Welcome to our Benefice

Our four churches: St. Mary’s, Standon, All Saints, Little Munden, St. Catherine’s, Sacombe and the Centre (our church plant in Puckeridge) are all part of the St. Alban’s Diocese within the Church of England. We are united in name and the desire to welcome every person, young and older, into our wonderful community minded church families. Our hope is to help everyone discover who Jesus is, and then to grow in understanding and faith. We have beautiful church buildings, a fantastic Benefice Choir, various styles of worship, partnerships with two excellent Church of England Schools, and a clear Bible based ministry. We believe that our Benefice is a great place to be and great fun to boot. We look forward to welcoming you into any of our activities some time very soon!

Online Services

There are a number of services recorded or streamed live in the Benefice during this time of COVID 19. Details and links to the appropriate social media are on the right.

Services following the 19th July lifting of restrictions

From 19th July, all legal restrictions are lifted on services in our churches. We want to take advantage of the easing, but we also want to keep everyone safe, and we know, too, that some will be nervous about the new freedoms. This is what we have decided for now:

  • there will no longer be a booking in process for services so there is no longer a need to let Marion know you are coming, but you will need to ‘sign in’ when you arrive so we know who’s there
  • we ask that everyone continues to wear a mask, to protect those around you
  • we will be able to sing, praise God, but we will have fewer hymns than usual, and we ask that you sing through your mask to minimise the risk, except when we’re outside
  • Bibles, hymn books and service orders will be in the pews rather than handed out by welcomers
  • there will be ‘please leave this seat free’ notices in the pews for you to use to help distance yourself from others – please leave all books etc in the pews afterwards
  • there will be an area in each church where chairs will be placed spaced out, so that distancing can be guaranteed
  • we will offer communion to those who wish to receive it at the front, but we will continue to provide individual elements as we’ve been doing. We won’t be sharing the chalice, and we will arrange it so that we’re not touching surfaces
  • for now, we won’t serve coffee and tea, but we’d like to know how you feel about it, so please let us know. If we do decide to serve refreshments, we’ll need more helpers!
  • there will be feedback forms available in the pews; please fill one in and let us know if you have other suggestions or concerns

If you are at all worried about any of this, please speak to John.

Sacombe Faculty

NOTICE IS GIVEN that we are applying to the Consistory Court of the diocese for permission to carry out the following:

The introduction of a commemorative plaque in the ringing room, recording the restoration of the bells in memory of Johanna Wheeler.

For full information, please view the faculty form here

Resumption of Services

Dear Friends,

It is a great pleasure to be able to write to you now that there is more hope in the air. It has been a hard winter with both the virus and the weather, but on both fronts there now seems to be relief in sight! As a church we continue to pray for our villages and lift you to God. On a more practical front we are delighted in the take up of the boxes of hope for those who have been struggling in particular.

You will see on this flyer that our services in person are resuming. We felt, for reasons of personal safety, that it was wiser to continue online for a while, but as of Palm Sunday (28th March) we will be in church again. This is a great joy but sadly there will still be masks, social distancing and no singing, as well as the need to book in.

Other work is happening in and around the church. The fundraising for the Sadleir tombs is gathering pace and we hope to start the work this year. Before Easter the work on the lime trees should be done, so that they do not start to present a danger. They may look bare for a while but will come back! Also, you will see elsewhere that we are having our usual Holiday Club after Easter. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call me.

The greatest news of all for Christians is Easter. I know it comes round every year, but it is still, in my opinion, the greatest news ever, and especially in this year. Many have been bereaved, either through COVID 19 or through other illnesses, and often the funerals have had to be limited in scope and numbers. There is a sadness in the air. But the events of Easter give the greatest hope. This is the story of the only human ever to have died and to have conquered death. He is the one who shows that there is life after death and what that life is like. This is one of the great reasons why Christians look to Jesus all the time: He conquered death!

Even in the midst of the awful virus there is hope: in vaccines, in the love of others, in government support, but above all that there is the hope of eternal life. May God bless you this Easter!

With love in Christ
John

Upcoming Events

Dear Friends,

I trust that you are well and surviving the latest lockdown. I am aware of how hard it is for many, and this lockdown seems harder than the last ones. In all of this we, above all, have consolation: the good news that God loves us and cares for us.

