All public services in Tower Hamlets circuit are currently suspended
See Worship at Home and Prayer & Meditation for alternative resources
The Global Relationships team of the Methodist Church asked its partners around the world how Covid-19 is impacting their churches and communities. See their responses:
Contributions from Zambia, Caribbean and Americas, Rwanda, Norway, Australia and S. India.
25th July - Update
The Circuit Meeting confirmed the decision not to open the churches for worship before September. Complying with all the necessary regulations - not merely for their own sake, but in the interest of protecting everyone - makes the task of opening safely a very difficult one. Your opinions and comments on this are most welcome. Speak to the Circuit Stewards and Worship Leaders. Start a conversation on the Facebook page; email John for the Newsletter, or contact the Webmaster. Contacts
11th July - from Circuit Administration
Church buildings across the London Methodist District are unlikely to open for worship before September. Guidance from the Methodist Church following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions on places of worship by the Government is that the decision to re-open a church needs “serious consideration and a thorough understanding of what is required in terms of planning and health and safety requirements”. The Church says there is no compulsion to re-open if managing trustees do not feel it can be done safely, or it is too soon. “It needs to be well planned, both before the opening and kept under review once the building is in use,” says the guidance. “Do not assume that you can immediately do things ‘as you used to do’ … and accept that saying ‘no’, ‘not yet’ or ‘not like this’ can be positive decisions.”
The Tower Hamlets circuit is discussing the issues with the Circuit Leadership Team and also at the next Circuit Meeting on 23rd July (held by Zoom).
Stitches in Time
Stitches in Time are making and selling face coverings of which any profits go directly to their FabricWorks makers, who have now lost their income. "The BAME community in Tower Hamlets was already facing multiple disadvantages before Covid-19, and the virus has had a hugely disproportionate effect. Money raised is also going towards the emergency remote work we are doing to support some of the most vulnerable and isolated in this time of crisis" - read more here.
Prices start from £6.
A short, edited extract from Ready for the new “normal”
A discussion paper | from The United Reformed Church
Without in any way following a line that God sent this virus for a purpose, there is plenty in the Bible to show that God takes awful situations and brings forth good from them. One aspect of this might well be that churches take stock and re-focus on what really matters to them and more importantly to God, rather than unthinkingly falling back into old patterns and habits.
We know that even before coronavirus, numbers attending worship were steadily falling in almost all of our churches. If you do things differently, might we start to attract others who were not previously attending worship?
Some have been emailing out transcripts of devotional material, or hand-delivering or posting printed matter to those who cannot access more technical routes. As they put in the extra effort to do this, more people are being included in our corporate devotional life – those who were “shut-ins”but still part of our established fellowships and those who are being reached for the first time. We are two decades into the 21st Century, and surely it is time for our devotional life to start to catch up, without losing the richness of our heritage.
Anecdotally, a number of Ministers have reported many people joining online worship services that would not or could not attend physically in the past. Might streaming our worship online be part of the “new normal”?
The thought of managing the technology might fill you with some trepidation. It is still better to do a few things and to do them well. We might need to identify which things we should give up permanently – or at least for another season – in order to create space, time and energy to do new things, or to do some of our old things differently.
Many churches, pre-pandemic, had stopped their evening service. Might an online or recorded service come to take its place? Or should it be vice versa – if you are getting a larger congregation online, should your morning act of worship be that, and then physically gather in the afternoon or evening? Remember too that there is nothing that says our main act of worship must be on a Sunday (though many good reasons why this should also be retained as a day for worship.)
Many churches have climbed a steep learning curve on using technology in worship. So how will your church continue, in this rich vein?
2nd July From the Superintendent
Irene and I have “returned” to life within our Circuit after
three months of sabbatical. It has felt strange and we have had lots of chance to reflect and
watching as our world has come to terms with different ways of living.
I know that there is still much to do as we all adapt to life with social
distancing, and there will be much work to determine how we continue our
journey of faith and worship together. This will include how and when our
projects can meet, and how and when we can meet for worship and other
activities in person.
Please continue to support our staff with your prayers and encouragement – it is making all the difference.
I hope to share some of the “fruits” of our sabbatical with you during the coming months,
“Come and see” said Jesus to those who were wanting to understand more about following him. So I hope that these images and reflections will be an encouragement as you follow Jesus.
Grace and Peace Rev'd John (edited 12/07)
12 June 2020 The Spirit might be asking us to be brave, to not cling to the old but to be the pilgrim people of the moment
Jude Levermore, Head of Mission for the Methodist Church in Britain, writes of her hopes for how the Church will move forward, by being 'the pilgrim people of the moment.'
