Skip to content

A Brief and Varied Update

Here are a few unrelated items for your consideration…

Digital Church

When Boris Johnson announced that the nation was going into what has subsequently been termed “lockdown”, clergy up and down the land started wondering how they were going to keep their ministries going. Various solutions were employed, and it’s fair to say that we all quickly became pretty well-versed in some forms of digital communication. One wag said that many of the earliest clergy attempts at producing videos looked less like the slick productions we see on the television and more like the forced “message home” videos from kidnap victims. Happily that changed over time.

Many of the churches continued these new ministries long after the lockdown had finished (and the second lockdown and the third…) but they were time-consuming, so when church and community life got back to “normal”, decisions had to be made about their longevity. Some churches decided to step back totally from these platforms. Some churches reduced their output. All Souls Church in Langham Place, London, terminated their livestream provision with the strong, though warm, encouragement to all those who had joined them online to go back to their own churches – to attend in person if possible and to support the ministry of the gospel locally rather than being mere spectators of a church they could not reasonably attend.

In our deanery, there are still some digital ministries continuing from the pandemic days. In my own benefice, I am still making my sermons available on a dedicated phoneline for those who cannot access the internet. If this might be helpful to someone you know, the number is 01279 967111. Services are still being livestreamed from Christ Church and St Mary’s in Ware. On Sundays at 10.30am, Hertford St Andrews holds a lay-led “Service of the Word” on Zoom which finishes with informal conversation in breakout rooms. The congregation which “gathers” for this act of worship is truly becoming a community and would be pleased to welcome others. I have therefore added details of this service to a page on the deanery website here in case it is useful for people in your communities who are unable to attend church in a building.

If your church is doing something you would like to share with the wider deanery, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we will see what we can do to publicise it accordingly.

Bike and Hike

At our Synod meeting in November last year, we welcomed a speaker from the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Historic Churches Trust. One of the things he was encouraging us to do was to apply for grants towards significant projects to renovate, restore or improve our church buildings. The trust is very keen to support churches in need in this way. The Trust’s biggest fundraising event each year is a truly deanery-wide event – the Bike ‘n’ Hike. Riders (or Hikers) arrange sponsorship for their journeys, and in the region of £100,000 is added to the Trust’s funds.

However, perhaps the most wonderful feature of this scheme is that half the money each sponsor gives is put straight back into the funds of the churches that are raising the money – for people who like to support their local church, this is a brilliant opportunity to do so. As a sponsor, half of what I give will go to my church, and half to the work of the Trust – which might one day be supporting my church!

Our deanery coordinator is understandably keen to see more churches taking part and more people within those churches taking part. In these trying financial times, spreading the net more widely is surely a good idea. Together the 12 churches that took part raised a total of almost £5,500 last year. Can you encourage others to join in this year so we can reach a higher total? If there are no riders in your parish, why not sponsor someone to sit in the church all day welcoming riders from the other churches? They love being greeted by a human being rather than finding just a poster to sign, and your church could benefit financially… Do ask around now so people are ready in September!

Deanery Communications

Finally, if I may once more nudge those of you who haven’t yet registered with the revised Deanery Website to do so – and if you are a Synod representative, to do so as a matter of some importance. I would like to send communications about the forthcoming synod through the new channels, but I also want to make sure that everyone actually gets the communications! That ball is firmly in your court, not mine… Full details on how to register are on my previous blog post here.

And if you have signed up already … thank you. (And I’m sorry you are probably getting two copies of this emailed to you. That will stop when everyone else signs up!)

Enjoy the warm weather…

Mark Dunstan
Rural Dean