Dear friends,

Warm and sincere greetings in the name of Christ our precious Saviour and Friend,

We are living in very difficult and uncertain times.

Our Church building and all our activities including weekly worship services have had to come to an abrupt halt. We are having to live and think and care in new ways. We don’t know how long this crisis will last and when we will be able to meet and enjoy worshipping together again. However, as I said and emphasised in my sermon on March 15th, ‘we are the flock under his care. And God is our Rock and Refuge.’ We stand upon the Rock of his promises of faithfulness and love, and we rest under the shadow of his mighty presence.

These simple but powerful biblical truths do not alter whether we are together or separated by misfortune, persecution, disease or forced isolation.

Friends, you are all deeply loved by God. He has you in the palm of his hands, and Psalm 125 emphatically and reassuringly states;

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”

Hold tightly on to this promise. It is for us!

This edition of Chronicle is obviously different. My letter is longer. The diary for April has been removed. Some regular items and bits of information have also been taken out. But we want to encourage and bless you through what is included in April’s new look Chronicle. Mike Wood and I have put much thought into this and we have been helped by others.

Chronicle is more important than ever, and we will seek to keep you informed and encouraged in these testing times, and when physical fellowship is not available through the Church.

Firstly and most importantly, if you do have a need, be it a need for some kind of practical help or prayer, please do not hesitate to contact either your Pastoral Link, our Pastoral Co-ordinator Audrey Staite (548169) or myself (541590), and we will seek to support you. As a Church we will attempt, with God’s strength, grace and protection to assist wherever we can. Our prayer chain can be activated very quickly and I can pray for you over the phone. Some individuals have offered to be available for practical service to others. We thank them for their willingness to serve.

This brings me on to my second point. I will be ringing around members I have here and in the Forest of Dean on a regular basis. At the end of these phone calls, I will be pronouncing a blessing over you and your loved ones.

The Lord will bless you and keep you and watch over you (see Psalm 121).

Thirdly, it is my intention to send out a weekly sermon to encourage folk. If we have your email in the Community Roll, you will receive this. If you wish me to post it to you, let me know, and I will do my best to do that. If you simply want me to pray for you, ring me, and I will do so over the phone.

Let us know if you are ill in any way and we will pray for you.

So now on to some encouragement from the scriptures.

I have found over the last few years Psalm 57 helpful, especially v 1-3 and v 10. In v 1, the Psalmist writes;

“I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings UNTIL THE DISASTER HAS PASSED.”

The Psalmist is at pains to remind himself and his readers about God’s great love and faithfulness.

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.”

Friends, this is the rock we stand on! God’s faithfulness and love – eternal, unbreakable, ever present and around. If you have time (and I’m sure you do) read Psalm 91 – a great Psalm about God’s faithfulness and delivering power and care. Verse 4 is beautifully encouraging;

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be YOUR SHIELD and RAMPART.”

God protects, watches over, embraces and stands by his children. You are a child of God and dearly loved. Hold on to this!

If you have a hymn book at home, read the words of your favourite hymns and be encouraged. Why not sing verses that you remember. “The Lord’s my shepherd” is not a bad place to start. “Great is thy faithfulness” is another heart-warming hymn. Remember the confession of faith and hope within it;

“all I have needed thy hand hath provided……”

Offer each day to God in prayer. Don’t think too far ahead. Know and rejoice in God’s good provision and blessing for each day. Give us this day our daily bread. Isn’t this how our Saviour taught us to pray? Pray each day for others, ring people regularly and listen to good music to lift your spirits. Don’t take unnecessary risks or make journeys that can wait for another time. Seek God’s wisdom.

Holy Week and Easter are not too far away. How strange not to be able to worship the crucified and risen King with other Christians at such a special time. But we still carry the hope of Jesus through the resurrection in our hearts, and his glorious triumph over grave calms and stills our fear of death. He is Lord. He has brought life and immortality to light. We have a living hope! May God bless you throughout this time of Christian hope and promise. Take some time to ring others in the Church to pass on Easter greetings and to share the peace of the Lord over the phone. Jesus Lives! Hallelujah!

PRAYER FOR A PANDEMIC
By Cameron Wiggins Bellm

May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbours. Amen.

You are all in my prayers. Stay safe and be assured of God’s love and power. Here are some prayers you may want to use. God bless you!

God our refuge, we seek your protection.
Protect the vulnerable from illness:
those who are old and frail, weakened by years of struggle;
those who care for others expending energy and love;
those for whom inability to work means hardship and poverty.
Protect us from greed and suspicion,
which snatches at our own security,
stock-piling and panic-buying that deprives others of the necessities of life.
Protect us from short-sightedness which sees the germ in our own eyes and ignores the plagues of hunger, war and violence that take so many lives each day.
Protect us from the isolation that leads to loneliness and despair denying the interconnectedness that links us with each other.
God our refuge, in our panic and fear
may we not lose sight of our common humanity and unite us through your love. Amen

O Lord, how faithful and great you are!
My life is in your hands. I am forever held by your love. Thank you.
You are my God, my Shepherd, my Rock and my Refuge.
I will fear no evil, for you are by my side.
You will never leave me nor allow my foot to slip.
Thank you for your grace which is sufficient for all my daily needs.
My trust, hope, faith and peace – are all in you, and you alone. Amen!

So, may the grace of our Sovereign Lord, Jesus Christ, and the love of our Heavenly Father, and the fellowship, support and comfort of the Holy Spirit – be with you, now and always. Amen

Yours in Christ’s love, Peter.

PS: Remember the importance of supporting the Church financially. It will be important for us to set the giving/offerings aside that we would normally present each Sunday, so that when we come back together, we can then give all our weekly offerings to the work of the Lord and sustain the life, witness and fellowship of our Church as one united people. Thank you for your faithful support! God is good.