from the Revd Clay Roundtree, Vicar
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 firstname.lastname@example.org , 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.