When Methodism changed from a connexion of societies to become a denomination or church we began to erect and use separate Methodist buildings which became our churches. Methodism came first, our buildings came second.
As we begin to think about ‘going back into our buildings’ I am hopeful that we will take time to consider what we have learned from being out of them. I am hopeful that we will have solidified our understanding that church is not a building- we teach that to our children, but do we hold that in our hearts? We, the people are the church, the body of Christ meeting together in community, acting together in mission, longing together for the transformation of our world, responding together to our calling.
I’m praying that as we share a road map for leaving lockdown, with all its needful risk assessments and procedures, we will guard against entering another lockdown, that of being so caught up in our buildings that we miss the opportunities to be church without them. Anecdotally I have seen and heard of such amazing innovation and creativity over these last months, as churches seek to serve their neighbourhoods and be good news and speak good news. All around the Connexion new and wonderful things are springing up.
As our managing trustees consider carefully their next steps my hope is that they carve out time not only to navigate a way through the 29 pages of the risk assessment, but to first undertake a spiritual assessment; to what is God calling this church, this chapel? I believe the Spirit might be asking us to be brave, to not cling to the old but to be the pilgrim people of the moment. Let’s be a people of vision, let’s not long to get back to normal, let’s see what God might do if we allow ourselves to be led somewhere new.
Let us be generous and gracious to one another, allow different churches and chapels to make the decisions they need to without pressure to get on with the usual, allowing instead time to consider the Spirit. Let us guard the holy fire, and guard our buildings only as a means of that; let us keep walking the way together, bearing the burden of grief for all that and those which and who have been lost, in love for one another and in service to our world.
Coffee Mornings, Bible Study and Prayer Meetings are all continuing in the Circuit.
People get-together to chat, discuss and to pray, without leaving home.
There's small talk; there's genuine interest in how everyone is getting along; someone might have a little rant about something that's bothering them; we might think things through or share ideas. In the study group, there is more serious discussion; in a prayer meeting, there is also prayer! You can sit and listen; no-one will be made to speak who doesn't want to. You can be a bit fed up or you can bring some small pleasure to share. You don't have to stay the whole time. Come and go as you please!
If you don't know how to set up a Zoom call, ask Andrew and he'll explain. It really is EASY.
Everyone attending the various groups seems to find they feel better for meeting and seeing others.
This is the social interaction the Church tends to call Fellowship. If you are missing Human Contact - don't.
Here it is!
Tuesday: Morning Prayer, 08.00
Wednesday: Circuit Bible Study, 6.15pm (Final meeting of series this week)
Thursday: Circuit coffee morning, all welcome from 11.00
Saturday: Morning Prayer, 8pm
These will continue while we remain unable to meet in person
12th June The Government allows churches and other religious buildings to open for individual prayer from Saturday 13th June
The Methodist Church’s advice remains that churches stay closed ...
When the Government announced its intention to change the advice it stated that: ‘Places of worship still have discretion over when they consider it safe to open and may decide to remain closed or reopen at a slower pace if they wish’ and we would like to stress that no-one should feel under any pressure to open buildings for individual prayer.
We understand the vital need for prayer at this time and have found that our people have been praying no less because they have not had buildings in which to pray. We know that mission, ministry and church has been happening in new and exciting ways in these times.
Above all, we want people to pray and worship safely and as we have already stated, we are committed to doing a full review of our guidance after the Conference.
This advice chimes with the recent statement from Tower Hamlets Inter-Faith Forum, which asks the faith community not to rush to re-open unless there be a most specific need - and all the Governmental requirements for safety can be met.
Lucia has found an interesting article about planning and using Time Off during the current crisis. It's hard to know how to organise a change and rest, when you can't go anywhere or do anything special! What do you think of these ideas? Got any better suggestions? Let us know and we'll publish them.
For the retired, the greater problem is keeping occupied and stimulated under these same conditions.
Crosswords? Jigsaws? History books? Big book of British Trees (or Birds) and strolls round the local neighbourhood trying to identify basic species? It all feels like marking time, rather than living. Comments?
Email Lucia or Webmaster (see Contact us for address)
YourNeighbour.org is a network of over 1000 churches from over 40 denominations (including the Methodist Church). They coordinate a UK church response to the Covid-19 crisis working with churches, the Government and the NHS.
Together Apart - a new free resource from youthscape.co.uk is a short series of curriculum resources enabling you to explore life and faith with young people, and is designed specifically for use in the context of an online youth work session.
There are live events which then become videos and can be watched anytime.
