Along with a growing number of communities across the country, we have decided to suspend all routine physical services for safety reasons.
Our church buildings remain open for occasional activities and at least one day per week for private prayer. Regular worship will continue on ‘Zoom’, where many find comfort. For others, even if you have the capability, ‘Zoom’ is not the same. We are physical beings and, however much we enjoy our own company, we also need fellowship with others.
Our church buildings have been an integral part of our communities, places of prayer, worship and meeting, for centuries. They have experienced war and peace, feast, famine, sickness and health; the whole range of human experience. This accumulation of generations of prayer, intangible though it seems, enables them to enrich our lives at moments of need – even if we seldom visit at any other time. When the door is shut, we feel cut off.
The psalmist tells that ‘The earth is the Lords, and the fullness thereof’. (Ps 24:1). God is not restricted to church and chapel. The Bible is full of examples of people who encounter God where they least expect Him. Elijah, on the run from Queen Jezebel, encounters God in the wilderness (1Kings 19). Centuries earlier Jacob, also on the run, had his famous encounter with God in the open (Genesis 28:10-17, Jacob’s ladder). Before his arrest we find Jesus praying in an olive-grove (Matthew 26:36 46). We can pray anywhere, and God listens. In busy households, where the kitchen table has become office, school-room and now church, it can be difficult to find time and space to pray – God knows and respects what we can offer, not what we can’t.
Wherever we pray, God is with us and our prayer makes holy that place and blesses it. Remember too that that, even if you have the house (garden, field, place) to yourself, you are not praying alone. In the words of a well-loved evening hymn, The voice of prayer is never silent, nor dies the strain of praise away. Somewhere, right now, others are praying. Mary and I pray together in the Rectory every morning; normally just after 8 am. We are never truly alone in prayer.
The time will come when we can open the doors, and come together in person. Until then, stay safe.
Rev Philip Payne
The Pew Sheet for 17th January can be found in the Downloads section of the website.
17 Jan 21