from the Revd Clay Roundtree, Vicar
See the latest guidance from the Church of England here
17th January 2021
As we enter the third lockdown, churches are legally allowed to stay open if they are completely Covid secure in their operations, though we know that some have made the difficult decision to close. In the words of Canon Peter Warry, the York Diocesan Secretary, “We understand that the reason public worship is still permitted in this latest lockdown is that the government has recognised the responsible leadership demonstrated in local churches.” We appreciate that this gives little comfort to many in our congregations who are choosing to stay away from public worship and stay at home, especially for those who have begun shielding once again. The Churchwardens and I feel that at this time, we are able to continue with public worship in our parish church, a decision that is supported by the bishop and the archdeacon, though we will keep this decision under review. It is important to stay vigilant and continually reassess the risks. It is absolutely essential that there is no mingling with others in and outside the building, that everyone continues to wear a mask during the service and to wash their hands upon entry or use hand sanitizer before sitting down in church. We have reduced the number of available seats to 24, which means that there is well over 2 meters distance from others. Ventilation is also important of course, as well as reducing the possibility of touching surfaces that others might come in contact with. Also, please remember if you or a family member is waiting for the results of a test, you mustn’t leave your home until you have had a negative test result. Test and Trace at St Francis Church will continue as you would expect. We wish to continue welcoming people to come together in the presence of Christ in the physical space that is our parish church and we understand the great responsibility that goes with this privilege to worship publicly. Equally it is my hope that no one feels compelled, pressured or required to attend in person, and if you would like to chat about any of what I’ve written above, please ring me. Thank you for your continued prayers for the whole church family.
16 October 2020
19th July 2020
I hope this letter finds you in good health as we begin to see easing of the lockdown throughout the UK and Europe. We are of course committed to following the latest guidance issued by the Government and the Church of England, and I will keep you informed as things develop.
We have been open for individual/personal prayer Monday to Thursday from 2-4pm for over a month now and we intend to keep this going until the end of July. We will be giving our volunteers a bit of a break in August and will review what we do with having the church open for individual prayer in September. The response has been fairly good – it hasn’t been busy during these times and perhaps that’s a good thing. I have heard from a number of people that they wanted to come in when they saw the sign outside the church but for various reasons chose not to come in. For those who have come in, they have found a self-guided service being played over the PA, with a prayer sheet to take home, and the opportunity to light a candle in prayer. The feedback has been incredibly positive and it has been a way for some to return to church in a way that has made them feel comfortable.
Live streaming will be continuing through the month of August, though I will be taking a fortnight’s holiday to Scotland and will begin live streaming on Facebook again from August 10. Since there will not be a Sunday morning service on Facebook on 26th July and Aug 2nd, do make use of the Church of England’s weekly online service or the one provided by the Diocese of York. Archbishop Stephen’s last video reflection was very good, and you can fine it here. There may be a few alterations to the schedule as Nik and I go on, and we will keep you informed as changes are made. Our ‘library’ of online worship can be accessed by clicking here and no, you do not need a Facebook account to see them.
Worship with others at the parish church
Worship in public has been going well, and even if it isn’t quite the same as pre-lockdown worship, it is good to be together again. We have been keeping below our threshold of 30 people attending a service, and in order for us to do this and continue maintaining the social distancing guidance, we are asking you to register for a free ticket for each service you attend using Eventbrite. It is incredibly easy to use – you do not need a degree in computer science to work it out. If you need help, please ask one of our churchwardens or clergy. The complete list of current services can be found by clicking here, and you’ll be able to use this one link for all of our future services so it might be good to save the link with a bookmark. We have been keeping services short, and if numbers continue to increase, we may need to have three services on a morning rather than two.
Church place register, calling of banns, baptisms and funerals.
We are resuming the use of the church place register now that we have opened for public worship. Both of our church schools have applied to the Regional Schools Commissioner for a temporary change to our admissions arrangements to reflect the closure of the church over these last months, which means that those who are seeking a foundation place will not be penalized or affected in any way. Please contact me if you are shielding from others and are concerned about returning to public worship (after I return from my holiday). The calling of banns will resume in church and we have made arrangements for a WEDDING to take place in church this September, which will be wonderful, considering that the couple’s original plans have fallen through. Also, we can of course conduct funeral services in the parish church at this time. A number of families have chosen to hold their baptism services now rather than later, keeping their invitation list below 30, and this seems to be working well.
