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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

All Souls Response

"Like you, we are adjusting to new patterns and styles of living and working. I am back from my 'one piece of exercise' walk in the park. A glorious, spring, sunny day with more than a hint of warmth. You have to stop and remind yourself there is a killer virus about! Yet the lockdown is serious and the new normal has streets that can be eerily quiet in central London.

At the same time there is so much to be grateful to God for. Thank you to all of you who wrote in so encouragingly after our first set of Sunday services online. They seem to have reached a remarkable spread of listeners across the world with more than 6,000 viewings on YouTube when I last looked. A far broader reach than ordinary services would have. Here are just a couple of the emails we received:

"Thank you to all the team for putting together the online service which I have just watched this evening. Immensely grateful. Stay safe."
"Many thanks for live streaming the morning service today. We really appreciated the work of the team who enabled this to happen and also to the participants who led, sang, read, and preached. It was wonderful to fellowship together - electronically! Most of all it, it was special to be able to still praise and worship the Lord and hear his word in these unusual times, connected with many others who normally worship at All Souls. We pray for you as you seek to join the church family together through this technology and also reach those who might not ordinarily enter a church building but may now hear the Gospel through the internet."

It is clear that people had been encouraging friends and family to tune in. We hope you carry on doing so, as the latest government guidelines allow us to film without an audience so we will be bringing services online again this coming Sunday, with the musicians adding some creative ideas to the mix!

I am so grateful for this modern technology too which allows us to communicate and stay in touch like this. Staff have been getting used to working from home and online and seemed in good spirits as we drew all the staff together on zoom on Monday to enjoy a full staff meeting (including two members who were calling in from America at the time!!). In addition Life groups are beginning to meet this week online too. Enjoy the time with each other!

God has placed us in this world at this time for a purpose: to reflect the Jesus who did not shrink away but gave himself for us. May that be our witness in the weeks and months ahead."

Every blessing

Hugh Palmer
Rector

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Previous Updates

"I was in a coffee shop this afternoon to see an excited young member of the church family telling me with a broad grin on her face "School is closed!"

Each day brings something new and as more schools close and, if rumour is true they will all do so at the end of the week, today brought joy for one daughter and probably a new headache for her parents!!

Pray for us too please as we try to put together 'virtual' church. Most staff are working from home and we have been trialling online conferencing today. We will be screening the Thursday lunchtime talk tomorrow (if you are working from home, why not tune in?) and also services on Sunday (details of all those will be on the home page of our website www.allsouls.org).

Leaders of the Life group ministries also met to help plan how those ministries can best be taken forward for the next few months. If you are a table leader or FG leader someone will be in touch with you this week and if you are a Life Group member your group leader will have contacted you by the end of next week so we can start to rebuild that routine into this new life!

Some of us find change difficult and others find the challenge of the new and the uncertain energising and exciting. So pray for all the church family as we step out, scattered but together, to discover what God has in store for us."

Every blessing

Hugh Palmer
Rector

"A new day has brought even more focus on how sweeping the changes will be that coronavirus is bringing to everyone.

It is re-shaping the way we do church too. The Church of England has announced today the suspension of public services and we had anticipated that with the cancelling of our services until further notice. In addition the government advice means that meeting together even in life groups is not possible face to face so we are working on 'virtual' alternatives.

Now it has become clear that we have to think in terms of a scattered church not a gathered one. The centre of action so to speak is not here at All Souls but in homes and workplaces across the city. We are shaping up to find ways to provide support and encouragement to the church family scattered across London.

Our meeting together may not be possible but we want to bring resources to you so far as is possible. Sunday services will be livestreamed this week and brought at the usual times of 9:30am, 11:30am and 5:30pm. In addition we will do the same for the Thursday Lunchtime talk so people can still access this even if working from home. In fact many may have more time on their hands mid week now.

Ministry team are also working hard to see how their different Life Groups can support and encourage each other, care for those self isolating for any reason, and receive and use bible content that will keep their minds renewed as they seek to follow Jesus in these circumstances. They will keep you in touch with plans as they develop.

