The times are challenging and our feet are walking unknown paths, yet the Lordship of God remains constant and the ways of God remain the only logical road to travel.
This will be a fairly lengthy email so please bear with me.
There are many changes afoot as the doors of the Church at St Patrick’s close to corporate worship and ALL Parish activities are postponed until further notice. We are sharing in this pain with all of God’s people across the Island of Ireland and many other parts of the world. The freedom to worship corporately that we have too often treated lightly has been taken from us. With you, I am grieving this loss and praying for you in this deep sadness, yet supportive of its necessity.
The days ahead will look different for our worship, fellowship, friendship, faith growth, and discipleship. That said we have a resilience that comes from the seal of the Holy Spirit in us and we will find new ways of renewing fellowship, spiritual growth, discipleship, and even evangelism.
Yesterday morning, after careful thought, I drew together a ‘Response Team’ to help steer us all through the turbulent waters of change in our ministry and mission. We needed a steady team to work with me and I was greatly blessed by our unity and vision to find new ways of ‘doing Church’. Please pray for the ‘Response Team’ as we work together to enable us to continue to worship and grow within the constraints of social isolation and distancing measures.
We are working with great haste to have a corporate experience of worship coming into your home through a video of a simple Church Service coming each Sunday by you linking to the service on a Sunday morning on the Parish Website (www.drumbegparish.com). It will be a 30-minute act of worship with a hymn/song, a Psalm, a reading, prayers and a thought for the day. We have been advised that a maximum of 4 people are to join the Rector for this recording. It is our plan to record this on a Saturday morning for editing and uploading for your viewing from 9am onwards on a Sunday morning. The technology means that you MAY need a password/code to access it, but this will be emailed IF necessary. If you do not hear from us before Sunday simply log in to our website and watch the service and worship with us after 9am each Sunday.
For those who are not able to access technology, we are working quickly to provide every home with a series of 12 Sunday services, with liturgical materials and a weekly thought for the day included. These will be prepared over this weekend and will be with you for Palm Sunday (Sunday 5th April) if not before.
The Church building is also to open on Wednesdays for you to drop in for private prayer. Again this will be monitored as a maximum of 4 people will be allowed to be in the Church at any one time. When in the Church you are to observe absolute silence and to maintain social distance you are to sit in the four corners of the cruciform layout. The opening times will be 8am to 10am, 12noon to 2pm and 6pm to 8pm on Wednesdays. You are asked to stay for no longer than 30 minutes. If this opportunity to use the Church is more broadly taken up we will enlarge the opening times.
The work of caring for others will continue. Each Monday morning from 8am to 10am the Church Hall will open for you to leave in your Larder Foodbank gifts. We will arrange for this food to be delivered to the Larder and will try to keep you up to date with those things most needed by Louise and her team. Please keep this project to the forefront of your care and prayer.
Secondly, we are reaching out to the Parish and those in the immediate community by offering help with shopping, collecting prescriptions and supporting anyone who is locked in as they need to ‘self isolate’ through a regular phone call. 500 flyers are already printed and today they will begin to come through the doors of the village. If you are aware of anyone in need please contact me on: 07764277771 or Rachel Pascu on:07766764318. We will then get Susan Boreham and her team of volunteers into action. If you would like to volunteer to help with this please phone or text me. I encourage all of us to look out for those most vulnerable in our community and make contact to offer our help. If you personally need help please do NOT hesitate to phone in.
Pastoral care is taking on an uncharted road as Clergy, Lay Readers and Pastoral visitors are no longer allowed to call with you. I am therefore making myself available for ‘phone consultations’ and ‘phone prayer’. If you need, or know of someone who needs, pastoral care please simply phone me on: 07764277771. If you cannot get me please then phone Margaret McVeigh on: 07711844532 or Marion on: 07526723285 and we will listen, give advice as best we see fit and offer prayer.
I will offer a Rector’s Phone Clinic. On Tuesday mornings and Thursday mornings from 8.30am to 10.30am I will be at the office desk to receive non-emergency pastoral calls to offer support, to pray and to deal with any pastoral issues or general Parish enquiries which arise. Please use this service by phoning during these hours on: 02890613267. I also note that if anyone is struggling financially it is a time to forget pride and simply contact me through the clinic phone service for a confidential chat and to seek help. Many who are self-employed will be suffering much in these difficult days; commit these people to prayer.
If anyone who is self-isolating would like a regular call from a member of the Church simply to bring something of normality into your life we are setting this facility in place as noted above. We need volunteers to offer this support so please contact Hugh on: 07702064312 if you are willing to be on list to phone isolated parishioners.
Weddings and Funerals present very great challenges. Sadly for the foreseeable future, these services will be strictly ‘private’ and family only. Please get in contact with me asap if you have a wedding booked. It is my plan that all these private funerals will be offered a Memorial Service or a Service of Thanksgiving at a later date after this crisis has passed, where large crowds will again be welcome in our churches. In terms of weddings, private services will be intimate but we will offer a ‘Renewal of Marriage Vows’ service at a later date for a larger and more appropriate celebration of the marriage.
Parish Bible study resources and special children’s resources for use by families are also being prepared. We are going to use the Seesaw Mobile Phone app for these so if you are interested in continuing or joining the Rooted and Tag Bible study community please text or phone my wife Caroline with your email address on: 07882093641 and Caroline will add you to a list and the resources will begin to come out next Thursday morning. You will need mobile or computer technology for this to work through downloading the appropriate ‘APP’.
Many are asking how they will give in their weekly Free Will Offering Envelopes. Since we rely on 33% of all our income through on the plate collections keeping the envelopes coming in is very helpful. I encourage you that these can be dropped off on a Monday when the Church Hall is open for the Larder and on a Wednesday when the Church is open for private prayer. Others may need to post their tithes and offerings to the Rectory, 64 Drumbeg Rd, Dunmurry, Belfast, BT17 9LE. I urge that ONLY cheques payable to ‘Drumbeg Parish Church’ are sent in by post. You will also receive a standing order form for those who feel able to move from FWO envelopes to monthly giving directly from your bank. I note this form is for those setting up new arrangements, those with existing standing orders need to do nothing.
If you are not yet signed up for our daily reflections through what’s app simply let me know and I will add you to the recipient list or check them out on our website which will be our daily way of communicating live information.
Brothers and sisters, there is much more to be said but this is just the beginning of myself and the ‘Response Team’ at Drumbeg Parish seeking to include you in our plans to keep church-life going in the days ahead.
Finally, I am encouraging us all to stop each day at 12noon for two minutes of prayer for a swift end to the spread of this virus, to remember the bereaved and those suffering with the virus, to pray for all health care workers and to pray for those who are leading our nation at this difficult time. I urge us to continue this every day at 12noon for just two minutes until further notice.
The writer of 2 Chronicles chapter 7 verses 13-14 says:“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
You are held in my prayers and on your behalf I will continue with God’s help to offer hope, encouragement and the abundant life that Christ offers to all who put their trust in him. When things look down, look up and smile in the knowledge that the God of all creation has us in his hands.
Yours in Christ,