Weekly News - 8th April 2020
As we approach Easter this year it may feel very peculiar. Cut off from so many of the traditional familiarities of the season – normal school holidays, Palm Sunday processions, sombre markings of Maundy Thursday with holy communion, dwelling on the reading of the Good Friday Passion, preparing the sanctuary with beautiful blooms on Saturday, before being greeted by the trumpets and full choir, heralding Easter morning. This year some of the outer rituals will be missing, but the journey remains the same. Like any year, we will mark the events of Holy Week to draw close to the meaning of the Cross and the experience of the Resurrection. That is still there for us, however we separated, fearful or isolated we may feel.
We are incredibly fortunate that due to the foresight and hard work of several people we can share worship, via the live stream services and daily devotions, pre-recorded for Holy Week. It has been really heartening to receive so many messages expressing support for these ventures. Time and again people express a sense of connection, knowing that others are hearing the hymns and bible readings and offering their own prayers. As one member wrote: “It was a real pleasure to take time away from all the ‘stay-at-home’ activities to sit peacefully, candle lit, in my dining room at 11am on Palm Sunday morning to join in worship with many of St Columba’s congregation. ‘Self isolating’ doesn’t mean that we are without communication or communion.”
Other members have described how members of the same family, geographically split (sometimes scattered across the world) are choosing to tune into St Columba’s at the same time, and by doing so, feel connected to their own loved ones. “All the family are tuning in with a little creativity via devices and telephones. It is nice to feel that we are do something together, despite being miles apart!” And some are tuning in and then phoning friends for a chat immediately after service – described as “coffee in the virtual Upper Hall!”
There are opportunities to tune in throughout Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday we will start just after 8pm, to permit time for appreciation of the NHS and our key workers. On Good Friday we will read the Passion from 11am and offer our Easter Communion on Sunday, also at 11am. In the two communion services this week, if it feels right, you may wish to have a little bread and wine to hand, and to share it/receive it at the appropriate moment in the service. It may seem strange but it may also be something very precious. There is also a lovely selection of Easter music pre-recorded by the choir and daily devotions recorded for Holy Week. For Families there are also activities and news via the Families section of the website.
[This week I heard of a St Columba’s member whose neighbour had suggested, in the light of people coming out to applaud the NHS at 8pm on recent Thursdays, there might be interest in the street to come out on Easter Sunday and sing a hymn – definitely an ecumenical venture in that particular street. The idea may catch on, but if it doesn’t perhaps a variation would be for you to “invite” or send the link to someone you know, to tune into one/all of our Holy Week services – hymn words provided! Whether they tune in or not, the invitation might be appreciated.]
I trust that through our worship, and in the ongoing care of neighbour and friend, each of us will find a way through the hard days of Holy Week, and that there will be joy for us in the light of Easter. As we give thanks for the ties that bind us and the faith that sustains us, can I make a plea that you consider your givings, either for our annual Lent Appeal – 500 Miles – and/or the ongoing work and ministry of St Columba’s. Even as our revenue from Hall Hire will disappear for several months, we remain committed to meeting our allocation to support the wider work of the Church of Scotland as well as meeting the costs of what we do locally from St Columba’s. (Financial details appear later in the newsletter.)
Finally, last Sunday there was mention of getting our ducks in a row, during Holy Week. Thank you to the church member who sent me a photo of a duck that visited his garden this week! Let me leave you with an alternative biblical bird – the eagle, which soars, like one whose hope is in the Lord: “God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young adults stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:29- 31)
The Lord bless you and keep you,
and when it dawns, a deeply joyful Easter,
8nd April 2020
Below is a digest of information and advice as things stand:
The Church Office is currently staffed from home. Office Hours 9am to 4pm. Contact details remain
Tel: 020 7584 2321
Pastoral Emergency Number (out of office hours): 07591926271
Live Streaming of Worship - Holy Week & Easter Morning
It is our intention to live stream an act of worship from St Columba’s on;
- 9th April, Maundy Thursday (Just after 8pm to permit time for NHS support),
- 10th April, Good Friday (11am)
- Easter Morning (11am) All services will be led by the Minister. This can be watched via the church website, https://www.stcolumbas.org.uk/live-stream at 11am. Pre-recorded daily devotions for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday of Holy Week are also available via the website.