We are approaching the season of Lent and I want to announce two upcoming events. The first is a Pancake Party on Zoom at 6.00 pm on Shrove Tuesday, 16th February. The idea is that we join together with our pancakes and frying pans and cooked pancakes and have a mass flip! There will be a little teaching and then fellowship in breakout rooms. If you are interested you can join Zoom with the ID 7691169359 and passcode 123456. Please invite your friends along as well from outside the church. It should be fun!

The second is our Lent course which will begin the Wednesday after Ash Wednesday 24th February at 7.00 pm, again on my Zoom 7691169359, this time without a passcode. I hope that this will be given priority over home groups, (although there is nothing to stop there being an additional meeting!). The material for the course will be on the website ubsms.org.uk, so that you can open the material at the same time as Zoom on the computer. Alternatively you could print out a hard copy (if you have a printer) or ask Marion for hard copies (preferably as a last resort). The course is one developed by Winchester Diocese entitled, “Sharing God’s Life” and in the 5 weeks we will be looking at, Who we are and what we are called to; Loving; Living; Serving; and Personal spiritual goals. In each session there will be music, a short video, a Bible reflection and a time to interact together with the material mentioned above.

Meanwhile we continue to have our services online, Sundays and midweek at ubsms.org.uk and the Centre on Zoom on Sundays. Please look up the daily service if that would help. This will include an Ash Wednesday morning service. The PCCs are monitoring when we can return to live worship in our churches. I can assure you it will be as soon as we feel it is safe. However even then, to begin with at least, it is highly likely that there will be limited numbers as before.

One little thing to look forward to: this Sunday, 14th February, Charlie Hudson, who will be our curate in the Benefice after June, will be joining us at our coffee after the service. If you would like to meet her, do join us. We will have breakout rooms as normal; you never know you may be placed in her breakout room!

At this point I believe it is important to try not to get down-hearted. We are all feeling the pressure and there are times when we are low. However there are two ever-present resources. The first is God, in the form of his Spirit, who encourages and guides us. Look out for him in your daily lives! The second are our brothers and sisters in the Benefice. Phone someone if you are down. Phone someone if you haven’t heard from them or are concerned. In short, do support one another.

With all best wishes in Christ,

John

Give thanks for the small things

Dear Friends

It is now over a year since COVID 19 was first detected in China, at the end of 2019. It is over a year since we started to realise that it might be serious. It will not be long before it is the first anniversary of the beginning of the first lockdown. And yet here we are, in the middle of another lockdown, with no pubs or foreign holidays, many off work, most children at home, the NHS at the limit, quite possibly a serious bereavement and, to add to the misery, it is winter as well. What is there to cheer us?

I have found that it has become a time of small things. The Santa Claus competition in Dane End brought people together in a new way. People always seem ready for a chat outside the shop, whereas before we might have been too busy. Just before this present lockdown, when restaurants were closed, we went to the service station just off the M11 at Bishop’s Stortford and found that not only were the takeaways operating, but you could sit and eat your food. It may have been illegal (I honestly do not know) but that lunchtime KFC and Burger King felt like a gourmet meal out!

There are other small things that make a difference to me. It might be my imagination, but the snowdrops seem brighter and bolder this year. The Red Kites seem to shine in the air with black, white and orange. The snow was joyous when it came and the days are noticeably longer. There is light at 5 o’clock! In the midst of the gloomy weather and newscasts there are these shafts of light.

However, there is something more that these small things do for me, and that is to make me want to give thanks. Right now we are often critical of authority (perhaps with reason), getting tired and tetchy and also depressed. Yet when I start noticing these small things that brighten everything, I want to give thanks. It seems a strange thing. Why would I want to give thanks? I guess that this is a common emotion, the sense that there is a need to be grateful. But at root I think it is something God put in us as human beings; as far as we can see it is not in other animals.

Giving thanks to God for these small mercies is very liberating. We have been so used to getting what we want much of the time that we often used to miss these blessings. And blessings are what they are, an indefinable sense of something wonderful creeping up on us unawares. So, as you see a beautiful sunset, a child laughing, a robin on the bird table, a friendly greeting, a snowflake floating down, take a moment, look more closely and thank God. There are enough bad things around us right now without us missing the blessings God gives.