Sadly we have had to not only cancel the Pillar and Step meetings but also the livestreaming of them this week. The first evening with Anne Welsh though led to more people watching than had booked tickets with well over 1000 viewing on YouTube. A striking reminder of how God can use even these situations.

The Archbishops have called for a day of Prayer on Sunday 22 March. My prayer is that we find the courage and the enthusiasm to step forward and take the opportunities ahead of us. But there are deep lessons for us to learn first and there will be serious challenges in front of us. So I will be speaking at the morning services on 'What is God saying through the virus?' Wherever you are, be at prayer and ready to repent as we step into the future ... with the Lord going with us."

Every blessing

Hugh Palmer
Rector

In the light of this afternoon's Government advice that included the recommendation to 'stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel', and being aware of our responsibility to care for the church family and act as good citizens we have taken the following decisions:

  • Pillar & Step events this week will be live-streamed only (www.pillarandstep.com/live) and not open to a live audience. Ticket-holders have been informed by the Pillar & Step team.
  • This Sunday (22 March) the church will be closed for the morning and evening services. Instead we will be live-streaming an act of worship on our website from All Souls at 9:30am, 11:30am and 5:30pm.

As we think through what it means to be a church family in these new circumstances we will be giving regular updates on the All Souls website and by email as to how it affects individual ministries.

Please be praying that we will live through this as people of faith and will take what new opportunities God is giving us to hold out the light of Jesus to others.

Coronavirus is going to increasingly affect all our lives. As the government change from their ‘Contain’ phase to ‘Delay’, Bishop Sarah, a former chief nursing officer, said yesterday that the expectation is that about 80% of us will catch the virus, but 50% of those will not know they have had it! However for others it will prove far more serious and fatal. We do not want to live by fear or by panic response but we also want to take care not just for ourselves but for others around us. So we are continuing to act in line with the latest advice from Public Health England and the Church of England as we seek to maintain best practice through this pandemic.

The government has not put restrictions on public meetings so we are continuing with our Pillar and Step week and looking forward to six great meetings. But we are taking recommended precautions and the latest advice says that if you have a new and persistent cough or a temperature you should self isolate for 7 days. While we want to continue to meet together we must act with care to others there so please do stay away if you have any of the symptoms or have come back from a highly infected area. Over 2,000 tickets have been booked already. If, for any reason you are not able to come but have booked a ticket please look at it and cancel as that will allow someone else to join us for the most popular evenings.

Additionally the CofE has recommended a number of practices for churches. These include no passing of a collection plate along rows so we will be taking retiring offerings at the doors on the way out on Sunday. We continue to need your generosity to help us hold out the gospel in such uncertain days.

Having different hands touching the same utensils is also a practice that increases the danger of transmitting the virus, so we will ask servers to pour tea, coffee and milk as well as offering you sugar after the services on Sunday. Please allow them to do so even if it slows things down a little. We will not be putting biscuits out on a plate either for the same reason.

It has also been decided that it is no longer wise to pass the chalice round at any communion services so we will just offer bread and take communion ‘in one kind’.

Do be praying that we have the confidence to trust the Lord for his protection and not live in fear; that we make the most of the gospel opportunities we face; that we look after those around us well, neighbours, colleagues, life group members who have the virus or are self isolating; that we act with care and wisdom to delay its spread as much as possible.

All Souls has been and will continue monitoring the development of Coronavirus, as we want to care as best we can for the church family.

There is a management team in place to keep abreast of developments, and they will communicate with and support the All Souls Langham Place and All Souls Cleveland Street church families and parish staff teams.

While there are still relatively few cases in the UK at present, the situation is clearly evolving and government policy is set to change from containment to delay.

We recommend everyone follow the guidelines from Public Health England. Please find the latest advice here. The NHS has more details here.

If you or any household members have travelled to any of the areas mentioned, we would ask you return to church only once you have followed the prescribed guidelines.

1. Should I come to church if I feel unwell?

We are asking church family members and staff who feel unwell to please stay away from services and church gatherings and follow NHS and Public Health England advice (see links above).

Please do not attend services or church gatherings if you are in a period of self isolation.

2. Should I take communion?

Service leaders will give guidance to those attending services. Latest Diocese of London guidance on church services is here.