From the Rector of Botley and Durley and Vicar of Curdridge, The Revd. Gregg Mensingh.

To members of Botley Curdridge and Durley Churches and all who live in the villages.

Coronavirus update
The Bishop of Portsmouth, Christopher Foster, has asked the clergy and those in leadership positions of responsibility in the Diocese of Portsmouth to share the Church of England’s position with respect to the Coronavirus pandemic and his encouragement to care for vulnerable at this time.

What this means for the churches of Botley (All Saints’), Curdridge (St Peter’s) and Durley (Holy Cross):

Worship
Public worship in our churches has now been paused until further notice.  However, the needs of the world and our villages in particular will continue to be our focus during the pandemic.  Therefore, Morning Prayer from Monday-Thursday will continue.  However, the advice from the C of E is to restrict this to around 6 people.  Morning Prayer currently happens at 9AM at Botley Church, on the High Street.

We will be working to enable those over 70 years of age and those self-isolating to have access to a simple act of worship in the form of a booklet which can be used at home.  A physical copy of this will be made available to this particular group and emailed to as many others as we have contact details for.  There is the possibility that we may try to stream worship online.

For the time being the familiar sound of bells in our churches will not be heard since our bell-ringers will be needing to observe sensible precautions.

Meetings
The Church of England has advised all parishes to cease all activities which gather people together.  For example, this means that committee meetings will no longer take place and neither will the church’s social gatherings e.g. Café Chat, Flutterbies, Coffee Morning, Messy Church etc.

Leaving churches open
As far as possible, we will be trying to ensure our church buildings are open during the day. The exception to this is Durley church which will be open from 9.30AM until approximately 11.00AM on Sundays.

We are encouraging people to pray individually in our churches over the coming weeks, spending time in quiet and/or lighting candles. We would be grateful if you are to observe hygiene restrictions and to maintain a two-metre gap between yourselves and others while inside.  If this precaution is observed then the lighting of votive candles should not pose immediate health risks.

Funerals and weddings
The national C of E guidance is that funerals and weddings can take place, but with the minimum number of people present, and with the same restrictions on hygiene and social distancing. We would like those responsible for inviting attenders to these services to exercise discretion here with regard to the ages and vulnerabilities of those most at risk in order to protect them.  It may also be possible to live-stream a service at a crematorium.  A wedding can legally take place with just five people there (officiant, bride, groom and two witnesses).

BCD Office
Our parish office will remain open until such time as this becomes unworkable.  Phone and email contact with the parishes will therefore be maintained, along with the usual administrative functions.  

Online prayer resources
The C of E has moved quickly to provide digital resources to help us all to continue to engage spiritually over the coming weeks. You can find the national C of E’s liturgical and prayer resources here:

https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-liturgy-and-prayer-resources

And particularly here for a daily simple worship resource:

https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/midweek_worship_at_home_0.pdf

More are likely to be added.

Pastoral support
We understand that members of our congregations, especially those who are of generally poor health or self-isolating, will need pastoral support.  One way in which that can be done effectively is by phone, so you may re-discover the joy of lengthy phone calls. Please remain in regular telephone contact with the vulnerable in our villages by committing to a daily conversation.

Neighbourly support
Our churches are being encouraged to keep up their involvement with Foodbanks. Please leave any contributions in our churches and in due course they will be taken to the Foodbank. 

The Archbishops have expressed their wish for the Church to be defined in the way that it cares for others during the outbreak.  The advice from the government is that those who are 70+ or are vulnerable to underlying health conditions should self-isolate or at the very least exercise social distancing.  Others in our congregations who currently have no symptoms will be well enough to take on roles in support of the those who will be confined to their homes for long stretches of time.  Be it taking shopping and supplies, offering to be part of telephone call group, walking a dog, etc your help will alleviate isolation.

None of this, of course, should involve entering the home of anyone who is a possible covid-19 case.  I know you will do your best to help.  Botley, Curdridge and Durley parish councils are beginning to address these needs and will soon be wishing to make use of your offers of support.  As the virus peaks we can expect to see whole households quarantining themselves according to government advice.  Above all we should not assume that people have familial support nearby. 

Bishop Christopher has said that “The mission of the Gospel and the ministry of the Church will continue,  but must be adapted to meet present circumstances.”

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