Coming out of Covid

July 19th has now become a crucial date in the journey and the roadmap out of Covid. With a week to go, I was hoping that we would have some clear guidance from the government and thence the diocese. This does not look like it will appear before the beginning of next week. As a result I think it’s sensible on the Sunday and weekend before to layout some ideas we can start with.

It appears that many of the rules, if not all of them, are going to be relaxed. The one exception may be congregational singing. My suggestion therefore for Sunday, the 25th of July, is that we meet with each other for our services. If we need to, we will sing outside and the choir, released of its restriction to 6, will help lead our worship at 10.30am and 6.30pm.

Mask wearing looks as though it will become a matter of personal responsibility. As a result some may wish to wear masks in church and others may not; whatever the preference, it is important that we follow the Christian principal of caring for the most anxious and vulnerable brother or sister. We choose not to exercise our freedom at the expense of others. Therefore please be careful and generous to others in this area.

Finally, may I urge you if you feel yourself to be ill in anyway or going down with something that you take this seriously, do a lateral flow test and go to bed rather than coming to church. If you are well and yet still feel anxious, please watch the streaming service on the Internet and join with us.

These will be strange days as we take tentative steps into a post Covid world. There is never going to be a perfect way or time to unlock from these Covid restrictions. We need to learn to be patient with our differences and generous to each other’s perspectives and needs. Under the mercy of God I am sure we will be fine and we commend ourselves to Him and His never changing care.

August services

August is the time when many of us go away and that includes the staff. As a result our services in the regular pattern often become pale shadows of normal life and the rest of the year. Moreover, a number of people have asked whether we may look at intergenerational services of worship. As a result we have decided to make our one main service at 11 o’clock and we will follow the scenes of Encounters with God. The service structure will neither be the 10.30 communion nor the 4 o’clock informal style. There will be a play area in the south aisle and activities for the young with their family. We hope that people will find this appropriate and invigorating as an opportunity of experiment when the choir and many others are on holiday. Please don’t feel that this is some massive personal change being foisted upon the congregations. Do not think that this is, “not my thing” and not come. I suspect no one will like everything but there will be something for each; please come with a readiness to participate and an openness to God that He might use you as a blessing to others. We need people to come and join in what we are doing as we seek to worship together across the generations.

The mission implementation group. (MIG)

The PCC over the first part of the year looked at the vision and general policy for the church which I outlined in the APCM address. Now we need to look at what we do and what we might do in the way of ministry in the months and years ahead. The idea is to gather a number of champions for different areas of ministry within the church; we are using easy ideas from W. H. E. A.T. – Worship, Hospitality, Education, Arts, Town. Then the champions will go out over the next couple of months talking to the congregation and collecting a group to come up with an A4 list of ideas – These we will gather together with the champions and look and how our ministry can be as affective as possible under God.

All of us signed up as Christians and continue to walk with God in order to be involved with Him, in His great cause of the Kingdom. Please talk and offer your ideas to the champions, but most of all will you pray that we may find a way forward that brings glory to His name and we see His will down among us. As so many in the past have prayed, “Lord bring revival, but start with me!”.

HRH Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh

Requiescat in Pace

It was with tremendous sadness that I heard of the death, this morning, of Prince Philip. He was a remarkable man in so many very different ways. He was the Queen‘s husband, support and stay; We remember the Queen at this time with great sadness for her and the whole of the royal family. We pray that he may rest in peace and that the Queen may know God’s comfort, as she has trusted in Him over the long years of her marriage and reign.

For most of us we do not have a memory of when Prince Philip was not Duke of Edinburgh and at the Queen’s side. In his younger years he fought in the Royal Navy. Later he negotiated the difficult role of being married to and supporting the new young Queen. He was a man of remarkable vision whether concerning wildlife conservation or the new medium of television. He was President or patron of many charities and this wise eye came to bear on the huge projects of restoring Windsor Castle and the Cutty Sark. As Master of the Corporation of Trinity House he led the Court and Elder Brethren in the development and deployment of our lighthouses maintaining safety around our shores.

He was a man of courage and fortitude as well as fierce loyalty to the Queen. His death will mark the end of an epoch and our nation will never quite be the same again.
We pray for Her Majesty the Queen and their children, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

The Rev’d Oliver Ross

Palm Sunday, Holy Week & Easter

This is going to be an unusual Easter as we are still under lockdown and although there has been a little easing it is still under severe lockdown strictures in step one with which we have to work. It is incredibly frustrating to me that we are not able to open up safely for the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. I eagerly hoped that we would be able to meet face-to-face and celebrate Easter but sadly this is impossible with the continued restrictions and possibility of infection. We are looking forward to Pentecost Sunday on the 23rd of May when we will be open for services although still restricted in numbers.

Palm Sunday – we will have a Holy Communion on the Internet (our website and YouTube) and our Mission Area Family Service with Bishop Lee as our preacher.

Holy week – we will have a packed and reflective week.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday there will be sessions on Christian Mindfulness at midday and service of Holy Communion with passion readings available on the Internet.

Church Prayer Meeting at 7:30pm (1hr) which will be led by Revd Oliver Ross on Zoom. This will include a time of praying in smaller groups either out loud or quietly as people feel comfortable. We will share the Zoom link closer to the service.

Maundy Thursday there will be a holy communion remembering the institution of holy communion and the Last Supper when Christ washed the disciples feet.

Good Friday will see a Christians Together in Malmesbury Service of praise and reflection. On the Internet there will also be a quiet Communion and a presentation organised by the Choir of reflective music for the Passion.

Easter Sunday will see us celebrate the Lord’s rising with a holy communion service (Internet and YouTube) and a Malmesbury family service on Zoom.

We are also setting up a Easter garden in the churchyard and a walk of reflection.

Moreover we are setting up an installation of doves in the South aisle – do you go in for private prayer and have a look – this will be completed by Pentecost when we open.

For more information click on the link below:

Lent

This was sent to me and I thought it was rather wonderful considering the gloomy times we are having – a real alternative Lent … with nothing about chocolate. Have a great Ash Wednesday.

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