Welcome

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Thank you so much for all your support for this year’s Ride & Stride. I had a wonderful day out in the sunshine, visiting 22 churches in the Henley area (the last two were in the Wallingford Deanery as I made my way home). I cycled over 36 miles, up 1500 feet of elevation including the hill to Bix (up the Old Bix Road, not the dual carriageway, don’t worry!). Phew! I discarded my pink jacket halfway up that hill.

We have raised a phenomenal £3375* before gift aid so far, but my fundraising page is still open and I can still accept cheques (made payable to ‘OHCT Ride & Stride’ please) or cash. Everyone has been so generous. Photos of all the churches I visited are on our Facebook page (@shiplakedunsdenharpsden).

Thank you for keeping the pedals turning, for your generosity and for helping to support our churches and the work of the OHCT. You are amazing!

Rev. Sarah

 

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MINISTRY IN LOCKDOWN
Church during Covid 19

What is happening at Church regarding the future and what are we doing about Covid 19 are questions that seem to be paramount in many peoples’ minds at the moment.

Church Buildings

We are currently opening Dunsden Church for Private Prayer every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday between 2 pm and 4 pm so that people can drop in and enjoy the quiet, have time to pray and light a candle. We are finding that many people are making use of this – but not every session. We have had between 0 and 23 people in a session, plus various dogs!
Sadly we cannot currently allow a church building to be open without somebody on duty – who then sanitises anything that the visitor has touched (making sure that the visitor has gone). This is a great sadness as I know that many in our communities often drop into Harpsden and Shiplake as they know that these two churches are normally always open. I do not know when this will change, but as soon as it does rest assured our church buildings will be open again so that as many people as possible can enjoy these liminal places.


Services

Sarah and I immediately at the start of ‘lock down’ live streamed daily services, and we have now been joined with Pam who leads Morning Prayer on a Friday – we are envisioning that these services will continue for quite some time as we know that many people are finding comfort in the rhythm of the Daily Office and many of our congregation are still unable to leave their home as they have various medical conditions.
Sarah and I have held an on-line Communion service every Wednesday, Sunday and any Special High Days since the start of lock down, and again many people have expressed their deep thanks for the Liturgy and sense of belonging that these services have created.
We have had several joint ‘Zoom’ PCC meetings to look at how we reopen our churches and it was agreed that this would happen at the beginning of August – however Sarah and I received a missive from the senior staff at the Diocese saying that all clergy must take their set holidays – something that neither Sarah nor I have done since January. We therefore postponed reopening till 28th August to give us both time to take a break. At the same time to take the pressure off we have reduced the services during August and September to Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
Out first ‘live’ service was at Harpsden church on 26th August where once more we gathered together as a congregation in a church building – BUT this service was also live streamed to allow as many people as possible to join in from their homes (10 people have so far watched this service). We will continue for the foreseeable future to offer ‘blended worship’ (the new term for live and live streamed worship) to allow as many people as possible to join in with worship.
Before any of our churches were opened for any service a full Health and Safety Covid 19 audit was completed by Sarah and myself alongside the respective Church Wardens – these completed documents may be found displayed in the church building for your reference.
We are now looking at if we might be able to hold some services outdoors! We will let you know what happens.

Music

Music is an integral part of worship but sadly this has not yet been allowed to restart. New guidelines have just come into place to allow a small group of professional, or semi-professional singers to accompany the service, but congregational singing is not permitted. I have therefore met with Nigel Smith from Harpsden Church to start the conversation as to how we can start to once more have live music in a service – I am also talking to our organists Malcolm Harding and Adrian Fish to see how we progress in the benefice. The choir are having their first practice on 28th August – all socially distanced, and Nigel will feed back from that the thoughts of the choir.

Visiting people

Sadly we were immediately banned from visiting people face to face at the onset of the Pandemic to try and stop the spread of the virus. This is still the case and we look forward to the day when once more the clergy and pastoral team can visit people in their own homes.
However, in the first two weeks of the lock down I updated the benefice contact list and this list was split between the Pastoral Team, Clergy and Wardens to ensure that we kept in touch with all our amazing congregation. I also send out a Palm Cross and Easter Card to every person on our Electoral Roll and GDPR list to remind them of the real reason for Easter. Enormous thanks go to the Pastoral Team, Wardens and Clergy team for all the telephone conversations that they have had over the last few months – this will remain in place for as long as it is needed, and indeed might be the basis of a new way of undertaking Pastoral Care here in the Benefice.

The future

Regrettably I do not know what will happen in the future, but we will be constantly looking at new guidelines from the Diocese and the Government to ensure that we are keeping people safe during this difficult time. We do not know when ‘normal service’ will resume, if indeed it ever does, but together, and with Christ, we will move forward and our faith will be deepened by these experiences.

May God Bless you all at this difficult time.

Robert