9th August 2020 - Trinity 9
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Covid 19 Update - Suspension of Services from Sunday 9th August.
On Friday 31st July the Government announced that wearing face coverings will be mandatory in places of worship from 8th August. One of the key parts of reopening our churches was the legal requirement for us to conduct a Risk Assessment and to make provision to ensure the safety of those attending services. The new legislation will require us to undertake a new Risk Assessment and take appropriate steps to mitigate hazards.
For example, we are aware that those of us who wear glasses find it difficult to see properly when wearing a face covering, in historic buildings with uneven floors and steps this creates a new trip hazard. We also need to consider how we would assist someone who has a fall. Those leading worship, using the lectern step, the various steps around the chancel and sanctuary areas, and the steps into our pulpits, also need to review risk management.
The timing of the announcement means that the Church of England has not had time to provide new guidance and advice to churches. We hope that these will be available soon but in the meantime we have had to make the decision to suspend public worship from Sunday 9th August. This is a decision we very much regret. Over the past weeks we have had to adapt to new regulations on a weekly basis which we have so far been able to incorporate within our current Risk Assessment. The most recent changes in regulations mean that we need to undertake a more thorough review and we are waiting for advice how to proceed.
The PCCs have permission to suspend services until Sunday 6th September which gives us time to receive new advice and take the appropriate steps to reopen our churches safely. We hope this can be achieved earlier but much depends on how the situation develops and what the guidelines tell us. We will provide updates via our website.
I am immensely thankful for the diligence of our PCC members throughout this difficult situation. We hope we can reopen our churches soon but will only do so when we are confident we can do so safely.
Paul's Letter for Trinity 9 Sunday 09.08.20
Paul has also put a video version on YouTube which can be viewed by clicking the following link https://youtu.be/O2c6mi1XlSQ
Our Gospel reading today is Matthew 14: 22-33
Last Sunday evening I made the comment that whenever the Bible contains a story about water or a boat we ought to take notice. Water is often a sign that the journey is about to take a different direction. Genesis opens with the Spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters. The people of Israel pass through the waters of the Red Sea, on one side they are slaves pursued by soldiers, on the other side they are free. Later they come to the River Jordan, on one side they are homeless refugees, on the other they are people with a land.
Baptism is of course a passing through water, originally done at the river, and rivers were always a boundary between here and somewhere else. Turning points in the story of Jesus are often marked by crossing water. Sometimes boats are involved, I think boat stories point us towards different perspectives.
The story of Jesus walking on water is one of the best known but perhaps least understood of boat stories. We find it in Matthew, Mark and John. Our reading today ends at verse 33, I think it ought to go a little bit further and include verse 34, “And when they had crossed over they came to land.” Mark also records that the boat came to land. John is more specific, he says that when Jesus had got into the boat “immediately they were at the land to which they were going.”
William Barclay makes the point that if we want to understand miracle stories we need to regard then not as something that happened but as something that happens.
All three accounts agree that this story immediately follows the feeding of the multitude. People thought Jesus was a great guy, free food, all your problems solved. They misunderstood who he was. Jesus needs to withdraw from that popularity moment and keep his friends from getting drawn into it. So he sends them off in the boat and goes off by himself to pray.
We are told it was a difficult crossing. The wind got up, the waves were against them. The boat was being battered by a storm. Near dawn the disciples spot Jesus coming towards them. Now you can play words with the original Greek because the same words that can mean walking on the water can also mean walking towards the water. When John tells us that Jesus reached the boat he then tells us that the boat immediately reached the land.
So you have to decide, is the miracle that Jesus can walk on water? Or is the miracle that Jesus comes to his friends when they are battered and afraid, that he wades into the surf to grab the storm tossed boat and drags them to shore?
The text can be read both ways, but I find myself reminded of Barclay’s advice, miracles are not something that happened, miracles of things which happen. Jesus being able to defy the laws of physics might be interesting, but for me there is more hope in Jesus who walks towards his friends when their lives are battered by headwinds and tossed by waves.
In these continuing difficult times, and frankly things seem to be getting worse rather than better right now, how do we read this story? What does it tell us about God?
That God can rewrite gravity and the surface tension of water is doubtless true but I’m not sure it tells us anything really important. That God chooses to come nearer to those battered by life means something. And if that is what Jesus is telling us then right now that this story is significant.
The Revd Canon Paul Dawson
Please note that we are not taking bookings for The Mews at the present time.
We welcome new names of those who are ill to be added to our weekly list for prayer. This is intended for a short to medium term prayer list.
After two months names will be
transferred to the Vicar's long term
prayer list. You can of course request that the name goes back on the list for a further period.
Regular updates would be appreciated about the condition of those who are sick.
Please let the Vicar or Linda Dutton know.
St Mary's church takes its duty and obligation to protect all, extremely seriously. We have adopted the national Church of England's robust procedures and guidelines. You can find out more about the national policies and procedures at www.churchofengland.org/safeguarding.
"If you have any safeguarding concerns or issues of a safeguarding matter then you can find useful contact information at www.chester.anglican.org/social-responsibility/safeguarding"
Our involvement with Whitegate Primary School has enabled us to build relationships with the young people and provide a safe environment within which they can meet and continue the friendships forged at Primary School when they move onto High School.