Dear friend,

Welcome to the March newsletter from St Peter's Church. In this newsletter you'll see the dates and times of our services - all online, due to the ongoing pandemic - in March, and details about what else we're up to as a church family.

In this edition we have an update about our search for a new vicar, and look back to the past 12 months - and forward to a post-COVID future.

One year later

Almost a year ago, on the 15th March 2020, something special happened. We gathered in the church building as a congregation to worship together - to pray, to hear from the Bible, to sing.

That Sunday was the last time we were able to do that - at least without masks and social
distancing - and it was the last time we were able to lift our voices in praise and worship together. While it felt ordinary at the time, we now look back and realise how special it was.

We'd all heard about the new virus, and that it was in the UK, but none of us quite knew what it would mean for our congregation. We would soon find out, with "Lockdown 1" coming into force not long afterwards. Since then we've sadly had to get used to being physically apart from friends and family. The last year has been frustrating, confusing, upsetting, and often deeply tragic. We continue to hold in our prayers those who have lost loved ones over the last year.

But in the midst of this, the church has continued. We've found new ways to be together online, and while we cannot meet in person there are many in the church who continue to support each other by email, text, phone calls - and of course prayer.

There is hope, even in our anxiety and grief. Hope that the vaccines will continue to be rolled out across the country, and we give thanks for everyone involved in the huge task of vaccinating the population. Hope that as the weather improves that the virus will be transmitted less, and its impact will be less damaging. And hope that we can meet together in the church building again soon - although we should be realistic in understanding that restrictions will stay with us for some months to come.

We should also take a moment to appreciate the many people in the church who have stepped up to ensure that the life of our congregation continues as best it can. All the people who have led, edited, played, done readings, and said intercessions for our online services. The PCC who have had to get to grips with video technology for meetings. Our churchwardens who continue to deal with the practical running of the church. And finally our Readers who have led us over the last months with sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and grace.

Life has changed over the last year in many ways for all of us - some much more so than others. And while we aren't yet sure what "the new normal" will be, we can trust in our saviour Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Search for a new vicar

The PCC would like to keep everyone up to date with our search for a new vicar. You may recall that it was the rresponsibility of the PCC to create a "Parish Profile" and "Parish Brochure". The Brochure is like an advert for a house being sold - glossy, lots of pictures, it is designed to paint a good picture of us as a church!

The Profile is a bit more facts-and-figures based. You could say it's like a survey report on a house you're considering buying! It contains lots of numbers about the church and the local area. Vicars looking at St Peter's as a possible place they would like to come and minister can see both of these documents.

And now, so can you! The Brochure and Profile are available on our website - click here to see them.

Advertising for a new vicar

The latest news is that the Diocese will soon be advertising the position at St Peter's as a "Priest in Charge"; this has received the approval of the PCC. We know this may concern some of you, so we'd like to explain exactly what that means.

While there is no need for our new vicar to look after any other local churches, they will be dedicated fully to St Peter's - just as Paul was. When the vicar of another local church retires (or moves away) the Diocese will consider whether they need to reorganise our Deanery and increase the responsibilities of our vicar to include the other parish.

If there's no need for such reorganisation then our vicar stays 100% dedicated to us. If the Diocese decides to reorganise, then our vicar will likely take on responsibility for another parish - but that does not mean St Peter's will be merging with them. We can keep separate PCCs and run our churches the best way we see fit - we just have to share a single vicar.

This isn't a perfect situation, but with considerable shortages in the number of vicars available it is one we have to live with. Almost all vicar positions advertised these days are for "Priests in Charge".

It's worth making this absolutely clear: having a "Priest in Charge" does not mean we will immediately have to share that person with another parish. In fact, we may not have to share at all. It just means that the option to reorganise the Deanery is available to the Diocese if and when they need to make that decision.

If you have questions or concerns about this please get in touch - we'd be happy to answer anything we can.

Prayer vigil

As you may be aware, our fellowship is struggling to keep our head above water when it comes to finances and we’re really worried about meeting all our costs. With this in view we have decided to hold a Prayer Vigil on Sunday 7th March at 10.30 am, in church, suitably distanced of course. It will take the form of an opening prayer; Bible readings; and times of silent listening to God, for his guidance on how He can help us find the resources for us to do what He wants us to do.

We are inviting every member of the fellowship, to sacrifice part of that Sunday to spend it with God in search of his help for our lack of finances/resources and about what’s important to him on how St. Peter’s moves forward from here.

Will you please give prayerful consideration to your attending this, (perhaps as a Lent time-offering) because as the Body of Christ in this place and, as his disciples for this time, we all have a duty to “wait upon the Lord” like the prophets of old did when they had dire needs; and dire needs is what we have at the moment here at St. Peters.

If you would like any further information about this please contact us.

What's on in March

For now, all our services are online. We hope to be back in church soon - the date will be decided depending on COVID-19 infection rates, vaccinations, and other practical issues. Our first priority is to keep the church family safe.
  • Sunday 7th March: Sunday worship online at 9AM as the Prayer Vigil will be at 10:30AM
  • Sunday 14th March: Sunday worship online with Rev'd Mike Green at 10AM
  • Sunday 21st March: Sunday worship online at 10AM
  • Sunday 28th March: Palm Sunday worship online at 10AM. Subject to permission from the Bishop, there will also be a service in church at 10AM. We'll contact you with further details.
  • Holy Week:
    • Monday 29th March: half-hour meditation in church at 7PM
    • Tuesday 30th March: half-hour meditation in church at 7PM
    • Wednesday 31st March: half-hour meditation in church at 7PM
Had we been in church; we would have had Prayer Ministry Team members available every Sunday to pray with anyone and they still available to pray with anyone should the need arise. Although we can't meet physically, the Holy Spirit can cope with a telephone call I'm sure. Please don't worry or suffer alone.

Did you know?

There's a wealth of resources for you to learn about all kind of subjects on the diocese website. From information about upcoming events, online courses you can sign up for, and downloadable material, you can learn about things like prayer and spirituality, lay training church growth and spiritual engagement.

In particular, we would love anyone in church who feels they may be called to Lay or Ordained Ministry to explore this, through the resources provided by the diocese or by contacting us.

There are webinars (online seminars) happening this week to help people think about and explore vocational training. See the following pages for more details:

Prayer for March

This months prayer is by Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179):

We offer you our hands, O Lord, to do your work;
our lips to sing your praise;
our life to proclaim your glory
and our heart to serve you in our neighbour;
for Jesu’s sake.

And finally

If you need support in any way - prayer, or practical help - please contact us on our special email address: support@stpetersbirstall.co.uk.

We hope you enjoyed this newsletter. If you have suggestions for things we can put in it please do get in touch.
Thanks for reading. God bless you all in this new year.

St Peter's Church, Birstall