These are well presented and informative. Have a look?
18th – 24th May – Mental Health Awareness Week
The special week may have ended, but the ideas behind it remain true.
Perhaps we can begin to look forward to some normality in the coming weeks.
We are creeping in the right direction, one small step at a time.
The theme this year is kindness. Never has there seemed a more appropriate theme. We’ve all seen such amazing acts of kindness during this very difficult and challenging time:- NHS and social care frontline workers, council workers and local people going above and beyond to show kindness, compassion and support. The value of kindness is unquantifiable; it can feel really rewarding to put ourselves out a little to help someone else, and receiving kindness from others is special. In the current circumstances particularly, we should also make sure we are being kind to ourselves.
There is much to challenge and test us at the moment, so it’s vital we look after our mental as well as our physical health. This can be anything from having a nice relaxing bath, listening to favourite music for half an hour, going for a walk and being in nature, writing in a journal, reading, cooking a nice meal. Another challenge alongside the theme of kindness is to do 30 minutes of movement each day – this could be tidying up your flat or joining the Zacchaeus Pilates zoom session! Or, if you are able to go out, taking a safe walk and enjoying the sun.
The most important thing is to look after ourselves, body and mind, so we can help others too as best we can. I hope you get to give and receive kindness this week.
Band for Life project leader
14th May News From The Zacchaeus Project
The small steps towards easing the lockdown that the government announced earlier this week will have come as welcome news to people. It’s encouraging that the protective measures being taken to keep ourselves and others safe have meant that these first steps can now be taken. Here at The Zacchaeus Project the centre remains closed in line with the government guidelines, but we are continuing to support our members remotely and are still available for advice and guidance, or for a chat.
Several members have been enjoying Adina’s online Pilates class on Wednesdays at 11am via Zoom, and if anyone else would like to give this a go then please let us know. This class is free of charge and is open to any member, including people who don’t usually attend the class at The Zacchaeus Project.
For those of you who are looking for other practical ways to stay busy, the government is now suggesting that people wear face coverings in enclosed spaces where social distancing may not be possible, e.g. public transport and shops (though this is not currently mandatory). There are plenty of tips available online for making one’s own face covering, including some without any need for sewing. BBC hints
12th May The end of the beginning, though not yet the beginning of the end
The freedom to go for a longer walk, outside your own gates, is a welcome start. On Monday, the queue for the Post Office (which has been empty most of the time for the last weeks) stretched right across Chrisp Street Market Place. There were no stalls there, to be in the way! Every shop that remains open had a well-spaced queue snaking around outside. So many who have been unable to go out are emerging into the daylight. Maybe this limited release will be enough to help us carry on a bit longer.
Bow Food Bank (update 9th May)
The foodbank is working from Bromley-By-Bow Community Centre, St Leonard’s Street, E3 3BT
The local food band is now distributing approximately three times the amount of food and toiletries compared with before the crisis began. This has been possible thanks to the logistical support given by the council, the collaboration with other partners, the generosity of donors, and the ingenuity of different members of the management team in finding sources of bulk supplies. Read more
Six weeks in, it's not easy at all, is it?
It's really starting to bite. This is what living with long term mental illness can be like; anxious about staying in; anxious about going out; paranoid about people in the street or shops; terrified of illness or death - it's all there, very sobering. Sarah (Band for Life) recommends less constant exposure to News and worrying discussion, replaced by therapy of doing one nice thing for yourself each day. Add an extra phone call, email or prayer for someone else's well-being, too?
we enter another week on lockdown, Band for Life members are coping as best
they can, but it’s a challenge for everyone to cope with forced isolation. People are really valuing the support calls
Sarah is making, keeping everyone in the loop about each other and making sure
people know there is help available. With people spending a lot of time alone, it
can be difficult not to watch the news too much or get drawn into the various
theories and debates about how this situation has arisen; so one thing we are
trying to do is to encourage people to limit the amount of news we watch and to
do one nice thing for ourselves each day, as a way of trying to look after our
mental health too, whilst we wash our hands and do all the things we need to
protect our physical health. One question constantly asked is “when we will
be able to do music again”, and the answer is we really don’t know, but we hope
that this difficult time will pass soon.
