St Cuthbert Day
20th March 2020
Dear Minster Friends,
I’m writing this letter to everyone associated with The Minster as your Vicar during this global pandemic which is now affecting all our daily lives and has now resulted in the government restricting movement and the way we order our lives until the Coronavirus is firmly under control.
Following Government advice and instructions from both the National Church of England and our own Diocesan Bishop, I now write to confirm, that with the support of the Church Wardens and other colleagues, we have taken the decision to close the Minster until further notice. This decision is to support the government in trying to limit unnecessary travel and communal gathering, in order to protect the whole community and try to slow down the rate of infection until such time as we are told we can reopen with confidence.
This is a painful restriction on us all. This means we can’t be the gathered church at this time, and that we will need to pray at home as a dispersed community.
This situation leaves The Minster with a number of challenges: Worship, Pastoral, and Financial. These I will take in turn with advice.
The Worship of the whole people of God is one of the main spiritual things we do as Christians that sustains our daily living and existence. I encourage you to pray at home, and we shall be putting some material on the Minster website to support this. I also encourage you to join in worship broadcast on the BBC, both daily worship on Radio 4 and the proposed televised service on BBC One on Sunday mornings. The Church of England website will also provide you with material for praying each day under the heading of Daily Office. Presently, for those of you with smartphones the ‘Time to Pray’ App has now been made available free of charge; see https://www.chpublishing.co.uk/apps/time-to-pray it is also available on Google Play and the Apple Store. Baptisms will be put on hold. Weddings and Funerals will be subject to Government guidelines at the time.
David, Jane and I intend to meet together for prayer and the Eucharist. Therefore, we are asking you to send through to the Office your prayer requests so that we can include them in our offering to God. This will continue for the duration unless illness or lock down prevents us from doing so.
Pastoral Matters: one of the great strengths of attending Church is the Pastoral Care that each worshipping community provides for one another. Many people living on their own suffer from isolation and loneliness, and families are struggling with work, mortgages to pay, childcare, and now Schools closing indefinitely. The Revd David Carpenter, the Lecturer and Chaplain to the congregation, will head up our new Pastoral Care system, that aims to keep in touch with as many people as we can who are part of the Minster community, whether you class yourself as congregation, choir family, welcomer, bell ringer, Civic Leader across the town and Borough, member of staff, or simply a Friend of the Minster. We shall be dividing people into groups, and key leaders both Clergy and Lay, will be phoning and emailing people, in order to stay in touch, and provide a listening ear and support. As Christians, we take up the mantle of being Christ’s feet, his mouth, his ears, his healing hands. I encourage all of you to care for your neighbours in your street as well as your friends. Please leave messages on the Minster phone (01422 355436) and via email firstname.lastname@example.org and the Office will be open daily Monday-Friday 10am-1pm to pick up messages and respond to requests for prayer and help.
Financial: Over the last twelve years since I’ve been here, we’ve turned around a £50,000 year on year deficit, and for the last three years we made a small surplus. We are now planning to stay closed until the middle of the summer, when we hope some restrictions might be lifted. This means we need to somehow stay financially afloat, paying staff, paying the Parish Share each month so that the Diocese can pay Clergy Stipends, and our monthly bills towards insuring the building and other committed expenditure. We’ve had to cancel lots of events and bookings, and with the Minster closed there will be no visitor donations and revenue from the Minster shop. Many committed members of the Minster community contribute financially monthly through Planned Giving: either by Standing Order, the Envelope Scheme, or by cash donation, and all Gift Aided. For those who already contribute by Standing Order we remain hugely grateful for the knowledge that your money will arrive each month. For those of you who contribute by Envelope or cash donation, I enclose a Standing Order Form that will enable you to continue making that vital financial contribution, but without the need to physically place your Envelope or cash in the plate, whilst the Minster remains sadly closed. We want to reopen as soon as we are allowed and in the knowledge that we remain financially a going concern. If you would like to talk to our Treasurer Peter Naylor about setting up a Standing Order and Gift Aiding your contribution, please either ring the Office or email Peter email@example.com. If you want to send a cheque to cover your donation then please send to Mr Peter Naylor, Causey Hall, Causeway, Halifax, HX1 1QL.
I’ve never had to write a letter like this before and it all feels very surreal. Some will liken it to the Great War years, but for a younger generation, we’ve never had to live through a time like this, and for many people, there is an uncertain future. As Christians we place our hope in God through Jesus, who by the power of his Spirit encourages and enables us to Keep Calm and Carry On! Julian of Norwich that great mystic from East Anglia, professed her faith by proclaiming that through faith in God All Shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well. And that is my hope and prayer for all of us. Stay safe, Stay in touch.
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This letter comes with my love and gratitude to everyone associated with The Minster, and that of my wonderful colleagues, David and Jane, Mick and Sheila, Church Wardens.
The Revd Canon Hilary Barber
Vicar of Halifax Minster
Important contact details:
Canon Hilary Barber 07905987089 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Revd Jane Finn 07709222591 email@example.com
The Revd David Carpenter 07460443368 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Minster Office 01422 355436 email@example.com
Peter Naylor Treasurer 01422 355436 firstname.lastname@example.org