HOW DEACONS REACH OUT DURING CORONAVIRUS

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Sarah Johnson (DD explorer) (Derby)
I’m in self isolation due to my health conditions so I’ve printed off, cut up and distributed blank “happy to help” postcards for my local virus community action group. Hubby and I are live streaming evening prayer via FB every evening at 5:30pm (only to friends and family but accepting any friend requests atmo). I’ve a rainbow in my window, sharing information and positivity and I’ve a book of stamps and a stack of writing paper to write out to those I know who are not technologically connected very much.
Gerrie Sturgeon (Sheffield)
I’ve become the focus for organising all we do as my vicar is currently in Portugal and who knows when he’ll be back, though God willing it might be tomorrow. Meanwhile we’ve written to everyone in our congregations offering support, and I’m co-ordinating that effort. Our churches are being kept open for private prayer and we’ve set up prayer stations inside with prayers to take away. We are now looking at the resources we can put on the website and considering a weekly distribution of readings and reflections (both to individuals and a supply left out in church for anyone who drops in)- at least half of our congregations are not IT literate. Other than that for me it’s about being a visible presence on the streets and I shall go on doing that as long as I can. Oh and my prayer list gets ever longer as does everyone’s I expect. Our Bishop has also encouraged us to take advantage of this time to get some well earned rest and to spend more time reading and in reflection. So nothing earth shattering but with all the horror stories of selfish attitudes it feels good to be part of doing something good and Christ-like.
Alison Handcock (Bath and Wells)
I have Permission to Officiate and although not currently attached to a parish, I have been getting out and about across the town.  I will be joining the hospital chaplaincy team imminently as 15 volunteers went down to 3 overnight due to self isolation for over 70s and underlying health issues.
The crematorium has closed so I won’t be taking my uncle’s funeral next week, or any other, until further notice. Only the funeral directors are allowed to go into crem, so we plan for close family to stand in the car park and watch the coffin go in. It was interesting, prepping for the funeral with a family who are not Christians and one who believes in reincarnation:  creativity needed, which opened up lots of conversations as to what we all believe.
I have started wearing my dog collar again especially when shopping. Some great and some very sad conversations. To encourage us: whilst thanking a young supermarket packer for his patience and help I chatted about what the shelves might look like if we only took what we need for today (as the Lord’s Prayer suggests).  What we need emotionally and physically (loo rolls, teabags, milk) for today (perhaps this week). I have met people whom I knew in the past from the communities of my curacy churches. An (unchurched) counsellor’s wife offered to be of help with phone calls and shopping as I paced the aisles doing mine. And I’ve had some moving conversations with unknown customers and our neighbours (one asked for prayer on the doorstep).
A deep conversation with my non-churched hairdresser yesterday surprised me when she said she had moved from seeing this as all evil to something God could use so that the world, environment, finance and the church would change and look very different, and perhaps fairer and more community minded. She spoke about having some excitement alongside the concern within her and wondered why not everyone could see this. So I shared about Jesus and the Holy Spirit and asked if she knew the story of the prodigal son. She didn’t but asked me to tell it to her simply! What a joy! God is good and his word and spirit are living and active.
The community church here is extending the town food bank and possibly will be used as a midwifery centre. Praying that if we get the virus it will be mild and thus enable us to continue serving others.
Cheryl Belding (St Edmundsbury and Ipswich)
My Bishop called me this afternoon for a how are you chat. He told me to remember this is a marathon not a sprint. He is right and we do need to pace ourselves. People who are restricting social contact will be spending the initial time playing catch up with all sorts of things. After a while things will get tougher for them. I feel it will be then we can do our best work so we need to be kind to ourselves now and prepare and pray for future weeks. My prayers for you all and my love.
Julia Bradshaw, Crete
Ringing my flock and making sure they are all OK and have all they need. We are extremely rural here on Crete and don’t always have close neighbours. Asking them for prayer requests. I am touched by how thankful people are. May our communities stay this caring from today and beyond. Truly I have been moved to tears with some of my flock.
Tracey Winfrow (DD explorer) Sheffield
I have just set up a mothers’ day prayer space for people to use, and checking on parishioners to see if they need anything. And posts on 2 toddler group activities and church children’s page links and Sunday school ideas to do at home. As messy church is cancelled I posted links for messy church at home. Just as busy being the bridge and the hands and feet of our saviour.
Erica Wilkie (Portsmouth)
Am also in self-isolation for health reasons and as a Deacon Pioneer not attached to a parish, have temporarily laid down my “out and about” ministry, but staying in touch via social media.
Have written to each of the neighbours in my street offering phone support should they need it, and shopping support from my family if needed as they are not isolating currently.
Debbie Baker (Newcastle)
At present my working is varied: as a P/T Mental Health Nurse on Night shift, soon on 15th April to also start a new PT Hospital Chaplaincy post for a neighbouring Mental Health Trust. Supporting couples who have had to cancel their Wedding has been my areas of diaconal work but also under added pressure with the Coronavirus. Next week on Thursday to meet with Priest in Charge of 3 Rural Northumberland Parishes to give support there too two days a week…
Paul Hollingworth (Winchester)
Hi, as I’m now self isolating with (my wife) Mary for at least the next 12 weeks due to her cancer, so my Ministry is limited. But I’m helping coordinating the Pastoral Care of of all who need it. Currently we are identifying the most vulnerable and making contact to ensure they are looked after. I’m also setting up phone contact and counselling and various WhatsApp groups e.g. My own Close of neighbours so creating self-help groups. Also organising popping contact cards through doors offering support and help. I’m also taking part in streaming daily morning and evening Prayer and a Sunday service from our parish Church Romsey Abbey. That’s it for now. Prayers and God be with you all. Stay safe and well. Bless all your ministries.
David Bean (Southwell)

