**NEW 02 Aug 2020** COVID-19


CAP still helping people out of debt

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) have been thanking their donors for helping “some wonderful things happen” despite the challenge of coronavirus. 

“These beautiful moments were made possible by your support,” says Paula Stringer, UK chief executive of CAP. “We’ve been able to make sure our clients don’t go without essentials like food, fuel and staying in touch with loved ones. Our frontline workers have distributed 345 instances of emergency client support so far, and they will be able to continue providing this for many more.

When one client could not get to the supermarket because her car needed repairs, she was astonished to find that her Debt Coach, Beth, had arranged for a delivery of groceries to her house. In return, she sent this message:

 “I was so shocked and welling up. It was such an amazing thing to do. Your gift came at the right time, as I wouldn’t have had enough to get that much food.”

During lockdown, CAP has adjusted its service to offer phone appointments to clients, 479 of these so far.

“We’ve also seen a fabulous 494 people become debt free during lockdown! Despite the new challenges, we’re seeing that there really is always hope,” says Paula Stringer.


Think about making a will and
planning your funeral

by David Pickup, a solicitor,

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.  John 11 17-19

We have been living in strange times throughout the lockdown. Many of the life event services in church have been postponed or have gone ahead in a very different way. Funerals have had severe limitations on the numbers who could attend.

Many people have been thinking about the meaning of life and have made wills during the coronavirus crisis. We should all make a will to avoid the disappointment and worry for our loved ones if we do not. Only today I had to advise some grown ‘children’ that their father’s estate would all go to the estranged wife because they were still married at the time of death. Probably not what the father had wanted!

Sometimes I get asked about the funeral arrangements; or rather, told that so-and-so should not be allowed to attend. Sometimes families do fall out, but can you stop someone coming to a funeral when it is really a public event?

Funerals are usually arranged by executors and they can keep the ceremony as quiet as possible by not announcing it in advance. Church services are public, and it is difficult to stop people attending. Many cemeteries are public places and again anyone can visit them. Crematoria are not usually public and there it is easier to control who is invited and who is not.

If you are worried about what will happen at your funeral, perhaps now is the time to think about putting things right. You could do a letter of wishes to go with your will to say that you hope that people reconcile and let bygones be bygones.

As always this is a light-hearted comment on a complex subject. Always get proper professional advice.


Still helping our prisoners

Prison Fellowship has reminded its supporters of the hardships facing prisoners during coronavirus. Many prisoners have had to spend nearly 23 hours a day in their cells.

Though such lockdown has been essential for the protection of both staff and prisoners against the coronavirus, it has had the effect, says Peter Holloway, CEO of Prison Fellowship, of creating for the prisoners “a much harsher sentence” than they would normally have had.

He goes on: “Most Prison Fellowship volunteers are not currently allowed into prison, and we feel the loss of that ‘ministry of presence’ as an organisation. Yet we are not passive! We know that soon our programmes and that loving presence of our volunteers – showing Christ’s love in a thousand small ways – will be more essential than ever.”

Yet Prison Fellowship itself is struggling, as donations have inevitably plummeted due to Covid-19.   If you can help, please go to:  https://prisonfellowship.org.uk/insight/


CPO – helping churches and Christians reach their communities during lockdown

Churches across the UK have been finding different ways to worship God, care for their communities, and express their faith during this unprecedented pandemic – and many of them have turned to the Christian agency CPO to provide specific resources to help.

The company’s website offers a wide variety of posters and digital downloads reminding communities that their church is still alive and well and that they are supporting key workers with prayer and a rainbow. All the coronavirus resources are together here: https://www.cpo.org.uk/catalogue.aspx?cat=80329

There are also postcards from HOPE, and for those who are not online, posters advertising the daily telephone worship service offered free by the Church of England (https://www.cpo.org.uk/range.aspx?range=6073&cat=80329&prod=C6073MP&pt=10), plus cards offering help to those who are shielding (https://www.cpo.org.uk/product.aspx?prod=C6051IC&cat=80329).

Many churches have advertised their online services and found them an exciting new way of engaging with people who might never have come into their building. Yet it’s been a steep learning curve for many churches, grappling with video technology, ways to connect over the video conferencing app Zoom, and how to offer Christian teaching, worship and community in as effective and attractive way as possible.

