An April update from Rachel

I’m delighted to be well enough to be writing to you again. I want to wish you all a happy Easter (albeit a bit belatedly, sorry about that!) This letter is to update you about my health and planned phased return to work, it is to invite you to a special service that Bishop Debbie will be leading here on Friday 29th April, and to start a conversation about how we might start to rebuild relationships and our common life as we find our way forward from the impact pandemic has had on our church.

Rachel Update & phased return to work

On November 14th, I led our Remembrance Sunday services. I had no idea that would be the last services that I would lead for a very long time. As you know, covid then hit our family later that week, and I was hospitalised with covid pneumonia. I am one of the small percentage of people that have then experienced long lasting impact from covid, with various post viral complications. Recovery is still very much a work in progress, with various scans and hospital appointments continuing in the coming weeks. My energy is slowly returning, my breathing and heart are improving, I am more able to stand and walk, and I am now commencing a slow phased return to work in the parish. Thank you to all who have sent cards and emails, who have encouraged me and prayed for me through this season.

Through May and June I will be gradually picking up leading some services, alongside continued support from others in the ministry team here and other nearby priests. The first service I will be leading will be morning praise on Sunday 8th May. Thank you for your ongoing patience in this.

I am so thankful for the team here in Pennington – our standing committee Teresa, Eve, Paul and Rebecca, and others that are commissioned to lead worship and preach here, including Jane and George – who between them have basically had a mini-interregnum to deal with in our parish whilst I have been so unwell. I am looking forward to starting to pick up working with them again and supporting our ministry here in the church and across the community of Pennington. We are also very grateful for nearby priests who have covered many services here in the parish for us, to enable our services to continue throughout this season.

Invitation to 29th April service

In recent years, some in the wider church have seen Rachel as an anomaly as a priest, due to her diagnoses, and have questioned the validity of her ordination. As part of a journey of reconciliation and restoration, Bishop Debbie will be leading a special service at St Mark’s Church, Pennington on Friday 29th April at 10am. This will include an affirmation of ordination for Rachel, where she will restate her ordination promises. This will also coincide with Rachel returning to work after several months off work due to covid, and so this service will also include a blessing of the ministry team here in Pennington.

You are warmly invited to join us for this special service Friday 29th April, 10am, St Mark’s Church, Pennington.

Building relationships

All of us have been impacted by the pandemic in various different ways, and each of us has our own different stories and challenges that we are living with. As a church community, our shared life has been impacted greatly, with the church having to be closed for so long during lockdown, and then with significant restrictions about how we can be together, to keep us all safe. We have experienced blessings in this time too, as we have developed our work online, with our online community developing, including our weekly study group on zoom, and many gathering with us for worship near and far on a Sunday morning.

There have been challenges in the Diocese too, in recent years, and the Archbishop has recently commissioned Bishop Debbie and Bishop David as they lead the diocese forward. At his sermon at Winchester Cathedral in January, the Archbishop reminded us of the importance of building “relationships with each other that reflect the intimacy of the love of God that is lavished so abundantly on us.”

He went on to say: “Most of us don’t rejoice much at being loved by ourselves, because we know ourselves. Many of us struggle with relationships. But there is one who knows us better than anyone else – including ourselves; knows us at depths that we can’t imagine. And that is God and his love to you and me is abundant and overwhelming.”

“Because it is abundant, this transformation. It’s characteristic of Jesus’s ministry, above all in John’s Gospel. There is abundance. John says, in chapter 10 verse 10, he quotes Jesus as saying, ‘I have come to bring life, and to bring it abundantly’, much too much for us to consume and need more.”

I wonder what it might mean for our church to be known as a place of life and overwhelming abundance, a place filled with abundant grace, with joy overflowing?

Standing Committee have met recently, to talk about how we might start to rebuild relationships again, to get to know each other afresh, after the difficult challenges of being community through pandemic. From Sunday 8th May, our plan is to introduce coffee after the 10am service – hopefully the weather will be lovely through the summer, and some of this may be outside. Our hope is that we will be able to spend time together, to get to know each other better, and to be able to be more welcoming and friendly again to each other, and to newcomers to our community. If you’d like to be part of helping with coffee on Sunday 8th May, or on any Sundays in the future, please do get in touch with Jane (01590 462060) or Teresa. We’d love you to join us for our services, and to stay afterwards to encourage and bless each other.

Pat, Shirley and team started up the friendship tea, which now meets on the first Tuesday afternoon of the month at St Mark’s Community hall, and is a great place to meet up and enjoy a friendly cup of tea & cake. And plans are developing for the return of Strictly Come Crafting on Tuesday afternoons, a place for companionship, creativity, crafts and cake.
If you have other ideas for things that we could do to build relationships, to build community, or would like to be part of helping to organise any of these things, please do let us know.

Thank you for your continued encouragement, prayers and support for the community here in Pennington,

Rev Rachel Noël, Priest in Charge, Pennington

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