Summary of Letter

Dear Friends,

Although I sent a letter last week, I thought it would be good to give the headlines as bullet points in case you missed them:

  • Church services in church are cancelled for the time being for safety reasons. This includes funerals (graveside only) and weddings (except in emergencies)
  • Church services are online at 10.30 each Sunday via You Tube on our website, and the Centre at 4.30 via Zoom
  • After the 10.30 service there is coffee “together” via Zoom. The Zoom number is 7691169359 with no password. An invitation will be sent out.
  • Daily Morning Worship has resumed each morning as at the last lockdown. Again it is available on YouTube via the Benefice website

I hope that that brief summary of headlines is helpful!

Blessings

John Chitham, Rector

Another Lockdown

Dear Friends

So, we enter another lockdown! We are praying for the vaccine to be rolled out which seems the only exit from this virus. But beyond that, as Christians, we need to be looking to God, to be learning from Him in these difficult times, and to trust in Him.

Pastoral Care

As we start, we want to ensure that everyone is kept safe and looked after. If the pastoral phone groups, that were very active last time, have lapsed, I will try to make sure they are re-instated. Travelling is once again limited, as is meeting one another, so our electronic communications will be more important than ever.

No live services in Church

The one positive thing for Church communities is that we are allowed to meet together for worship. However, it is not as easy as that. We had an emergency Standing Committee meeting on Tuesday and decided, with great reluctance, to move to online services on Sunday (instead of meeting in person) and to suspend the Tuesday morning service in Sacombe. It also means that funerals will be graveside only.

Why did we do that? I have to say that I was reassured and settled in spirit after the discussion. There was an extremely strong concensus that this was the right decision. There were various reasons. First, we learnt that the virus is transmitting even more strongly than we realise and we need to have regard for the safety of vulnerable people. Secondly, having been already stripped of singing, fellowship and interaction after the service, now we literally should not communicate with one another before, during or after church. This is inhuman and frankly won’t happen. Thirdly, last Sunday we had extremely low numbers: people are already voting with their feet. And finally, something which occurred to me forcibly later, this is actually a good witness. We will be suffering like everyone else and not be seen happily chatting outside church every Sunday morning.

Online service provision

The great silver lining, a provision from God, are the services online. We intend to record ahead of time, to avoid any internet connection problems. Theservices can be on our Benefice YouTube channel, (which can be located via our website www.ubsms.org.uk) at 10.30 on Sundays. To this I am going to try to add an innovation which other churches have found successful. We will, through Zoom, have coffee after the 10.30 service. This will start after the service and you need to log in through my Zoom account number 7691169359, with the password 123456. The Centre continues to be online on Zoom through the same account at 4.30 every Sunday.

To add to that, I will resume the daily Morning Worship that we had in the first lockdown, although this time with a simpler liturgy that will be on screen. I hope that this will help us spiritually during the lockdown. You can access this service as for the Sunday services on our YouTube channel which you can reach via our website. Do give it a try.

I pray that in all of this we will seek God and not succumb to the temptation to drift from Him. Now is the time to pray, read the scriptures and love one another more than ever!

With much love in Christ,

John Chitham, Rector

Advent 2020 Box of Hope

We are all acutely aware that the pandemic of recent months and the restrictions it has brought to the way we live have caused serious and devastating changes to a great many lives.
As we seek to follow Jesus and to show his love and his care in our community, our benefice would like to help.

In partnership with the Red Balloon Foundation, our ministry partners, we will be running our Advent outreach during the whole of December. During that time, we are offering to anyone who is struggling right now for any reason a ‘Box of Hope’. The box will contain essential food and household supplies, as well as a small Christian booklet, and it will be available to anyone in our benefice or on our electoral roll who has need of it. If you’re not sure whether you live in our benefice, there is a map on the Boxes of Hope website at www.rbf.org.uk/ubsmshope.

You can refer yourself or a relative or neighbour by logging into the Boxes of Hope website, www.rbf.org.uk/ubsmshope, or by ringing the freephone number 0800 678 5124 (extension 0) if you don’t have access to the internet.
Your call will be taken by a Red Balloon Foundation staff member. RBF will also be administering the website for us and information about your personal circumstances given as part of the assessment process will not be shared with local benefice members.

If you would like to know more about the scheme, please visit the Boxes of Hope website, or contact Caroline Franks at [email protected]

If you would like to support this initiative financially, details of how to do that are also on the Boxes of Hope website, www.rbf.org.uk/ubsmshope.

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