FROM THE VICAR
I am very glad that when I wrote my first of these columns a year ago, our esteemed editor did not ask me to predict what would happen in my first year as Vicar of Soberton, Newtown and Hambledon – because never, not even in my most bizarre dreams, could I have predicted the past five months!
No Vicar should ever want to cancel all church services, or close the church buildings entirely. I did not want to do it, and certainly I did not enjoy doing it. But I do believe that it was the right thing to do, and not just because the church authorities and then the government told us that we had to. The greatest commandments, said Jesus, were to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’ and to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matthew 22.37-39). To have continued having services, to have left the buildings open, would have been to have put each other at unnecessary risk. That would not be loving our neighbour. Nor would it be loving God – Jesus also taught us that the care we show for the most vulnerable in society is an expression of our love for him (see Matthew 25.31-46).
Now we are all beginning to re-start so many things which needed to be temporarily put on hold. That might be an activity, club, or event. It might be a holiday or visits to family. It might just be a trip to the pub or café. Some of us are frustrated that things are re-starting too slowly for our liking. Others of us feel that it is too much, too fast, too soon.
Opening the church buildings and holding church services are a part of that. We are now permitted to do those things once again. For some of you that will seem like far too great a risk, while others of you will have wanted us to do much more, much sooner. I understand both of those points of view – and at various moments I have agreed with both of them. We are trying to strike the best balance which we can manage. We will continue to do what we can within the guidance we are given (and within our own practical limits), while trying to keep us all as safe as reasonably possible.
In some very important ways, though, we in our three churches are lucky. There’s no denying that churches are expensive things to run and maintain. We’ve certainly noticed the effects of a drop in income, and financial donations are always welcome! But nobody’s livelihood – not even mine (at least for now) – depended on our church buildings being open. No matter what happened, we were always going to be able to open the doors again for prayer and worship. So if we aren’t sure, we can afford to be cautious. There will be businesses, arts organisations, charities, who will not be so fortunate. There will be a lot of people who are worried about their business or their job, or already know they no longer have one. Perhaps that’s you, or someone you know.
There will be less obvious things as well, but things that are just as important. The postponed weddings. The funerals you couldn’t go to. Missing your school friends or your work colleagues, the people you would normally meet at the village hall or the pub. Zoom and WhatsApp and the like are better than nothing, but they really aren’t the same. All of these things we have missed out on have their own cost – not one that can be measured or counted like money, but ones that are very real.
If I am glad that I didn’t try to predict what would happen in the past year, then I certainly won’t be trying to predict what will happen in the next year. It could be a tricky one for lots of us, for lots of different reasons. There won’t be any ‘quick fixes’. But I do know this: we are all going to need some love, and we are all going to need to show some love. That’s certainly what God wants of us. And if my first year as Vicar has taught me anything, it’s that together we here in Hambledon have more than enough love for all of us who need it.
‘In thy house, great God, we offer
of thine own to thee…’
As we go to press, we are at the very earliest stages of being permitted to have church services, and to open the church buildings at Hambledon and Soberton for individual private prayer, for the first time since mid-March. We are getting to grips with lots of new rules and guidelines we are expected to follow – and they are changing rather frequently, sometimes quite dramatically, and often leaving us very little time to adjust.
What all this means is that we simply cannot predict at the moment when our services might be in August and September. We can’t even tell you what they might be like; when we started, we had to maintain two metre social distancing (which meant we could only have a few people in the building), and we weren’t allowed to sing. That might all have changed already, it might be changing soon, or it could still be the case for some time yet. We just don’t know.
We will have what services we can, when and how we can. We really are sorry that we can’t say any more than that at the moment. We know it might be frustrating and confusing for you. It is for us as well.
We will do our best to keep the church notice boards updated – not just with what times the services are, but with other important information you might need to know.
If you want to be sure of staying up to date with the latest information, then please do join our mailing list by emailing [email protected] .
You will also find out all the latest news on our Facebook page (https://facebook.com/StPeterandStPaulHambledon), where you will also discover lots of other content to help you think or pray – and hopefully to make you smile as well! And there’s even more on our benefice YouTube channel (search YouTube for ‘The Benefice of Soberton, Newtown & Hambledon’). Please ‘Like’ and ‘Subscribe’, and don’t forget to share us with your friends.
We know that some of you can’t, or don’t want to, come to the church building, but have enjoyed sharing in prayer and worship online through the lockdown. We will be finding ways to make sure that you can continue sharing, including by aiming to have a service which is available online (either live streamed or pre-recorded) every Sunday.
As always, if you have any questions, if you want to share an idea about something we could be doing, or if you just want to check when the next service is – please do get in touch, and we will do our best to help.