From the Rectory. Iffley Parish Magazine, May 2021.
On Sunday 2 May after the online morning service we shall be holding our annual meeting and reflecting on the last year which has been dominated by the pandemic.
We transferred our 10am Parish Eucharist online from the first Sunday of lockdown and have sustained it for over a year – we’ll soon be marking our 60th Sunday online. We are deeply grateful to our technicians in making this possible as well as all those who have been involved with the ministry Sunday by Sunday. We have extended our team of preachers to include a number of lay people and this has been a particular joy.
Many activities have gone online and found new ways of doing things that have been surprisingly rewarding. The Fish & Chip Club has continued to meet Sunday by Sunday, and one way or another most of our invaluable small groups have found a way to keep in touch and to sustain their common life. Bell ringing and our musical life as a church have been much more challenging to sustain and the sacramental life of the church has suffered, with the two key festivals of Christmas and Easter having to be celebrated very differently.
The church website now plays a crucial role in our mission and ministry, and we can receive online donations with tremendous results for our various Appeals. The Charities Committee was particularly creative in finding ways to sustain our Harvest Appeal through the autumn. The Parish Giving Scheme provides the backbone to our financial viability; thankfully we transferred to digital banking just before the pandemic hit us. Surprisingly our investments have performed well during the pandemic. The Friends of St Mary’s have been very supportive, paying the excess on our stained glass window repairs following a break in, and also paying for the live streaming and wifi installation. They have been true friends of St Mary’s.
In 2020 we were delighted to receive the highest award from Oxford Preservation Trust for the conservation work on the West front and South door done in 2017. During the lockdown many office tasks that we would otherwise not find the time to do have been done, including sorting out a Key register and a Parish archive ready to be transferred to the Oxfordshire History Centre where previous archival material has been lodged.
In the first lockdown the Ministry team met online weekly and then fortnightly to ensure we were able to continue to offer effective pastoral care and support to the parish, often by telephone, as well as to take any key decisions that needed to be made, for instance over plans for Christmas and Easter. Pastoral work has never been more important and more challenging, particularly with the sick and dying, the frail and the elderly, and all who have been bereaved. Community Cupboard has risen to the challenge and has played a vital and expanded role.
Living Stones went online with its focus on the Reformation, and when we were able to re-open the church building it was such a blessing to have Living Stones volunteers welcoming people to visit during the summer months. The important routine care for the church and the hall has been sustained throughout the pandemic, and every opportunity has been taken for both buildings to be open when allowed.
We have tried to be aware of the digital divide by enabling those with a phone to listen to our online services, receive the weekly notice sheet and service leaflet in physical form, provide two leaflets in the course of the year, for prayer during the pandemic and resources for those unable to attend a funeral, but most important of all to provide an interesting and informative parish magazine each month for which we are profoundly grateful to our magazine editors and all our many contributors.
The Eco Church Group has continued very effectively to raise our awareness of environmental issues; of particular note were the sermon series in September and October and the four leaflets produced for each of the Sundays of Advent. We’re looking forward to Bishop Steven being with us on Sunday 9 May to confirm the two adults and four children prepared for confirmation during the pandemic. It was a privilege to share with Nikolaj Christensen in his ordination as a priest; sadly for most of us this had to be online.
If you want to learn more about St Mary’s during the pandemic, our annual report, now available online and from the Rectory carport, provides a fuller picture. But from this snapshot you can see that St Mary’s has responded to the pandemic with creativity, faithfulness and generosity, for which I am profoundly grateful.
To subscribe to the Parish Magazine, please contact Michael Sinclair, email@example.com, 01865 438251. Subscriptions cost only £5.00 per year for 12 monthly issues, including free delivery within the parish.