A Prayer of Praise
O Christ, door of the sheepfold, may we enter your gates with praise and go from your courts to serve you in the poor, the lost and the wandering, this day and all our days. Amen.
18th May 2020
Dear friends, it has been 2 months since we have had to close St Francis Church to public worship, and I pray that in this time of separation we may continue to minister to each other in the name of the Church. Thank you for all that you are doing as members of the Body of Christ to check up on each other – writing cards, sending emails and messages, making calls. Please keep doing what you are doing. It is an important ministry of support and prayer at a time when we are seeking to keep each other connected and safe.
Since the closure, the Church of England has provided many resources to aid us in our prayers through this difficult time, particularly the Daily Hope freephone number and the Faith at Home campaign. Online services are found a plenty, as well as broadcasts on TV and radio. It has been said that 1 in 4 people in the UK have taken part in online worship since the beginning of the lockdown. More recently, our PCC has met on a Zoom call and we have been using Zoom socially after our streamed services. We have seen hundreds of people engaging with our online streamed worship on Facebook and YouTube, and new people are reaching out to us asking about how to become a Christian. Praise God!
The 9 days between Ascension Day and Pentecost has in the last couple of years been revitalised as a time of prayer asking for the Holy Spirit to refresh and remake the Church as well as bringing new people to faith in Jesus Christ. I have included a separate sheet with this mailing to assist you in your prayers for yourself and others during this time. Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement which seeks to help individuals deepen their faith and grow in confidence in order to share their faith with others. It’s also an opportunity to pray specifically day by day for five friends or family members to come to faith.
20th March 2020
You will have heard that the Archbishops of the Church of England have suspended public worship until further notice, which is an unprecedented move but completely necessary at this time of the coronavirus outbreak. They have called for a National Day of Prayer and Action (22nd March) for people of faith to pray for the sick or anxious, and all involved in our Health Service. They are calling everyone to place a lighted candle in their window at 7pm this Sunday, 22nd March, as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished.
Over the last couple of days, I have been streaming on Facebook Morning and Evening Prayer using prayers from the Church of England. Nik and Shelly have been saying Night Prayer using their Digital Saints Facebook page. We would like to encourage you to take time in your day to either pray with us through these live streams or turn to the Church of England website where prayer resources are available. Remember that the BBC has an excellent daily service at 9:45am on 198LW and on their BBC Sounds App. The Archbishop of Canterbury will be conducting worship at 8:45am this Sunday on Radio 4. I have seen lots of people posting about what you can do to occupy yourself with during this time of isolation. Please remember to pray, which benefits you and everyone you pray for. Ultimately, prayer lifts our hearts and minds to God, which enables us to stay connected and remain hopeful in believing.
St Francis Parish Church is open for private prayer and peace 10am-4pm on weekdays and 11am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday. The church will have a late opening time on Thursday, 6pm-9pm. Please remember to thoroughly wash your hands upon entry in the building. We are cleansing the church door handles and other surfaces daily. Donations for the foodbank can still be left in the church narthex, but Harbour women’s refuge isn’t able to take any donations at this time.
Prayer requests can be left in the box provided at the back of church, or you can email me on email@example.com , or by using the church website, the Facebook page, or phoning me on 0770 7998074. For those of you who are in the church’s phone directory, perhaps you could take a moment in the week to phone the person above and below your entry? Let them know you’re praying for them and thinking about them. We must all do our very best to keep in touch, particularly with those who are self-isolating.
Public worship isn’t the only thing of course that has been affected. All of our meetings, including our annual meeting, are postponed indefinitely until further notice. This means that much of our church income through our hall user groups and open plate giving at church services has been curtailed. We are now relying entirely on planned giving from those who have set this up with their banks. Could I please ask you to take a moment to consider giving electronically to St Francis Church, particularly through this challenging time? This situation reminds us that even when we cannot be physically present at church services, we are not paying for a service that we receive, but giving sacrificially for the benefit of the whole people of God.
St Francis of Assisi Church’s account number is 12588812 and the sort code is 050950 (Yorkshire Bank, Thornaby). Cheques can be given as well, payable to St Francis of Assisi PCC. Thank you for your ongoing financial support towards the ministry and mission costs. Even though public worship has stopped, ministry hasn’t, and the Church is not closed!
Let this difficult time remind us of the three principal practices of the Church of God. First, to worship, and to do this however we can, wherever we can, as a daily offering. Second, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, the one who has the power to cast out all fear and anxiety and is worthy of our trust and our love. Third, to serve those in need through acts of kindness, generosity, compassion and mercy.