What a strange time it is… I have been working with the parish priest to help draw up plans for the 2 churches. When we will open for prayer, how the prayer life of churches and parish continue when the gathered church is not meeting. Some of this is how we keep in touch – so I have been working on things for that, too.

I am vice chair of our local foodbank – so I have been seeking a way forward for continuing to operate when our existing procedures – and those of our partner agencies are starting to break down.

Town Centre chaplaincy is a conundrum at the moment. How to do this when cafes, pubs, teashops have closed down, when there are few people about- and of course how to do this whilst observing the appropriate social distancing! This “being church in the public square” looks like being a social media thing! I’ll keep you posted!

I had just started to gather together a “Faith Action Network” (helped by Transforming Notts Together – a partnership between the Church Urban Fund & the diocese). The idea was that those who were interested in serving the community might meet, talk, pray and be inspired. We can”t meet but we can message – and we can pray! I think I will be encouraging potential church volunteers not to try to set up church projects, but signpost them instead towards the local Community & Voluntary Services organisation, who are looking to coordinate the volunteer effort.

I’m trying to build up others…

And to pray. This time of social distancing and isolation will be a difficult time – but if used as a time for prayer and reflection then there might be blessings and growth, too.

But pray, pray, pray!

Bob Sidgwick (York)

We have our village church left open Sunday Monday and Friday to allow anyone to go and pray. I myself have been distributing flyers with contact details for people to get in touch when needed. Also using social media to facetime family and friends. We have been holding morning prayer each day and plan a Mother’s Day service tomorrow. Please keep safe – we hold you and everyone in our prayers.

Rachel Fielding (DD explorer) Blackburn

Yesterday was strange, we managed to live stream sung Eucharist from the High Altar (we’re fortunate that we all live on site as a community)  – we’ve have had over 2000 views – and some wonderful comments – & with views up and down the country. We’ve drawn up a comprehensive list of our congregations & regular weekday visitors and ascertained best contact methods – we’ve a newish pastoral care team which is a blessing, so I circulated details to fellow members. In the afternoon we opened the doors for anyone who wanted to come in, with 95% of nave chairs removed we’ve created space for private prayer and introduced votive stands for reflection and devotion.
Later on I went up to help in the chaplaincy department at the local hospital, (I normally go round with the therapy dog) a first for me administering bedside communion. (The volunteers on the team are decimated as no one over 70 or with health problems can go). An empty hospital feels like an empty church. The staff are utterly amazing but so scared. If the cathedral has to close I’ll be at the hospital doing whatever I can. For now every moment is filled with either action or prayer for those around me, to strengthen and uphold them. Me? My BAP has been cancelled next month though there are rumours of Zoom and such things (?) I can only trust and pray.

Let’s continue to pray for each other (Ed)

 

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