To help, there is a valuable crowdsourced handbook for churches at https://covid.churcheshandbook.co.uk/ which includes advice, tips, know-how and training on everything from live streaming to crisis management, church admin to mental health, prayer to exiting lockdown, evangelism to community aid, youth and children’s work to how to handle your giving.

You’ll also find lots of free know-how at https://www.cpodigital.org/toolkit handy ideas, resources, ways of doing things that will help your church grow, develop and serve your communities, and a growing list of churches offering online worship services (https://www.cpodigital.org/church-live-streams).

More info at:  www.cpo.org.uk


Pandemic ‘transforms the Church into Netflix’

 by the Revd Peter Crumpler, a Church of England priest in St Albans, Herts, and a former communications director for the CofE.

The Covid-19 pandemic has “propelled the Church into the contemporary world,” says a new report from CPAS, an Anglican evangelical mission agency working with UK and Irish churches.

‘Everyone Welcome Online’ looks at the lockdown’s impact on churches and concludes, “Last month we were the Odeon, today we are Netflix.

“In the 1950s, the Odeon was okay, but then along came consumer choice, individualism and crowded complex lifestyles. Then came TV film channels, and now Netflix, Prime and others, where you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you are on whatever you’ve got.”

The authors, Bob Jackson and George Fisher, say “The Government has shut our ‘Odeons’ down, so in response we have stumbled into ‘Homespun Netflix’ and it’s looking promising.

“Most churches going online have discovered that far more people are accessing their services than ever came to the building. What seemed initially to be a devastating blow to churches may actually generate growth.”

Bishop of Sheffield Pete Wilcox described the 26-page report as “An astonishingly thorough and perceptive overview of online church.”

The authors, who devised the popular ‘Everybody Welcome’ course published by Church House Publishing, include feedback from churches experiencing increased numbers of people logging in for online services, both live and recorded.

One church reported “We’ve had a huge number of hits, many more than the number of people in church on a Sunday, connecting with people who would not come to a regular service.”

The report analyses who is responding and detects groups ranging from friends and family of church members, to the housebound with links to the church, people linked by christenings, weddings or funerals, people who have moved away, occasional churchgoers and people who have found the church through a denominational or diocesan link.

The authors encourage churches to make contact with people who are ‘dropping in’ to the services, suggesting “Contact as many people as you can to say hello and how nice it was to see them connect with the church, and ask how they are and how the church can help them.”

People are finding it easier to access church online because they can join in the services without feeling concerned about ‘doing the wrong thing’ – like standing or sitting at the ‘wrong’ time – they don’t have to enter a strange building and meet new people and  they can access the services at a time that suits them.

One church reported: “One previously non-churchgoer said that online she felt comfortable, fully part of the service and so more welcomed than if she had been in the building unsure of how to behave.”

The report’s authors are keen to hear from churches about their experiences during lockdown and ask people to contact them at allarewelcome2020@gmail.com

The ‘Everyone Welcome Online’ report can be accessed free at: https://www.cpas.org.uk/church-resources/understanding-christian-leadership/everyone-welcome-online/everybody-welcome-online/#.Xs-E7UBFxPY


Music in our churches and cathedrals

The Church of England, together with the Royal School of Church Music, has encouraged the Government to be proactive in ensuring music-making can resume in church buildings, once it is safe to do so. 

Responding to the latest guidance, the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said: “We are encouraging the Government to be alert to the consequences of our choirs’ continued silence – and to take a proactive approach to allowing singing to return to our churches and cathedrals as soon as it is possible to do so safely.

“We look forward to a time where worship and music can once again be combined, in all their different expressions, as they have for centuries, turning our hearts to God.”

During the Coronavirus pandemic, the Church of England partnered with the RSCM to provide free hymns for parishes for use in streamed worship, which have been downloaded more than 45,000 times.


Visit the C of E online page

There is now a range of digital resources for to you connect with God at this difficult time.  These include:

Time to Pray app (https://www.chpublishing.co.uk/apps/time-to-pray) which is free and has an accompanying daily audio offering on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Mental health reflections (https://www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/mental-health-resources/supporting-good-mental-health)

Tips to tackle isolation (https://www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/mental-health-resources/dealing-loneliness-and-isolation-five-top-tips)

Finally, there are the Church’s smart speaker apps, which provide a range of Christian resources.  https://www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/our-smart-speaker-apps  In March alone, the number of people using the Alexa app rose by more than 70 per cent.

More details at:  https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-online