From Deacon Paul Hollingworth, Romsey Abbey, Winchester:

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Below is a message I put out on our local Facebook Romsey News and Info page

Hi all Deacon Paul, Romsey Abbey again. Just to let you know I’ve been daily keeping the whole of Romsey in prayer. I then thought that in the current time some of you might like me to pray for yourself or someone you know that may need support.
You can let me know by replying to this post with just a Christian name only (not full details to protect anonymity, God will know) and I will add each person to my daily prayers. You are never alone and I’m always available to speak with if you need someone to just listen, be you of any faith or none.
I’ve so far had 125 likes and 30 requests for prayers for around 60 people and a care home manager for the residents and staff. Plus a Romsey councillor has endorsed the message. But the most poignant was the one below.

Please pray for my Aunty Diane, she sadly lost my Uncle Tim on Saturday to this awful virus, she lives in Kent and I cannot be with her but would want her comforted please, thank you.

I now have a growing list to pray for each day, which will be my ministry until the pandemic is over.

It shows we can really be church through social media if we’re not afraid to reach out.

God bless all and stay safe.
[22:58, 15/04/2020] Paul Hollingworth Winchester: Ps. Out of all the likes and request only two were from known parishioners.


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)


A message from Archbishop Justin Welby on responding to coronavirus

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(image from wikidata)

As we continue responding to Coronavirus, a lot of us are wondering how we can walk in faith, resist fear, and support those who are most vulnerable.

The first thing to say is that following the advice of experts – especially about washing our hands regularly and self-isolating if we have cold or flu symptoms – is a really important place to start.

But what else can we do? Well, the thing about having hope, faith and courage is that although they are gifts from God, we can do our bit to nurture them.

We can take some time to sit quietly and pray, letting God know about those things that are on our hearts and minds. When we do that, we make that connection with God that nourishes and sustains us.

We can pray for those who are physically vulnerable. Those who are financially insecure and worried about needing to take time off work. Those who live in countries without public healthcare systems. Those who do not have family or friends and are facing this situation alone.

We can pray for healthcare workers and political leaders who are responding to this crisis and bearing the incredible responsibility of trying to keep us safe.

That brings us to resisting fear. One way to avoid being overwhelmed by fear is turning our attention to helping someone. Is there a person in your life, or your community, that you could call on the phone and see if they’re okay? Maybe it was someone that you prayed for?

Perhaps they can’t get to the shops – could you pick up some groceries for them? Perhaps they are self-isolating and feeling lonely – could you call them on the phone and see how they are?

If you have some spare income, or some spare food, could you donate to your local food bank?

Let’s remember that we are in this together. Let’s look after ourselves and our communities, gain courage from each other, and walk together in hope and faith.

As it says in Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”


Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy.
Sustain and support the anxious,
be with those who care for the sick,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may find comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.

+PHILIP NORTH: how to become a church for and of the poor

7 steps to become a Church of and for the poor

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From a talk by Philip North, Bishop of Burnley at New Wine United 2017

In his talk at New Wine, entitled, “Hope for the Poor”, Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, pointed out that we are seeing the slow and steady withdrawal of church life from those communities where the poorest people in our nation live. Despite a renewed passion for evangelism, dioceses having growth strategies, church planting and money released for mission over the past 20 years, the impact has been decline. Whilst acknowledging the effort that is going in, he suggests the answer to such decline is a straightforward one. It’s because we have forgotten the poor.

He continues as follows:

“Every effective renewal movement in the whole history of the Church has begun not with the richest and most influential, but with the poor and the marginalised. ‘I have come to proclaim good news to the poor’ Jesus said in the synagogue at Nazareth. How often have you seen those last three words ‘to the poor’ omitted or re-interpreted or spiritualised? But when Jesus said ‘poor’ he meant ‘poor, and he demonstrated that in the way he lived the rest of his life.”

The early church was an example of the church for the poor and Philip then gives other examples – 3 of which are as follows:

“When the Roman soldiers came to arrest St Lawrence during the persecution of Diocletian in 304AD and demanded to see the riches of the Church, he took them out into the streets and showed them the poor and the crippled and the lame. ‘Here is our gold’ he told them. A great line, but it got him cooked on a griddle. Church for the poor.

“When St Francis heard his call to rebuild the church which had fallen into corruption he called into community the illiterate and the uneducated, he gave them clothes to wear and food to eat and urged them, through their simplicity, to model the way of Christ and they began a potent movement of reform that left monarchs quaking and powerless. Church for the poor.

“When Vincent de Paul wanted to renew a wholly decadent and derelict French church in the seventeenth century, he bypassed his aristocratic connections and went instead to the galley slaves and the prisoners and the destitute and unchurched citizens of the new cities. He organised communities of priests and sisters to serve and proclaim and the result was a renewal which swept across France and overseas and was one of the great inspirations behind the Catholic renewal in this country in the nineteenth century. Church for the poor.

“A church that abandons the poor might well be financially viable. It’s just that it would no longer be the Church of Jesus Christ. If we abandon the poor, we abandon God. If we fail to proclaim the good news to the poor, we lose the right and the authority to proclaim the good news to anyone, anywhere.”

