Pastoral Letter: w/e17th July 2021

Dear Friend from Bridport United Church, Uploders Methodist Church or Hope & Radipole United Reformed Churches,

We’ve been thinking a lot about ‘the future’ in recent weeks (the shorter-medium term rather than our ‘ultimate future’ I ought to add!) and in particular about the provision of alternative services, particularly now we are back regularly providing live services.  But before I get to alternative / virtual ones, let me report on the feelings of those who good folk who attended last weeks Church Meeting and AGM at Bridport United Church.

The general feeling was that, even though the restrictions we have needed to live with are being lifted to a voluntary level rather than being compulsory and legally-enforced, there was no general mood for a ‘big-bang’ removal of them all in services. Bearing in mind that we are indoors, with limited ventilation and, with more infectious variants about locally now, we agreed that we would:

  1. Continue the current Communion practice (prepared very hygienically, covered throughout service and prayers and distributed without touch);
  2. Continue to recommend mask-wearing throughout the service so we continue to protect others;
  3. Rearrange the chairs so that distancing can continue albeit a bit more relaxed to one chair distance rather than two and with greater space front to back;
  4. Over time consider removing alternate chair row restrictions;
  5. Recommence congregational singing, though sitting and wearing masks.

This will all be subject to review as news about the progress of the pandemic develops.  We hope this will mean folk will be happy to return in more normal numbers to Sunday services.

Which brings me to the topic of alternative services.  Since the first lockdown, we have been able to tap into the talents of the preachers and ministers across the Circuit and offer a Written Service, a Video Service (on YouTube) and an Online Live one, using the video conferencing software Zoom.  

I have taken responsibility at the Bridport & Uploders end of the Circuit to send out these options and all the relevant links via email, additionally including our friends in the Hope and Radipole United Reformed Churches in the Weymouth area.  

Since in-person services have become widespread, the numbers attending the Zoom service have dropped significantly from a peak of 120 computers during lockdown to a recent Sunday with fewer than 20.  Thus, our instinct is that this is suggesting a drop in demand, though we feel there is benefit in having, perhaps a monthly Circuit-wide evening service on Zoom or indeed on special occasions?

The video services are also getting a greatly reduced number of ‘hits’ and currently only Rev'd John, myself are currently producing these.  We have the periodic option of a Soul Space Video to give us respite - but they may go live soon, I am retiring at the end of September and a weekly video is clearly too much of a burden to continue for John.  Again a monthly video service or special occasion one would be an option?

Which brings me to the Written Services which have been universally appreciated and we are loathe to cease this option.  There are a large number of folk ready, wiling and able to produce these services and it has been a joy to realise that some of our folk who have been hardly contacted in recent years, plus those who have been more or less house-bound since Spring 2020, have now been receiving a pastoral communication and pair of services every fortnight!  Thus we will not be stopping these and as long as I have permission to pass your email contact details to the Circuit Administration Team, they will happily continue to get them to those who receive it electronically.

However, there are those who are not able to access the internet and require a hard copy and, at the Bridport end of things, it is me who downloads, prints, labels and organises distribution (with a wonderful group of deliverers) of these Written Services and again that will not be an option by October.  

However, by then quite a number of those 40-odd who receive those hard copies may well feel that they can return to in-person services and no longer require a printed version?  

Thus, the purpose of this communication is to let you know the background, the direction of our thinking and to give you a chance to have a think about your own preferences for the future post-September?  In a future missive from me, you will receive a brief questionnaire allowing you to choose what alternative services, if any, you would like to receive?

Blessings from your Minister,

Peter Clark

So, here are your Sunday Options:
  1. This week’s Live in-person 10:30am Sunday services will be led by Gill Bumphrey at Bridport United Church and by Revs Chris Grasske & Peter Clark at St. Mary Magdalene, Loders.
  2. Video Services:  This week’s Circuit Video Service available on YouTube this week will be led by the Soul Space Team, with reflection by Jennie McGinlay and will be available from 5pm on Saturday evening:
  3. The Audio Service  from the United Reformed Church this week from the Daily Devotions Team is being led by Rev'd Sarah Moore, Assistant Clerk to Assembly and Transition Champion for the National Synod of Scotland.  Some of you will remember that Sarah preached at one of the Circuit Video Services earlier in the year.  Though regularly, now, worshipping in our own homes, the service is looking at building a home for the Lord.
    Hymns include
       Marty Haugen's Let us build a house,
       Praise to the Lord, The Almighty,
       John Newton's Amazing Grace and
       Sydney Carter's One more step along the world I go.  

    Here’s the Soundcloud link:
  4. Sunday’s virtual services is a bit different this week as we join the Circuit service for the Tolpuddle Festival and led by the President and Vice President of Conference plus the URC Moderator of General Assembly.  The service is being live streamed from the UCD YouTube page.  Here is the link to the UCD Youtube Page: