So, where are we? How soon might we be able to be back in church? The current situation is like this. Bishop Martin has issued advice that, subject to a number of cautions, clergy can once again pray in their churches and stream or record services there. None of our churches currently has broadband available so live streaming from any of the churches is impossible. We could record a service and then stream it, but it wouldn’t be ‘live’. I am very willing to give this a try, but I sense that ‘live’ services, even if they are held in the vicarage dining-room, have a value of bringing people together in a way that a recorded service would not. Please do let me know your thoughts. The clergy-team will be visiting churches regularly from now on and praying while they are there.
The government is aware that some thinking about places of worship needs to be done. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick is leading a ministerial task force looking at “when and how places of worship can open safely for some of the practices where social distancing can take place”. It seems pretty clear that very little will change before July at the earliest. This is, of course, frustrating but any change needs to be done in a way that protects vulnerable people and is practical for churches that do not have staff permanently on-site to keep things hygienic. We await the task-force’s thoughts with great interest.
In the meantime we pray, we worship – joining together online on Sundays and Wednesdays (see the notices for details of how and when) and we continue to try to be Christ’s hands and feet at work in our communities in any way we can.
Psalm 66: Verses 7-end
O praise our God, ye people: and make the voice of his praise to be heard;
Who holdeth our soul in life: and suffereth not our feet to slip.
For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou also hast tried us, like as silver is tried.
Thou broughtest us into the snare: and laidest trouble upon our loins.
Thou sufferedst men to ride over our heads: we went through fire and water, and thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.
I will go into thine house with burnt offerings: and will pay thee my vows, which I promised with my lips, and spake with my mouth, when I was in trouble.
I will offer unto thee fat burnt sacrifices, with the incense of rams: I will offer bullocks and goats.
O come hither, and hearken, all ye that fear God: and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul.
I called unto him with my mouth: and gave him praises with my tongue.
If I incline unto wickedness with mine heart: The Lord will not hear me.
But God hath heard me: and considered the voice of my prayer.
Praised be God, who hath not cast out my prayer: nor turned his mercy from me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son:
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be:
world without end. Amen.
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said,
“For we too are his offspring.”
Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’
God our redeemer, you have delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your Son: grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his continual presence in us he may raise us to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Sermon by our Rector, The Revd Mark Lowther
John 14: 15-21
So here we are again – online – live from the Vicarage Dining Room – recorded music – recorded and emailed readings – my wife sitting in the study ready to pounce on the phone if it dares to ring and making sure that Coco the spaniel doesn’t wander into the middle of the service. We’ve been doing this for so long now that it is beginning to feel just a bit normal. But, of course, it isn’t and, like you I’m sure, I can’t wait to get back into church again. It may yet be a while, but we will get there. So, inevitably, thoughts turn to what we are learning about church and about ourselves during this time of enforced separation from our buildings. This coming week our Bishops have encouraged their clergy to join them (online, of course) for a meeting to begin to share what we have discovered about online worship, pastoral care, priorities, meetings,
well-being and so on. And, coincidentally I think but interestingly nonetheless, the days on which these meetings happen are marked in the church calendar as Rogation Days.
Rogationtide, the days immediately leading up to Ascension Day on Thursday, is an ancient and nowadays often ignored time when we are encouraged to think about planting. The name ‘Rogation’ comes from the Latin ‘Rogare’ – to ask – and this is the time when traditionally God’s blessing was asked on newly-planted seeds. It is, if you like, the opposite of Harvest Festival. Then we give thanks for what has grown – at Rogationtide we pray that something will. Which is why it’s a good time to think about where we currently are and what we’re learning – what might grow from having had to be church in a very different way. The experience has been disturbing, certainly, but out of disturbance can come good things. You turn the soil over before you plant, don’t you?
Today’s New Testament reading is one of those beautiful poetic passages from John’s gospel in which the gospel-writer puts into Jesus’s own mouth a summing-up of who he is, his relationship to God and, in the case of today’s passage, what is going to happen. Jesus foretells Pentecost, when ‘another Advocate, to be with you forever’ will arrive – the Holy Spirit. And, Jesus says to his disciples, ‘if you love me, keep my commandments’. And they are ….. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind, and with all your strength.’ And ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these’ says Jesus, ‘On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ In other words, all of that stuff in the Hebrew Bible, what we call the Old Testament, all of the legalistic commands in books like Leviticus and Numbers, and all that the prophets wrote was, in the end, about just those two commandments. Love God and love your neighbour as much as you love yourself. That’s what matters. And, it has to be said that there has been a lot of neighbour-loving going on in the last few weeks. It doesn’t need a church building, does it? In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles Paul, typically bluntly, spells it out. ‘The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands …’ Where does God live? Listen to Jesus in our reading from John – as I said before, anticipating Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. ‘On that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.’ God lives – ‘abides’ – that beautiful gentle word – in us. We are the church, the body of Christ.
We rightly love our church buildings and as places where people have gathered over the centuries to worship and to pray, they are, and will always remain, special places. As I said right at the beginning, I can’t wait to be back worshipping there again. But we have been forced to learn, to re-read familiar bible-passages in a new context. And when we do that sometimes there are revelations waiting for us if we do but listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling us. In Rogationtide we plant, we ask for God’s blessing on what we plant, praying that it may yield a good harvest. This year gives Rogationtide a whole new meaning for us and our prayers are needed in a whole new way. But of one thing we can be sure. The verses in John’s gospel immediately before today’s reading, which we read last week, tell us all we need to know. Jesus says ‘I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.’
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill;
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev’ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
William Cowper (1731-1800)
The Church of England is producing lots of good material and advice at present. This includes some excellent prayers for us all to use and I commend them to you:
You can also join the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich weekly newsletter mailing list by visiting:
The Week Ahead
Next Sunday – 24th May
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Food Banks – Message from the Community
We support 22 independent and Trussell Trust Foodbanks through our Food Stores; the Foodbanks all collect from the stores who support them. To find the list of who we support and how to find out what their specific needs are please go on to our website
I can confirm that we are working hard on how best we, as a Society, can best support our local communities. There have also been articles in the paper about how food banks are struggling to receive donations as many supermarket shelves are empty.
Suffolk Community Foundation are in need of donations to support the various Suffolk Charities they are involved with, to support them financially go to https://www.suffolkcf.org.uk/in-response-to-the-coronavirus-threat-suffolk-community-foundation-launches-local-appeal/.
Message from Suffolk Trading Standards
British Red Cross are NOT utilising a postcard system currently in connection to Covid-19 and any distribution of these cards locally needs to be reported to us via 0808 223 1133.
How about you??
✞ Wednesday Online Services ✞
Around our Benefice there are, as well as our Sunday morning 10.30am online gatherings, three acts of worship that take place on Wednesdays. At 10.00am there is a service of Holy Communion according to the Book of Common Prayer streamed from The Vicarage at (Alde Sandlings YouTube Channel).
☏ Citizens Advice 📧
✞ Ascension Day ✞
Thursday 21st May is Ascension Day, one of the most important days in the church year. Traditionally we have held a joint service for our whole deanery in the evening. This year we aim to compile a service with contributions from several of the deanery’s churches and it should be available online at any time during the day. We will email the link round and put it on our church websites. And, all being well, it will incorporate at least one element recorded at the top of the