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. Links to the YouTube and Facebook pages can be found on the right.

  • Sunday Holy Communion: there is a service of Holy Communion each Sunday at 10.30. It can be found on the Benefice YouTube channel. When live-streamed, the video will appear on the page (it'll be under the heading "Upcoming Live Streams"). The stream will go live from just before 10:30. You can tune in earlier than that, allowing all congregation members to be involved in the worship as soon as it begins. The service itself will begin at 10.30am. You are welcome to have bread and wine with you if you wish.
  • Sunday Centre Community Church meets each Sunday at 4.30 with a recorded magazine programme of teaching and prayers (found on the Centre Community Church YouTube and Facebook pages) followed by a Zoom meeting of worship and discussion at 5.00. Details of the Zoom meeting are available on request and will be given at the end of the 4.30 service.
  • Sunday Evensong: news of an occasional Sunday Evensong will be given on the website.
  • Morning Prayer: there is a daily service of Morning Prayer which can be found on the Benefice YouTube channel.
  • Jesus' tales: there is a short daily reflection about the stories told by Jesus; these can be found on the Centre YouTube and Facebook pages.

Service 11th July 2020 & Booking in

I was glad when they said unto me, “let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122 v1)

Dear Friends,

Wonderful news! After the successful trial with a limited congregation last week we will be open for anyone in church this Sunday, 12 July at 10.30 in Standon. We will be continuing at Standon for the whole of July as we fine tune the system and sort out how to do live streaming at Little Munden. That is the headline but, as you can imagine, there is a lot more that needs to be said.

First, it is essential that anyone who wishes to come books first with Marion. It will be necessary to send her an email, you can use the details on the contact us page. Requests can be made from Monday morning to Friday evening. Bookings will be on a first come, first served basis. Marion will respond to each email to say if a space has been allocated or not. If someone is not on email, they can ask a friend to email for them. If people do not get a place in that week, they will be given priority for the following week, if that is desired. Also we will only be taking bookings for two weeks ahead, otherwise it will get too complicated. However please book - it would be great to be inundated with people wishing to worship rather than the other way around! Frankly we have no idea of what the demand will be, and it will be a bit of an experimental journey to begin with. Please bear with us!

You may be asking why it is necessary to have a booking system at all. The answer is that we will be doing everything to keep people safe and to keep within the government and church guidelines for safety. Therefore, the service will look somewhat different so that safety can be maintained.

  • Seating will be in alternate pews with one person per pew or one household or “bubble” sitting together. Pews and seats will need to be occupied from the front with the first arriving going to the front. So, the deeply held Anglican tradition of filling from the back will need to stop!
  • There will be no congregational singing and guidance advises no raised voices, because of the potential for increased risk of transmission. Spoken responses should also not be in a raised voice.
  • There’ll be no cash collection. Please continue to give to the work of your churches online or send your donation directly to one of the treasurers.
  • Use of sanitiser will be obligatory.
  • The toilets will be shut for now.
  • Similarly the kitchen will be closed, so we cannot offer refreshments after the service.
  • You will be given your own service sheet/booklet for you to keep and bring to following services. These will be produced hygienically. Please feel free to bring your own Bible or use an app.
  • You’ll be asked to leave church without lingering at the end of the service as directed from the south or west door. Outside, you can of course gather in a group of up to six (with social distancing) to chat with each other and catch up.
  • Wearing of face masks will be voluntary but perfectly acceptable.
  • Those leading the service will sanitise as appropriate at different times.
  • Government guidance includes a request that we keep a record of attendees for “track and trace” purposes. Thus, you need to be aware that Marion’s records of who attends will be kept for 21 days and then disposed of.
  • Please arrive early. It will take longer than usual to get into church and, since we are live streaming, we will need to start on time.
  • The service for now will be Holy Communion.
    Please bring your own bread and wine.

So, who can attend?

  • Firstly, anyone showing symptoms of Covid-19 should not attend owing to the risk they pose to others.
  • Those who are shielding are not advised to attend places of worship.
  • We are also asked to remind you of current government advice which is that those who are at increased risk of severe disease from COVID-19, including people who are aged 70 or older are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if they do go out, to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside of their household. But I know that there are many over 70s who are longing to return and would consider this as essential for their spiritual well-being. The decision will be yours.
  • Children are very welcome but will need to be closely supervised by parents/guardians and kept with them at all times. None of the usual toys will be available.

Some final points:

  • The service will be live streamed for any who cannot attend.
  • For the remainder of this month there are major roadworks in Standon. The road into Standon High Street from the A120 is now permanently shut (a development today) until the end of July. The only way into and out of the High Street is via Bromley Lane (and Wellpond Green or Much Hadham). Furthermore, this Sunday the A120 is also closed on the Bishop Stortford side of the High Street. However, Philip Smith, opposite the vicarage, has kindly given us permission to park in his farmyard from where you can walk. I would advise parking there if at all possible. In any case, please be especially polite to any workmen you meet. They have been badly abused in their work in a very unfair way.
  • Our midweek services and the Centre and early Sunday services will resume at a later date. We need to learn to walk before we run.
  • As we are returning to church, Saturday 11 July will be the last of my daily Morning Prayer videos. It has been a joy to do and a learning process for me. Thank you to all those who have had this as part of their spiritual discipline. It is a wrench to stop but as things begin to open up the workload is increasing for me in other areas and also attendance is starting to decline (presumably for similar reasons). Therefore, I think it is better to stop on a high.
  • Re-opening our churches for public worship will inevitably be a time of mixed emotions – joy at being able to come together to worship in our church buildings; sadness for the loss or absence of some members of our church communities; uncertainty about what the future “new normal” may be. Keep praying that we may stay as one and praise God!

I look forward to seeing many of you on Sunday!

With much love in Christ
John

Reopening churches, Online resources, and Open Gardens

Dear Friends,

It has been a while since my last letter. I am sorry for this but I have been waiting for the main news below before writing this.

Reopening Churches

The government has said that it is now permissible to reopen churches for private prayer from 13 June. There was little notice on this and we are now doing all we can to reopen our three churches as soon as possible after Monday 15 June. In each of our churches there will be every attempt to minimize the possibility of infection. We will be limiting the area that can be visited, with toilets and kitchen areas off limits and there will be hand sanitiser available. There will also be clear notices outside each church stating that it is open, with the times of opening, and how to stay safe in the church and how to be safe for others.

Sunday services

There is also the possibility that Sunday services will resume in early July. We are awaiting the government announcement on this but anticipate, if it happens, that there will be significant restrictions.

  1. Firstly, we anticipate there will be no singing (as singing may propel the airborne virus further).
  2. Second there will be a limitation on seating so that social distancing is maintained. Exactly how many we can admit will depend on the church, the distance between pews and so on. This is being worked out now by the church wardens and will be clearly marked to do all we can to ensure safety. There may even have to be a “booking in” system!
  3. Third, we recognise that many will feel it is inappropriate for them to attend for health reasons. For this reason we intend to have a live streaming of the service so all can still be involved. Because only Standon has internet connection at present it may be that the initial services will need to be from Standon. However Little Munden is discussing how to provide internet provision as soon as possible.
  4. The live streaming will only feature those leading, reading and praying from the front so that there will be no safeguarding issues.
  5. As we may be using St Mary’s quite a lot in the future I intend, from next week until we can return to congregational worship, to record services in St Catherine’s and All Saints for the next two or so Sundays. It is possible to record services at present in church as long as only one household is represented, so only I can be filmed in the church, although we may have other contributions edited in.
  6. At present we have no plans to resume the midweek services or the 8.00 on Sunday. Also, The Centre will be delayed until it can return in a similar way to before the lockdown. In other words we will begin with just the 10.30 and see how we go. Please pray for all these matters to do with reopening our churches. Whilst it is not necessary to have a building to pray to God (or even to meet together), for many it is a great comfort and a witness.

