Malmesbury Abbey offers help and support

Article by Kirsten Robertson from the Gazette and Herald (click here to view on G&H website )

A church community have promised to offer as many services as possible online during the pandemic.

Malmesbury Abbey want to reach those who might be affected by loneliness or isolation throughout the next few weeks.

Rev. Oliver Ross, Vicar of Malmesbury & Upper Avon, said: “The days are getting shorter and colder. We are anxious for ourselves, for those we love, especially those who are vulnerable and elderly, and for our families.

“Normally we’d like to meet friends and be sociable “in-person” and yet this is possibly the one thing we can’t do for the next month and the hardest to cope with.

“So, during November, at Malmesbury Abbey, I want to let everyone know that the Abbey itself, will be still be open on Tuesday and Saturday 10am to 12noon for private prayer.

“There will still be opportunities to meet together on-line to keep our spirits up and have something to look forward to.

“Although we can’t meet in person you can join in our live streamed and on-line services on Sundays.”

The services are available online at www.malmesburyabbey.com and on the Malmesbury Abbey YouTube channel.

Morning Prayer is available at 9.00am every weekday streamed at www.facebook.com/groups/Malmesbury.Abbey.

The Rev’d Mandy Churcher and her volunteer team will continue to keep in touch with older, isolated and vulnerable people in Malmesbury by phone and running essential errands.

Andrew Beebee, the Abbey’s Children and Youth Minister is running online youth groups which are a chance for games, making friends, discussion and prayer.

If you’d like someone to pray for you – email: prayers@malmesburyabbey.com, Alternatively, a help-line is available on 07425527312

The Abbey’s Richard Searle-Barnes added: “You see on the news how loneliness and mental health have been affected as a result of what is going on. The Abbey wants to reach people who would like someone to speak to or are seeking help. We need to try to keep positive even though these are very difficult times.”

Lockdown 2.0

Dear Friends,

Well, here we are on the brink of Lockdown 2.0.

This is going to be depressing for some and gruelling in different ways for all. We particularly think and pray for the NHS and their auxiliary staff as they face the increased pressure of caring for the ill. We also think and pray for those facing the financial and business costs of this change. God will be with us but let us do all we can for each other.

The Abbey will be opened for Private Prayer and many thanks to the Stewards keeping this open. Sadly, we must close the Café and Bookshop for the duration. Services will not be available at the Abbey or in the villages during this time – although we are allowed to offer restricted numbers at funerals. Our worship will continue over the internet so please join us and encourage others.

More will come out from the authorities as the hours move on and I will be sending out updates. Also we will publish updates on the website.

Cllr Gavin Grant from HEALS has been in contact and is looking for help practically and financially as they reach out to those in need. I will find more information but let’s do what we can.

The Archbishops have sent out a message which is below.

May God be with you as we travel through these days:

Remember nothing can separate us from the love of God

Oliver

The Rev’d Oliver Ross Vicar of Malmesbury Abbey

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To the clergy of the Church of England

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

1 November 2020

Greetings to you on this All Saints Day and as we are reminded again that we are indeed part of a universal company of saints.

We are writing to you to set out some of our thinking in the light of the most recent announcement by the Prime Minister. We are very aware that details are still not clear and there is much discussion still to be had about what the impact of the new lockdown will mean. We are also writing to assure you of our prayers for you and our thanks for all you do. We are clear that we do now need to call all Christian people to pray and to do so continually over this next month. In this letter as well as reflection we also set out an invitation to you to join in this call to prayer and to keep both praying and serving our communities.

This is a difficult and challenging time for all of us. We are sure that some of you reading this letter will wish we had made other decisions during the period of the first lockdown, or even challenged the government harder on the decisions it has made. You may be right. However, it is our view that the best way we can serve our nation now is by pouring our energy into doing the things that we can do, which is to pray and to serve. We also dare to hope that we will be kind to each other and that God will give us the courage and humility we need to be faithful witnesses to the gospel of peace.

A second lockdown will be upon us on Thursday. It is going to be different from the first one. The days are getting shorter and colder. We are anxious for ourselves, for those we love, especially those who are vulnerable and elderly, and for our families. We know that this pandemic is having a devastating effect on our economy and on people’s mental health. Thousands of people are dying. The National Health Service is being stretched to the limit. We also know and must continue to bear witness to the fact that the poorest communities in our nation are suffering the most. We are in for a long haul. It is going to be a hard winter.

But this second lockdown will also be different in other ways. There is much that we have learned from the first lockdown and there is much to celebrate and be proud of. Of course we are full of gratitude and respect for the amazing courage and commitment of all key workers,

especially those working in the NHS. Their contribution is rightly and widely recognised. We also applaud the many creative ways that churches up and down the land have been serving their local communities and working with others to make sure that the hungry are fed and the vulnerable cared for. We have managed to maintain and, in many cases, extend our outreach by streaming worship online and by developing other ways of building community online.

We are grateful for people’s energy, hard work and creativity in making this happen and we hope and pray this will continue. We are grateful that the new guidelines being introduced on Thursday not only allow churches to remain open for private prayer but also enable online worship to be broadcast from the church building. We were cautious about these issues during the first lockdown – perhaps overly so – but in this second lockdown we want to encourage church buildings to remain open for private prayer wherever possible, making sure that their buildings are Covid secure in the ways that we have learned in recent months, and to broadcast services from their church buildings. However, if you do not have the resources or wherewithal to do this, please do not feel that you have failed in any way. The good thing about provision of worship online, is that people can join in from anywhere and therefore we can support each other more easily in this endeavour. Our national digital team will continue to offer training and support and provide national services each week.

