Newssheet May 17th

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Dear Friends,
Last week I made the mistake of choosing to go for a walk just before 8pm on a Thursday night.
It wasn't long before people were coming out of their houses with pots and pans and clapping for the NHS. I joined in and waved — agreeing with the sentiment of appreciation whilst also being rather embarrassed to be walking through an avenue of applause!

This week marks the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Florence Nightingale. She was a trailblazing nurse leading the way in a man's world and known as a pioneer of modern medicine, raising standards of education and promoting the importance of hygiene and handwashing (very topical).

Florence is famous for her work during the Crimean War where she led the way in caring for wounded soldiers and servicemen. She was of course known as 'The Lady with the Lamp' gaining such a reputation as she visited the wards carrying a light, late into the night.

There are many famous quotes attributed to her:
'Live life while you have it — life is a splendid gift — there is nothing small about it.'
'Rather, ten times die in the surf heralding the way to a new world than stand idly on the shore.'

On Tuesday 12th May people were invited not to clap but to light a lamp in honour of both Florence Nightingale on her birthday and also all those nurses risking their lives whilst working on the front line.
What an inspiration some people are as they give of themselves sacrificially out of compassion for the needs of others.

It reminds us of the words of Jesus:
'Greater love has no one than this, than he lay down his life for his friends.' (John 15.13)

A special thank you to those of you who created rainbows to place in our church windows (Thank you for 3 more rainbows since writing and all up in the church notice boards outside — keep them coming!)

Life after Lockdown — Places of Worship

Following Boris Johnson's announcement last Sunday, a conditional road map for life after the lockdown has been emerging.

The freedom to go for any number of walks in the countryside.
The opportunity to meet up with one family member/friend in public area following social distancing.
Work from home if you can, but if not begin to go back to work.
Plans for some children to return to school and so on.

Included in the government's roadmap is tentative guidance regarding public places of worship. This is found in phase three and not before July at the earliest.

I am sure you are all excited at the prospect of a return to public worship, meeting with friends, singing our hymns and of course hanging on to every word of the latest sermon!

However, the guidance coming from government and our national churches remind us that we have a long way to go before meeting as once we did, requiring us act responsibly and safely.

Any re-opening is likely to be done in small phased steps over a long period of time.

Some things we will need to consider are:

Social distancing (at 2mtrs apart we can get about 15-20 people max. in Alton Church!)
Hygiene and Hand Washing
Cleaning of the building before and after each use
People over 70 and all those at risk being most vulnerable/being shielded.
Greeting one another, singing (particularly dangerous!), preaching, Holy Communion, refreshments all posing significant risk to the spread of the virus.

The phased return of church will by necessity need to look very different from the 'old normal' but do be reassured, patient and encouraged that the wider church will and are offering practical guidance.

So I invite you to start thinking about the question: What will a church service look like when we first return?

In the meantime, we continue to 'Be Church' at home, worshipping, supporting and praying for one another.

Good News Stories...
Why not send me by email, just a sentence or two about a good news story you have experienced in the last few weeks — something that has made you smile or caused you to be thankful.

Here's one sent in from Rowledge:
David & Aileen have hosted coffee mornings on their drive almost every day since lockdown. We have three regulars plus passing acquaintances. Busy traffic on the corner provides endless conversation and passers-by stop to pass the time of day. Yesterday we managed coffee followed by VE Day tea finishing with early evening drinks. Lovely weather has aided our efforts (all at a social distance and in a unique location-stay safe!)

Sunday Worship — Hymns, Songs, Readings and Reflections led by Liz George. Please visit the Alton Methodist Church web site front page - available on Sunday mornings:

A Blessing
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

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