Covid-19

During the current emergency, it will not be possible for us to meet as a church in the usual way.  So we are putting steps into place to try and ensure that we continue to worship our Father God throughout this crisis.

Please see this video which explains the steps that we are taking:

Video Letter from the Rector 18th March 2020

We will be posting every week one service of worship by either live feed or recorded.  These will follow our usual pattern of services for Sundays during the month – please see our Services pages. So two a month will be parish communions and one will a family service mainly but not entirely focused towards children and one will be an informal service – Valley Worship which we hope to do via zoom.

Please follow this website but inserting your email in the field at the bottom right of our home page.  So far as Easter is concerned, it is looking as if we will not be able to hold an open air service as some have suggested, but again the service will be recorded or live streamed.  Naturally our usual events such as Maundy Thursday, The Way of the Cross and our Last Hour services will not occur this year.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is leading the nation in a week of prayer starting on Sunday 22nd March 2020 https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/news/latest-news/coronavirus-archbishops-call-national-day-prayer-and-action

Please do take part by saying the Lord’s Prayer as you wash your hands and by lighting a candle in your window at 7pm on Sunday evenings.

If you do need to talk to me during the week – to talk over any spiritual issue or if you are worried and anxious then please do drop me an email(rector@itchenvalleychurches.org) and we can fix a time for a FaceTime conversation or a Skype or even an old fashioned telephone call!

Also it strikes me that we are going to have to have a lot of self discipline to get through these times. One area of self discipline will be creating boundaries so that the days are different, one from another.  We must, of course, look after our bodies – good exercise etc and our minds – making sure that we are intellectually challenged beyond a daily diet of Netflix but also our spirit.  It might be a good idea for us each to identify one day a week – it makes sense for Christians to do this on Sundays –  when we seek to engage with God however we perceive him.  Joining with us on our on line services might be part of that engagement.  But also we hope to be able to launch on this website some courses for us to engage in while you are stuck at home.  We have already put up the Bible Course on line.  Suggestions have been made about running Alpha on line and possibly also The Marriage Course which we have so recently completed!

I will keep this page up to date to advise you of where we are in our planning from time to time.

Blessings at this difficult time and may you stay well

Alex

Rector

Itchen Valley Parish

Other Covid-19 Posts

A joint letter from the Parish Council and Itchen Valley Churches

Hope for when it isn’t ‘over before Christmas…or Easter’ Ezekiel 37:1-14 by Revd. Alex Pease

On Line Parish Communion Sunday 29th March 2020 at 10am

Daily Prayer and Prayer for the Coronavirus by Lucy Pease

Rector’s Video Letter 24th March 2020

Covid-19 Cooperation With Parish Council

Online Parish Communion Sunday 22nd March 2020

Co-ordinated response to Coronavirus Crisis

Lets make use of this time!

Holy Communion on line – a theological analysis

A very useful explanation by David Hilborn on the theological background to the idea of on line communion:David Hilborn is the principal of Moorlands College.  He was previously Principal of St John’s College, Nottingham and Assistant Dean of St Mellitus College, in whose founding he played a significant part.

Understandably in the current Covid-19 crisis, there’s been a lot of discussion of whether, and if so how, the Lord’s Supper could be celebrated in the context of ‘online church’. One person I’ve engaged with elsewhere suggested four possible options. 1 – Suspend it completely, reject all attempts at online celebration on the grounds that they’re inauthentic, and see the privation as something that will help us appreciate it all the more when it resumes. 2 – Stream the President’s celebration of it, and encourage others who watch that to treat it as a spur to prayer and reflection, but with no consumption of bread and wine at their end. 3 – Stream a President’s celebration, but then later distribute the elements he or she consecrates by Extension to those who have watched. And 4: Stream a President’s celebration and allow all watching to partake of their own bread and wine together wherever they are, when the Words of Distribution are said.