However, worship online still means that the people of God do not have access to the sacraments which are so central to our life in Christ. This is a huge loss and since we were not consulted about the lockdown provisions, we fully intend to speak with government about why certain exemptions are made and not others, emphasising the critical role that churches play in every community. The sacramental life of the church cannot be seen as an optional extra. Nor can we separate out our worship from our service, it is always both and not either or.

Nevertheless, we will of course abide by the law and ask you to do the same. We must do all that we can to keep our communities safe and to enable the NHS to manage this crisis. The Recovery Group chaired by the Bishop of London will be issuing specific guidance in the next day or two.

Bearing in mind our primary vocation as the Church of Jesus Christ to pray and to serve we call upon the Church of England to make this month of lockdown a month of prayer. More than anything else, whatever the nation thinks, we know that we are in the faithful hands of the risen Christ who knows our weaknesses, tiredness and struggles and whose steadfast love endures for ever.

Above all we recall people to some of the fundamental spiritual disciplines that shape our Christian life. How we do this is up to each congregation and clergy person. We will publish resources to support you before the first day of lockdown. During the first lockdown we cheered for the NHS every Thursday. During this second lockdown we invite you to fast in a way appropriate to you as well as pray for our nation every Thursday, for its leaders, its health and essential services and all those who suffer.

We thank you for your service and ministry and pray that God will sustain you and encourage you. After consulting the House of Bishops we will be writing a more general letter to the whole nation we serve, a letter expressing the hope we have and calling for courage, calm and compassion.

In one of the climactic passages of the New Testament, Paul says to those who follow Christ that their “love must be genuine, that they hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good.” He asks them to “serve the lord”, exhorting them to “rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering,

Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” (See Romans 12.9-12.) None of this is easy. Especially not at the moment. But it is our calling.

Yours in Christ,

The Most Revd & Rt Hon Justin Welby The Most Revd & Rt Hon Stephen Cottrell Archbishop of Canterbury Archbishop of York

The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally Bishop of London

persevere in prayer.

Message from Churches Together in Malmesbury

What a strange time it is to be spending Easter in lockdown. It seems a unique irony that we should find ourselves isolated in our own homes when Christ was isolated on the Cross and in the tomb. Whatever circumstances we may be in during these gloomy days, we have a hope that is steadfast in certain! One cried out down the millennia by the church – “Christ is risen! – He is risen indeed!“

So may we as the leaders of the different churches in Malmesbury wish you the warmest of Easters and strength for the weeks ahead in our walk with Christ. May The Risen Lord be with you and watch over you – ever yours in Christ:

Oliver Ross, Sarah Simpson, Mark and Lydia Faithful and Father Thomas

The Leaders of Churches Together in Malmesbury

The Rev’d Oliver Ross

07879490139

Romans 8.23 – A message of Hope

Ann Atkins spoke on Thought for the Day this morning (26th) and talked of her father‘s death and the terrible trimming down of the celebration of his life in the face of our present restrictions. She also remembered her mother who frequently quoted St. Paul’s axiom, And we know that all things work together for good to those that love God and are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Ann made clear that this perception was not cheap grace, but a place of faith in the face of real difficulty. It is so easy to be trite or to read the world through rose tinted spectacles. Life is always difficult but at the present there is a peculiar strain which has been added by the presence of the coronavirus. COVID-19 has yet to hit us with its full force – pray God that we don’t have to face that. Nonetheless when it comes, there will be those and those whom we love who struggle and we will be far from them and it will be easy to lose hope and find anxieties crowding in.

Let us determine not just to ‘be calm and carry on’ but to raise our heads and remember that this too will pass and that good will come out of it. Already we have seen great kindness shown by neighbours and a readiness by the government to act to help those in distress and need. The papers may try to drag us down into snide cynicism or sharp criticism, offering the advice of a backseat driver. Yet we can be generous to those in the thick of decisions. We can pray for those around us. We can volunteer to help locally, with the Abbey and Mandy or with HEALS – as so many have done for the NHS. Let us trust in God and that He will lead us through this storm to a safe harbour.

Think are looking forward and it is worth remembering that this weekend the clocks go forward by one hour.

As we look forward let us remember that this will pass and that we will have a party to celebrate – in the summer sunshine we pray!

As we look forward we will celebrate Easter not together in the Abbey but on the Internet and linking home to home and family to family and person-to-person. Isolation will not have the last word nor this wretched virus. 

So watch this space ….. For we know that all things work together for good to those that love God and are the called according to his purpose.

May God keep and bless you all

Oliver

Bomb to Corona Virus

Have you seen this?

C. S. Lewis’s words—written 72 years ago—ring with some relevance for us. Just replace “atomic bomb” with “coronavirus.”

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

All the very best and God keep you.

Oliver

The Rev'd Oliver C M Ross
Vicar of Malmesbury Abbey
Lead Incumbent of N. Wilts. Mission Area
T: 01666 826666
M: 07879490139
E: vicar@malmesburyabbey.com

Thomas Merton’s prayer

The Lenten prayer for this week is written by Trappist monk Thomas Merton. It is from fromThoughts in Solitude (1958).

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

And here is a link to a choral setting of that prayer by Ysaye Barnwell, entitled “Tango with God.” It is performed in this video by the Minneapolis vocal ensemble Cantus.