The Whitechapel mission is continuing to serve a cooked breakfast to the homeless and hungry every single day. We are seeing many new faces from different parts of London as most other places are now closed. Please will you will hold the staff in your prayers as they are working very hard to meet the needs of our guests. And for the guests themselves, as they cope with the fallout from corona virus lock-down
From the Zacchaeus team:
Our members are taking the government guidelines on board; feedback we’ve had is that although lock down can be frustrating, people appreciate the need to take preventative measures to keep themselves and others safe. Where possible, members are going out for exercise and occasional shopping trips, and we’ve spoken to people unable to leave their homes who are being supported by friends, family and neighbours. Our staff (including volunteers) are keen to help as much as possible, and we encourage people to contact us if they need any help, or just for a chat. We are still supporting people with general advice queries, though at the moment this is via phone or email.
Debbie and Louise are working remotely and can be contacted by email, by the usual phone number, 0208 983 1568, and by text or Whatsapp on 07712 32324. See Zacchaeus website .
Help when someone dies
When someone you love dies, saying goodbye in some formal way is important. With the current restrictions on movement in place, it may not be possible to attend a funeral. To help you say your formal goodbyes whilst in your home, see here
Lucia writes that, speaking to many in the Circuit, she has been struck and awed by the number that come in the "Hidden low-pay Hero" category. You are playing your part in keeping Britain running and helping others, showing love for your neighbours (both those up the street and in the Biblical sense).
Jesus bids us shine, with a pure, clear light
Like a little candle burning in the night.
In this world of darkness, so we must shine -
You in your small corner, and I in mine!
Council Hotline for people particularly vulnerable to coronavirus 020 7364 3030
Tower Hamlets Council has a phone line to support residents who have been identified as being extremely vulnerable and at the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19
For more information, please visit the council website Check again later for important updates and developments.
Contact with the circuit office is now on this number: 07545 445217
The Whitechapel Mission has now suspended all volunteering and outside service provision. The current evaluation of risk is that people should not be travelling to the Mission unless absolutely essential. Food is the highest priority for those sleeping on our streets. Warm clothing, medical attention and support must be sustained as long as possible.
We recognise that we offer services through our projects to some of the most vulnerable people in our community. This means that we will continue to offer reassurance and support through providing our daily breakfast at Whitechapel Mission. Whitechapel Mission is managing to maintain its breakfast service and material support through the commitment and determination of our staff team, for which we continue to give thanks.
The Mission remains Open and Serving
From the Superintendent (March 25th)
Our wonderful Circuit staff team have spent the past 10 days trying to respond and react to a very different pattern of life; one where most of the usual ways of doing things has to be different. One of the hardest challenges is to be separated from people – from those we want to celebrate the joys of life with – from those we want to hug and console at life’s challenges and disappointments. Although the physical separation is very real, it does not mean we have to accept all the limitations. Please use whatever means you can to stay in touch – with our church, with each other and with God.
You know that, as Paul writes, “ For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-9.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.
Whatever you do, may your time be blessed with the knowledge that God is with you in Christ Jesus – now and always.
Lucia Banks, our new Lay Pastoral Worker, has started work with us
Lucia is getting in touch with members and friends in the Circuit, focusing her efforts on getting to know the congregations and staff - by phone and video call. I am you sure you will join me in giving Lucia a really warm welcome.
Grace and Peace John
A reflection from the superintendent minister (22nd March)
ONE thing we can all do is to continue to pray - pray for our churches, our churches’ work, our families and friends, our neighbours and those who persecute us. Please take care of yourselves, follow good advice (medical and spiritual!) and let us know if you need help. One thing that almost all of us have, and will have, is access to a phone. At the beginning of Philippians, Paul speaks of being ‘imprisoned for Christ’. Although we are not actually imprisoned, I am acutely aware of how important physical connection is to us all. It seems as if we will have to live our lives with restrictions and challenges, some of which are like being under house arrest. Perhaps as Christians we will all need to take a lead from Paul’s perseverance and faith and, as we adapt to these new circumstances, my prayer is that we will continue to rejoice, speak with boldness and proclaim Christ with love. – with grace and peace to you all, the Rev'd John Hayes
Health Advice (21st March)
The national government website, WHO and BBC websites are being kept up to date with the latest news and advice on the COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation and how to protect yourselves. Please look here for health advice rather than on social media; while social media is a very useful way for people to stay in touch and support each other, there is a lot of unverified information and fake news circulating on some of the sites.
Announcement from Circuit (17th March)
(See Methodist website) We are suspending all worship services, groups, meetings and activities where people gather together in our churches. We shall support people through phone calls and help whilst the suspension remains in place. Pastoral care will be offered by phone, email and appropriate social media. We encourage everyone to advise us of anyone who needs help, especially the vulnerable or self-isolating.
Andrew Brown, Circuit Executive Officer. John Hayes, Superintendent Minister
Charity Number 1134888