Philip then suggests seven steps that will help us to become a Church of and for the poor that the world might believe. These are summarised as follows:

1. The content of our proclamation.
If you turn up on an estate with nice, tidy complacent answers to questions no one is asking, they will tear you to shreds. Successful evangelism begins with intense listening, with a profound desire to hear the issues on people’s minds and a genuine open heart to discern how Jesus speaks into them. If you’re in debt, what is the good news? If you’re dependent on a foodbank to feed your children, what is the good news? If you’re cripplingly lonely and can’t afford the bus into town, what is the good news? Simple formulae, or trite clichés about God’s love won’t do as answers to these questions.

2. Leadership.
We need to raise up leaders in, for and from the urban church. The best person to speak the Gospel into an urban estate is someone who has grown up there, so we need to be courageous and take risks in raising up a local leadership. Catapulting in white, well-educated, beautiful people from the nice bit of town will dispossess and disempower local residents. The impact will be to take their church away from them such that the church will become just another service provided on their behalf by patronising outsiders. And to raise up this new generation of leaders, we need our best clergy to commit significant periods of their ministries to the poorest areas.

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3. The church-planting movement needs to put the poor first rather than last.
Too many church planting strategies are aimed at the low-hanging fruit in fast regenerating urban areas or university towns. Renewal comes from courageous mission to the places where it’s toughest. If you feel called to plant, we need you on the outer estates, we need you in our northern towns, we need you in areas where a majority of people come from other world faiths, we need you in those areas where the trendy coffee shops and artisanal bakers are hard to find.

4. Marry together service with proclamation.
If all we do is proclaim and ignore the hard reality of people’s lives, if all we offer is Jesus the living bread when they need real bread to put in their stomachs, no one will listen. On the other hand if all we do is serve and not proclaim, as many churches do, we are subjecting people to the greatest deprivation of all which is to be deprived of ever hearing the saving news of Jesus Christ. A feature of all growing urban churches is an intentional marriage of service and proclamation.

5. Patient presence.
We have become obsessed with the quick win. Urban and estates ministry is hard work and slow going. It takes years to become established, to win trust, to learn the questions, to form leaders, to work out how best to serve, to discern accessible ways of proclaiming, to win souls for Christ. And there will be many setbacks along the way, many leaders we form who move away, many families we work with who for no good reason disappear, many projects and initiatives we attempt that won’t get off the ground. That can be hard. But it’s real and it’s true and it’s the Gospel. Think of St Paul. He endured countless setbacks, there were arguments, there were places he could not enter. At one point he speaks about being ‘unbearably crushed.’ This is real Christian ministry. It is cross-shaped, it hurts, it’s sacrificial.

6. Everyone’s concern and everyone’s problem.
If the Church wants to be present in places of poverty, it is no good to leave it up to a few heroic church leaders whilst the rest of us get on with our ordinary lives. The wider Church must support the church in urban areas, and do so in genuine and concrete ways. That means financial subsidy, it means letting go of its best leaders for urban ministry, it means support and prayer and encouragement, it means a willingness to listen to the urban church and amend its own life and structures accordingly.

7. Prayer.
We need sincere, disciplined, authentic prayer because it is only through prayer that the Lord will soften our hearts and open our ears to the cry of the poor. Pray for the church in areas where it is hard to be the church. Pray for yourself so that you can discern how God is calling you to proclaim Good News to the poor.

Philip concludes by saying, “I believe there is change, there is a new openness to being a Church of and for the poor. There are a number of new and interesting initiatives and ideas, some significant books are starting to appear such as A Church for the Poor’ by Martin Charlesworth and Natalie Williams. Pope Francis has reawakened many to centrality of this area of Christian ministry. But it is not enough. And it is not fast enough. We know the stats. Within 10 years we will have all but lost the Church in the poorest areas. We will have become a complacent, smug church of and for the rich.”

Download the full talk here.

From a talk by Philip North, Bishop of Burnley at 08/08/2017 


Today the church remembers with thanksgiving Deacon Nicholas Ferrar.

Nicholas Ferrar, Deacon, Man of Prayer
1 December 1637
Nicholas Ferrar, born in 1592, was the founder of a religious community that lasted from 1626 to 1646.

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After Nicholas had been ordained as a deacon, he and his family and a few friends retired to Little Gidding, Huntingdonshire, England, to devote themselves to a life of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (Matthew 6:2,5,16). They restored the abandoned church building, and became responsible for regular services there. They taught the neighborhood children, and looked after the health and well-being of the people of the district. They read the regular daily offices of the Book of Common Prayer, including the recital every day of the complete Psalter. (Day and night, there was always at least one member of the community kneeling in prayer before the altar, that they might keep the word, “Pray without ceasing.”) They wrote books and stories dealing with various aspects of Christian faith and practice. They fasted with great rigor, and in other ways embraced voluntary poverty, so that they might have as much money as possible for the relief of the poor.

The community was founded in 1626 (when Nicholas was 34). He died in 1637 (aged 45), and in 1646 the community was forcibly broken up by the Puritans of Cromwell’s army. The memory of the community survived to inspire and influence later undertakings in Christian communal living, and one of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets is called “Little Gidding.”

PRAYER (traditional language)

Lord God, make us so reflect thy perfect love; that, with thy Deacon Nicholas Ferrar and his household, we may rule ourselves according to thy Word, and serve thee with our whole heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


Nicholas Ferrar’s legacy lives on, in the hearts and prayers of deacons for whom he’s an inspiration, and  in Ferrar House which is a small retreat centre.


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