To access the live stream from the homepage (front page) click the Menu button in the top right-hand side of the page and scroll down and click on “Live Stream”. This will bring up the live stream to the church. The act of worship of approximately 50 minutes, will include prayers, a sermon and music. (Note: This will not be public worship that everyone can attend, but an offering of prayer and praise, on behalf of us all.) The words for the hymns will be on the website.
The Sunday Night Shelter, was open on Sunday 22nd March for the last time this season. Our thanks go to all the volunteers who have made another season of vital hospitality available to our guests. Our Friday evening drop in, run by ReStart has relocated to St Cuthbert’s, Earl’s Court to offer a consolidated seven-day a week service, but will return to St Columba’s in due course.
Maintaining Community and Supporting Each Other
Everybody can play a part in maintaining contact with others via telephone, e-mail or letter, especially those who are particularly vulnerable. Our Elders are encouraged to make contact with those in their districts, and church members are welcome to contact the church office to request a contact from their elder or the Minister.
Congregational Offerings & Lent Appeal
Every organisation and household will be affected by the current economic and social disruption. While we are unable to meet for worship and cannot allow groups to hire and meet in our facilities, we have to maintain the building and meet ongoing, significant financial commitments for the wider Church of Scotland. Please consider your offerings to the ongoing work of St Columba’s.
Bank details are as follows:-
Account - St Columba’s Church of Scotland No. 2 A/C
Sort code – 16 00 42
Account number – 00264741
If you would like to make a contribution to our Lent Appeal, 500 Miles (https://www.500miles.co.uk/). Please use the same bank details but make the description “Lent Appeal” or “LA” or if you decide to post a cheque please make sure it is clear in your cover note, it is for the Lent Appeal. The charity received an incredibly generous donation from an anonymous St Columba’s donor in recent weeks. Thank you.
What can we continue to do?
Stay in Contact: As disciples of Christ we are called to be faithful – both in times of plenty, and in time of crisis. How might we do that? By maintaining perspective, appreciating what we have, remaining prayerful and in looking out for the needs of others, particularly those feeling vulnerable and isolated. “Physically distanced but socially engaged” is a good maxim for meaningful communication and support. Telephone calls, a note, an e-mail, a check to make sure someone has food – all these will help.
Sunday Best Project
Some congregation members may remember artist and photographer Katie Waggett coming to St Columba's in 2019. Katie took pictures of some congregation members for her book project "Sunday Best". Katie's book has now been published and will be released on the 16th April. You can preorder a copy of the book for £16.95 using the following link https://bit.ly/2V5GW5S. Keep your eyes peeled for St Columba's member Ian Aitchison.
The Gift of Prayer: “Pray with them sometimes; pray for them always.” This was the advice given to military chaplains about soldiers, in WWI – recognition that the church goes where the people are, and recognition that we can hold others in prayer, and in turn be held, even when apart. So, we can pray for all who are ill, all who offer medical and emotional support, all who carry heavy duties and responsibilities and all who grieve.
Prayers in Time of the Corona Virus
For our absent friends
God our Father, you are present to your people everywhere. We pray for those we love who are far away. Watch over them and protect them. Keep far from them all that would hurt the body and harm the soul. Give to them and to us the assurance of the strength and peace of your presence, and keep us all so near to you that we will be for ever near to one another. In your good time, may we renew our fellowship on earth, and at the last come to the unbroken fellowship of the Father’s house in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
For hospitals and healing
God of love, your Son brought healing to the sick and hope to the despairing. We pray for all who suffer pain, or who bear the burden of illness, or who have to undergo an operation. Give them the comfort and strength of your presence, and surround them with your healing love and power. May they know the fellowship of Christ who bore pain and suffering for us, and at the last won victory over death.
Bless those who share with Christ a healing ministry, researchers, doctors, surgeons, nurses. Use their sympathy and skill for the relief of suffering, the conquest of disease, and the restoration of health; and crown all their efforts with good success; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
God of might and power, you support us in danger and carry us through temptation. Give us grace to trust in you that, though by nature we are frail and weak, we may stand upright in any time of trial; through the strength of him who makes us more than conquerors, even Jesus Christ our Lord.
God who in Jesus stills the storm
and soothes the frantic heart;
bring hope and courage to all
who wait or work in uncertainty.
Bring hope that you will make us the equal
of whatever lies ahead.
Bring us courage to endure what cannot be avoided,
knowing your will is health and wholeness; for you are God, and we need you.
[Adapted from New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 765]
Note: All details and arrangements are subject to change in the light of new advice. Flexibility and good humour will be key!’