'We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair' 2 Corinthians 4:8
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
We live in troubled times as the Coronavirus tightens its grip on our country and extreme measures become necessary to protect the population and especially the vulnerable.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, following Government advice, have now directed us to do all we can to limit social interaction and I am writing to tell you with deep regret that there will be no more public worship at Holy Trinity Church until further notice. Not even at the height of the Blitz in the Second World War when the roof of Holy Trinity was destroyed by the bombs that fell on it was the worship of Almighty God interrupted in this way. But these are new and challenging times which require a novel and unique response.
However, our Church remains OPEN; our faith in God is undiminished; public worship may be suspended; but the life of God’s kingdom is inextinguishable!
What has happened so far at Holy Trinity this week?
The Clergy, Churchwardens and Staff team have started holding daily meetings to coordinate our response to the situation and have produced a Continuity Plan to cover all eventualities
The Clergy have been at Holy Trinity CofE Primary School every day, visiting classrooms, leading assemblies, talking to parents and encouraging our teachers who continue to serve our children
The Clergy have been visiting workers to listen to them and carry a message of hope as shops and organisations in Sloane Square begin to shut
Our Assistant Priest and Parish Administrator have begun to build our 'Taking Care' network, ringing members of the congregation to offer practical and pastoral support
We have built a 'wayside shrine' at the entrance to Holy Trinity to encourage passers-by to come in to pray and light candles
We have begun to broadcast daily services from the Chapel of the Resurrection at Holy Trinity on our Parish Facebook page at 10am and 6pm
The Bishop of Kensington has appointed our Rector - Fr. Nicholas - as Deputy Area Dean to support the Area Dean in coordinating the church's response to the pandemic in Chelsea.
What comes next?
We will be posting regular updates on our Website (www.sloanechurch.org), Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/sloanechurch) and Twitter account (www.twitter.com/sloanechurch) and sending you the Weekly News by e-mail each week as long as the internet permits us to.
We will shortly be sending you a comprehensive list of resources to support your life of prayer. It is so important that we develop a daily rule of life if we do not have one already to enable us in this crisis to develop our spiritual resilience. I want to assure you that at Holy Trinity Church, our clergy will be praying for you and celebrating the Eucharist on your behalf day by day whatever lies ahead. Please pray for us as we endeavour to keep safe and healthy too. If you have special prayer requests, send them by e-mail to our Assistant Priest, Fr. Grant Bolton-Debbage (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We will broadcast Morning Prayer at 10am and Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 6pm EVERY DAY. The Eucharist will be broadcast on Sunday at 11am and Wednesday at 6pm. You will find the broadcasts on our Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/sloanechurch).
We will continue to extend our telephone contact especially with older and more vulnerable members of the congregation. If you would like a call or would like to join the response team, contact our Parish Administrator, Sophie Wilson email@example.com or on our special mobile number (07842 486514).
The present situation is having a dramatic financial effect on many people and organisations. Holy Trinity is not immune from this. Without public worship on Sundays and weekdays our income will be drastically impacted. We continue to receive standing order, direct debit or online payments from some members of the congregation and we invite you to join them if you possibly can:
As we live through this season of uncertainty we are faced with a great opportunity - to grow in faith, hope and love. We confront in so many ways an invisible enemy but we do so accompanied by a visible friend in Jesus Christ who is present to us by his Spirit and in the life of his Body, the Church. May we go forward as God's people in courage and trust so that we may say with St. Paul: "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Nicholas Wheeler Rector
A letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury
We are good in this country at holding our nerve and steadying one another. But a pandemic is something else; you can’t touch the virus, see it or even know where it is.
It may be spread by those who don’t even know they are infected. It is very serious for some, very mild for many.
Nevertheless, the effect of the virus could drive us apart. To some extent it must do. When someone we care for has it or is at risk, they must be isolated.
That is particularly so for older people and the most vulnerable, the ones by whose beds we want to sit and hold their hands, expressing our love with touch.
As in epidemics throughout history the fear we feel disturbs us very deeply, and dread comes upon us.
The answer to conquering this fear is the love that we receive.
The tears of the child wakened by a bad dream are stilled by the embrace of someone who loves them. The uncertainty of someone of great age is often quietened with a familiar voice.
The words of a friend can enable us to challenge the fears of illness and reduce our sense of threat.
The UK has a culture of caring, expressed through the NHS, in social care and in many other ways.
All of us, now, face a common threat, Covid-19. The question is, how do we find hope in these difficult circumstances? Hope comes both from what we can do and who we are.
We know that everything possible is being done to ensure that we can meet the challenge, in the NHS and across society.
The struggle will bring with it many practical difficulties, from the closing of sports grounds to meeting the needs of those in isolation.
It may mean some very hard decisions have to be taken about who is treated, as in Italy where they have had to decide not to treat some patients.
We must not be suspicious or indulge in conspiracy theories.
Those who are leading our country are seeking the best advice and can be trusted to do all they can. NHS staff and the scientists our Government can call upon are among the best anywhere in the world. They have no agenda other than the wellbeing of all.
We are capable of bearing the truth. Honesty strengthens our hopes. We need to listen to the science.
Through listening we already know how to reduce the risk: washing our hands meticulously; self-isolating even if we are not ill but may have come into contact with the virus; resisting the temptation to go to a doctor’s surgery where we might infect others; resisting the temptation, too, to panic buy.
Above all we must look after one another, knowing that in an uncertain world with a new virus we are best protected with honesty, compassion and care.
Remember the example of the Good Samaritan, the story in the Bible, which speaks about the need to care for others and ensure we notice those who are in distress even if they are those who are often invisible to us.
We can find hope and courage in the goodly and wholesome spirit that is in so many ways common to all human beings, whether they are people of faith or none.
We must distinguish between a healthy fear – the beginning of wisdom, which prompts us to follow advice, and to care for those at risk – and unhealthy fear which is driven by pride, leading us to act selfishly, doing harm to ourselves and others.
With the gift of truth and hope, we can care for one another lovingly, using words if not touch because of self-isolation. We can accept advice without grumbling, out of concerns for others, even if we do not see ourselves as being at risk.
We can go out of our way to be attentive to neighbours and to those who are vulnerable. We can shop for one another.
Where someone is ill, encourage them. Where someone dies, remember that, as the foundation of our faith for over 2,000 years, we have believed that God shared the pains and fears of our lives in Jesus Christ, that He faced death, but overcame it. And He is with the bereaved.
Where is our hope? It is in the end in the love and faithfulness of a God whom we may have forgotten, but whose action and character is expressed in millions of acts of love by every person in this country.
This is the God who we see in Jesus Christ, who called himself the Good Shepherd.
Acts of love are the normal reaction to those in need. They are a reflection of the God who is our Shepherd.
Today, along with our fellow bishops and other church leaders, I am calling for a National Day of Prayer and Action this coming Mothering Sunday (March 22).
Light a candle at 7pm and put it in your window; ring someone who is isolated and vulnerable; buy an extra item and place it in your local food bank; keep your night shelters open.
We have a stronghold and refuge, we do not depend on ourselves alone, for God keeps us so that as the Shepherd song ends: ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life.’
The Most Revd & Rt Hon Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury