A note from Rev. Mark Bodeker - Updated December 2020
In this together
The news last night of fresh restrictions in London, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire is a bitter blow. Oxfordshire is also seeing a marked increase in infection rates and there is increased risk that we also will move up from Tier 2.
For many of us, it will mean changing Christmas Day plans. Sadly, for some, it will be spending Christmas Day alone. None of us has experienced a situation quite like it in our lifetimes.
We recognise the increased risk we face from the coronavirus. We also recognise, as a church community, our duty to look out for our neighbours and protect the vulnerable. As these new restrictions take effect, I would ask that we all commit ourselves more than ever to looking out for those who are alone, to caring for those in need and to pray for our community here in Didcot, our nation and world.
Our Christmas services are unaffected by all this and we will meet at 4pm on Sunday 20th december for our Community Carol Service. We also have a Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Service all on-line (I hope you have received link details about these).
At this time of year - even this year - we celebrate the birth of Jesus with joy and hope. We must!
Jesus came to bring light that shines in the darkness.
Reflecting on our new situation, it is hard to remaim possitive. We cannot plan. We cannot meet together and worship as a church family. I particularly miss being able to sing together. I also sense, that for many of us, this period has not been one of slowing down (and taking stock) but rather, about being busier, and getting less done. As such, we are all exhausted. We see this in terms of our own irritability and lack of patience. When we reflect on the way we are and feel, it frustrates us that we are not coping as well as we would like to. It seems difficult to break out of this cycle. How might we receive God's 'rest' and work together to enable us to cope better with this pandemic?
What I know to be true, and is one of the deep foundations of Christian faith, is that it is not good for humankind to be alone. We are made for love and community by a God who is love.
The most important message for all of us at this time of ongoing restriction is that we are not alone. God is with us as we pray by ourselves, in groups and in families. There are many different ways in which we can connect with each other through technology. We continue to make full use of them and find different patterns of prayer, worship, pastoral care and fellowship for as long as it takes. Even with restrictions easing there is still not the opportunity for Great Western Park Church congregation to meet together physically. Whilst we work hard to change this we need to continue the existing pattern of 'live' services using Zoom.
I will be praying Morning Prayer each morning (with the exceptions of Wednesdays which I take as a day off). Each Wednesday we will be emailing a simple 'thought' to reflect on and prayers. Each Sunday we also meet for a service of praise and worship which you can follow and which includes more interaction through worship, prayer and teaching. Singing 'together' may seem a bit strange but I recommend you following the words on screen and listening to our Worship Leader leading us. We also meet in small groups ('Life Groups') during weekdays to catch-up, to study God's Word and to pray. Here we are able to offer each other that brotherly and sisterly love that we most miss during this pandemic. As we gain access to shared building again, we will restart our Blankety Church, specifically for families.
If you don't already receive regular emails with invitations, updates on what is happening in our church or a copy of our weekly Newsletter, then please contact me directly (contact details below). Although we are not yet able to meet together in the normal way, we are bound together through the ministry of the word and the prayers, by our common baptism and by bonds of Christian love.
As such GWP church remains open; we continue to have faith; public worship may be suspended, but the life of God’s kingdom is inextinguishable.
Getting in contact with me
I’m here, so please contact me if you need support, prayer or just to talk. My mobile number is 07970 111110 and email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Some other practical things regarding special services
All advice on this continues to be updated with restrictions on number of those who can attend. I have already been in contact with those who have already booked All Saints' Church to rearrange these. If, however, you were thinking about arranging a special service then please contact me and I would be happy to discuss it with you.
If things change
Inevitably information and advice will be updated. I will endeavour to get this to you just as soon as I have it. In the meantime, I would encourage you to look after yourselves and others and follow guidance. Many thanks for reading through this far.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.
With our love and prayers,
Updated 20 December 2020
There are several ways you can get involved, whether it be serving, donating or joining one of our weekly life groups, we can point you in the right direction.