold Sarah in your prayers and the folk of the Valley Parish amongst whom she is to continue to share Christ’s ministry.

Living-faith in lockdown.

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Harbour Churches Sofa Service Trinity

Harbour Churches Sofa Service: ‘Time to take the knee’

In today’s service we continue to reflect on the theme from Wednesday’s meditation and the issues arising out of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, as we consider what matters most to us, how we express that in our lives and through putting faith into action.

This Trinity Sunday, our reading is taken from Matthew 28. 16-20 and through special prayer for Trinity Sunday we express the greatness and goodness of the God we worship and hold before God the needs of a broken and hurting world. Those persecuted and victimised because of the colour of their skin and all those for whom we have been asked to pray and especially Clive, Derrick, Margaret and Judith:

God For Us, we call You Father,
God Alongside Us, we call You Jesus,
God Within Us, we call You Holy Spirit.

You are the Eternal Mystery
That enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
Even us, and even me.

Every name falls short of your
Goodness and Greatness.
We can only see who You are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing.

As it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be.

Harbour Churches ‘Littles’ Service: ‘Drinking from the Deep Well’.

Don’t we all get thirsty?
Susan share’s a story from the Jewish faith about a deep, deep well.
In Jesus we have ‘living water’ to quench our thirst – and the thirst of others…

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