I remember late last year having a conversation with someone on the ‘phone and us agreeing that the death toll of 40,000 to Covid in this country (as had just been announced at that time) was terrible. Today we hear that we have just gone past 100,000. And those are people who have in the 28 days prior to their deaths have been known to have Covid. It does not include those people who have died because of the wider impact of Covid – of which we know there are many.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged everyone to pray. He is asking for everyone at 6pm, everyday, from 1 February, to pray for the nation. Below is the open letter from The Archbishops of Canterbury and York to all of us:
As we reach the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, we invite everyone in our nation to pause as we reflect on the enormity of this pandemic.
100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure. Each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us. We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God.
We write to you then in consolation, but also in encouragement, and ultimately in the hope of Jesus Christ. The God who comes to us in Jesus knew grief and suffering himself. On the cross, Jesus shares the weight of our sadness.
We therefore encourage everyone who is feeling scared, or lost or isolated to cast their fears on God. We also know that poorer communities, minority ethnic communities and those living with disabilities have been afflicted disproportionately and cry out for the healing of these inequalities. During this pandemic, we encourage everyone to do all they can to live within the guidelines and constraints given by government following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser. We show our commitment, care and love for one another by ensuring we do everything we can to stop the virus spreading.
None of this is easy. Very many of us are experiencing isolation, loneliness, anxiety and despondency like never before. Many people have lost their livelihoods. Our economy struggles. Also, the necessary restrictions we live with have also prevented us from being alongside loved ones as they died, or even at their graveside. All grief profoundly affects us, but this pandemic grief is so hard.
Therefore, we need to support each other. We do this by following the guidelines. But we also do it by reaching out to each other with care and kindness.
One thing we can all do is pray. We hope it is some consolation to know that the church prays for the life of our nation every day. Whether you’re someone of faith, or not, we invite you to call on God in prayer. Starting on 1 February we invite you to set aside time every evening to pray, particularly at 6pm each day. More than ever, this is a time when we need to love each other. Prayer is an expression of love. A number of resources will be made available on our website.
Finally, we write of hope. We are grateful for the hope we have because of the service of our NHS and social care staff. What a blessing and lifeline for our nation. We are grateful for the service given in local communities by clergy, other frontline workers and so many good neighbours. We are grateful for the hope of the vaccine. It is a testimony to the God-given wisdom and gifts of scientists and researchers. We urge everyone to take the vaccine as soon as it is offered to you.
Most of all, we have hope because God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the Christian hope that we will be celebrating at Easter. We live in the hope that we will share in his resurrection. Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s kingdom, every tear will be wiped away.
Please be assured of our prayers. Please join us.”
As a Benefice I would like us to respond to this call as fully as we are able. Please take the time to pause, reflect and pray. Where churches are equipped and safely able to ring a bell at 6pm I invite them to do so, and I will be in touch with those churchwardens to see what we can do.
Here is the prayer today as published on the Church of England website:
as we remember before you the thousands who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your strong compassion.
Be gentle with us in our grief,
protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere
and face the future with hope
in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.
We are also reminded that today is Holocaust Memorial Day. You can find a reflection at https://twoshires.wordpress.com that I have written today, and a prayer below from the Diocesan Calendar of Prayer.
Although we are not using our church buildings for worship during the current Lockdown, you can join us for worship online as follows:
Thursday Evening Zoom – each Thursday in term time:
Thursday 28 January
Thursday 4 February
Thursday 11 February
Meeting ID: 761 0841 9112
31 January – Video service for Candlemas
7 February – Live Zoom service (Communion)
14 February – Video service
Sunday Zoom link for live services as above:
Meeting ID: 759 1823 9934
Live Sunday services will also be recorded and uploaded as video for those not able to access Zoom.
All Service videos are available at:
All churches continue to be open during the week for an hour for private individual prayer. This will be kept under constant review in light of the Lockdown.
Wednesdays – Tatworth, Cricket Malherbie & Thorncombe at 11am
Thursdays – Chaffcombe & Winsham at 11am
From the Diocesan and Deanery Calendars of Prayer:
- The Two Shires Benefice and the parishes of Chaffcombe, Cricket Malherbie with Knowle St Giles, Tatworth, Thorncombe and Winsham. We pray for all in ministry there and all who live and work there.
- Loving God, on Holocaust Memorial Day, we come to you with heavy hearts, remembering the six million Jewish souls murdered during the Holocaust. Through our prayers and actions, help us to stand together with those who are suffering, so that light may banish darkness, love prevail over hate and good triumph over evil.
- We pray for Tom Tame, being licenced this evening as a Pioneer Minister in the Deanery.
We also pray for those we know who are sick, and those we don’t know, including those we are asked to pray by name for:
Bishop Peter Hancock; Hannah Knott; Rob Allen; Lynne and Bruce Applegarth; Phyllis Baker; Margaret Bandy; Sue Bennett; Sue Cheese; Terry Conway; Nick Frankau; David Goodwill; Mike Heywood; Joy Howard; Ann Jarvis; Frank & Celia Long; Peter McHugh; Diana Rowlands; Ann Ricketts; Jim Tucker; Rosemary Walley; Rosemary Walton; Vivien Wheaton; Alan Wills, Anna Woodward; Pamala Young; Milly granddaughter of Jane & Alan Rudkin; Gillian Muggeridge; Chris Gould; Brian Griffiths; Peter Hathway; Dorothy Down; Max Woehrle; Michael Mutch; Kelvin Yendell; Winnie Barge; Fi Lillington; Di Nicholls; Izzie Luty-Wells.
We remember all those whom we love but see no longer, and pray for all those bereaved. We remember Caroline Mayall, Edward Tucker, Jackie Sprague and Molly Strawbridge and hold their families and friends in our prayers.
SCRIPTURE FOR THE WEEK AHEAD:
Wed 27 Jan: Heb 10.11–18; Ps 110.1–4; Mk 4.1–20
Thur 28 Jan: Heb 10.19–25; Ps 24.1–6; Mk 4.21–25
Fri 29 Jan: Heb 10.32–end; Ps 37.3–6, 40–end; Mk 4.26–34
Sat 30 Jan: Heb 11.1–2, 8–19; Canticle: Lk 1.69–73; Mk 4.35–end
Sun 31 Jan: Mal 3:1-5; Luke 2:22-40
Mon 1 Feb: Heb 11.32–end; Ps 31.19–end; Mk 5.1–20
Tue 2 Feb: Heb 12.1–4; Ps 22.25b–end; Mk 5.21–43
Wed 3 Feb: Heb 12.4–7, 11–15; Ps 103.1–2, 13–18; Mk 6.1–6
Thur 4 Feb: Heb 12.18–19, 21–24; Ps 48.1–3, 8–10; Mk 6.7–13
The Presentation of Christ at the Temple (Candlemas)
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[a]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[b]
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss[c] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[d] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
The Prayer for today (Church of England):
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles
the wonder of your saving presence:
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your mighty power;
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.
Blessings to you all
The Reverend Philip Butcher