Dear Friends,                                                                                                         25th March 2020

On Monday evening we heard the news from the Prime Minister that the government is imposing even greater restrictions on our daily lives in a bid to protect us all from the onslaught of the Coronavirus.

Sadly, our church buildings will now be temporarily closed until further notice.  Even I will not be able to say Morning Prayer in them as I did last Sunday.

There will now be no weddings, baptisms or any type of ceremony held in them.  Funerals are exempt, although severe restrictions apply.

This is very hard news for all of us and for some very frightening.  If you need to contact me, do not hesitate; susan.oldham7@btinternet.com/ 01805804264.  Or contact the churchwardens or those who have kindly offered to keep you updated with church news, who will contact me for you.

Despite the restrictions, we remain the family of God, although dispersed on a Sunday morning.  I will be producing more Morning Prayer and Lectionary sheets for use at home.

I intend to live-stream a service of Morning Prayer at 9.30am on Sunday – the day when we were due to gather as a Benefice, so if you are able, perhaps you would like to join with me.  This is going to have its limitations but will be on Skype.

Another positive initiative is to light a candle on each Sunday evening at 7.00pm during this Coronavirus crisis, as we did last Sunday.  We are encouraged to light this candle, placing it in a window, remembering and focussing on our hope in the light of Jesus Christ.  A light which can never be distinguished.

This Sunday, our focus of prayer will be our wonderful NHS and the hard-working professionals and volunteers who are maintaining our nation’s network of medical and social care.  A short meditation by Prebendary Jackie Taylor, will be posted on the Diocesan website to help focus our prayer.

In the days and weeks ahead, the diocese will be expanding digital output for those who have devices to access them.

There will be more video content, which will include video service and more films for Holy Week and Easter.  In addition, they will be making Holy Week audio content available.

There will be a series of new reflections from Easter Day onwards.  Apparently, work is underway on an updated app, audio and email resources.  Details will follow in time.

There are also mental health reflections available to help people who are feeling lonely, isolated or anxious.

I will be sending out a homily for the fifth Sunday of Lent and want you to know that during this very difficult time, I hold you in my prayers and commend to you the collect for the fourth Sunday of Lent:

O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers,
that by reason of our frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright:
grant to us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers
and carry us through all temptations:
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

With my love in Christ, praying that God will keep us all safe in his strong and tender love.

Revd Susan Oldham

Incumbent of the Benefice of Dolton, Dowland, Iddesleigh and Monkokehampton.