My response to these possibilities follows. It’s from an Anglican Evangelical perspective , but I offer it here because I think most of it reads across to other Evangelical perspectives, too: If there’s one aspect of Anglican doctrine and practice that allows significant leeway within certain basic parameters it’s the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion/Eucharist. Indeed, even in Common Worship’s allowing those three descriptors there’s a clear historic nod to this diversity – and that’s even before one considers the many higher church Anglican folk who complicate things further by calling it ‘Mass’. As it stands, Anglican theology here is a multi-layered hybrid of Lutheran consubstatiation, Calvinist receptionism and Zwinglian memorialialism, while certain rubrics and liturgical phraseologies bear awkward vestiges for Anglican Evangelicals of Roman instrumentalism – vestiges enthusiastically promoted and re-worked, of course, by the Oxford Movement. Arguments about the presence of Christ in the sacramental celebration – and more specifically with, in and under the elements themselves (or not!) – have been particularly varied through Anglican history. So, unequivocal assertions about what is ‘Eucharistically proper’ in the current extreme, unprecedented context should be treated with a degree of circumspection.

If (as I would) we foreground the 1552 injunction ‘Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving’, it might be possible to conceive of Option 4 as what ecumenical theologians call a ‘bearable anomaly’ in the present crisis. Sure, there IS something cardinal and foundational about a single loaf being broken and distributed in a single place for a gathered physical congregation – but that’s just not possible right now, and in any case the one-many/many-one dynamic is hardly very well borne out by the coin-sized pre-packed, pre-separated wafers served in many CofE parishes.

With respect to consecration, even pretty sacerdotal construals of Anglican presbyteral ministry would have to concede that consecration is the work of the Holy Spirit rather than of the President – a Spirit that, after all, ‘blows where it wills’. Can this Holy Spirit of God – trans-local and indeed omnipresent as it is – make multiple loaves in multiple places simultaneously the body of Christ for those who together and simultaneously partake from those loaves in ‘faith with thanksgiving’? Surely. Can that same divine Spirit bind disparate folk thus celebrating in several places into a unified body – one congregation? Surely. Is our unity in the body much more than spatial, even if importantly spatial this side of glory? Surely – read Hebrews 12:1ff and think of the fact that every act of true Christian worship is worship with a great cloud of witnesses – worship with the Communion of Saints, the worship of the Church Militant co-joined with the Church Triumphant. Is ‘remembering that Christ died for us, and feeding on him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving’ – even in such an exceptional, bearably anomalous way – preferable to conscious months-long non-celebration on the dubious theological grounds that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’? I would think so.

Hence, putting these core biblical and theological principles together, I would tentatively lean more towards Option 4 than Option 1 (a misapplication of a more general principle of self-denial), Option 2 (docetic and hyper-clerical), or Option 3 (elements by extension as potentially contaminative).

Yes, there are dangers of over-domestication and atomisation in 4, but the Passover roots of the Lord’s Supper are significantly domestic, plural and dispersed – as much based in distinct homes, around the dinner table, as in the more formal public ceremonies of the tabernacle or temple. Come to think of it, the Last Supper itself was in a domestic context – an upper room. Granted, Option 4 might potentially encourage folk to think they could ‘give up meeting together’ with others in public assemblies (cf. Heb. 10:23-25) – but the NT church does appear to have included house fellowships (like Lydia’s) as well as larger communal gatherings (1 Cor. 11:18). Yes, consumption would crucially need to be synchronous, lest oneness in time be compromised along with oneness in space. But still, of all the options offered here, Option 4 seems Scripturally and theologically the least worst – and just about tenable, if only for this extraordinary season.

Of course, for Anglican clergy, any actual practice of Option 4 would need to be discussed with their Bishop, who would probably consult his or her diocesan liturgical advisers, and/or the national Liturgical Commission. Yet as an exceptional variation under what the Canons call ‘reverend and seemly’ worship practice, I think it could be deemed sufficiently coherent and acceptable in the current pandemic. For non-Anglicans less bound by Canons and centralised decrees, I hope these thoughts might be more generally helpful.

David Hilborn