On-line resources

We are continuing with our online resources for prayer, worship and teaching. There is still daily Morning Prayer (and if you don’t want to watch it all, you are welcome to skip to the reading and teaching) and the daily “Resurrection Tales”. These are nearly finished and a new series will begin, “Jesus’ tales”, looking at Jesus’ parables. Meanwhile we continue with our Sunday worship at 10.30 (see above) and at 4.30 with the Centre. All of this is on YouTube or Facebook, the links are both below and on our website.

Standon and Puckeridge Open Gardens

As with many other events, the Open Gardens 2020 had to be cancelled. However, there is a virtual Open Gardens, which is also a fund-raiser. You can see the gardens from 13 June, just follow the link on www.standonopengardens.com. At a donation starting at just £5, it is well worth a look!

In the meantime, please stay safe, keep praying for our nation and neighbours, and pray also for me!

Much love

John Chitham, Rector

Benefice Activities

Dear Friends,

This is another of the occasional pastoral letters that I am sending out to the Benefice during our present lockdown.

The first piece of news is very sad. I know many of you will have heard by now of the death of our great friend Stephen Coley. As you will probably know Stephen had been ill for a long time but nevertheless his death was sudden and to that extent unexpected. Our deepest condolences go to Tracey. Details of the funeral will be announced in due course, but this will be mainly for prayer, as only the closest of relatives can be present at this time of lockdown.

Secondly it is worth mentioning all the things we have going on in the Benefice (and wider) through social media. All the below have (or will have shortly – have patience!) links or information on how to get them on the website. The website will be the one-stop shop for the two YouTube channels, Facebook and Zoom links that we are using.
We have our daily Morning Prayer, which is put online at about 9 o’clock each morning. This is based on the Anglican Morning Prayer and uses the reading of the day. We have already looked at 1 Corinthians 15 and the Letter to the Colossians. From next week we begin the Gospel of Luke. This goes on all the way to August (!) so if you want to get an in-depth grip of one of the gospels, this is the chance. The words of the Morning Prayer are available from Marion. She will send them to you if you email her, and you can either print them or have them simultaneously on another device.
Each day I am recording little devotionals (of about 5 minutes) called “resurrection tales”. They are meditations on the resurrection stories for this Easter period.
Each Sunday there is a service of Holy Communion live at 10.30. Everyone is welcome to have bread and wine with them at home to join in an “agape” meal. On Sunday afternoons the Centre Community Church worship has restarted. This is at 4.30 (the time we met at the Community Centre). We are still in the experimental phase but at present it comprises a pre-recorded “magazine” style menu of teaching, prayers and testimony, followed at 5 by song and discussion on Zoom for whoever wishes to join.
Finally we have various Zoom meetings going on for home groups, which will be listedon the website.
At this stage I want to give the greatest thanks to Rich Franks who is doing the lion’s share of the social media technician work. It is a great burden (alongside a full-time job). Please have patience if things go down occasionally. I can assure you that he will be working behind the scenes to sort it out! (By the way, the Communion service is down after Sunday for a little editing and then reappears.) Also, thanks need to be given to Jo Swanwick who is doing a great deal of the Centre social media.

We continue to be Christians in this time of crisis. Do try to find the time to pray, study the scriptures and continue to have fellowship as best you can through social media. This could easily be a time of renewal for us amidst the pain and inconvenience.

With much love

John

Services during Holy Week

Dear Friends,

As I write another week has started. Our Queen has evoked the war image of “we’ll meet again” which she uniquely can say. We thank God for her and for her faith. And our Prime Minister has had to go to hospital due to the virus. I trust we will pray for him as we pray for our whole government.

But this week, of all weeks, has a greater meaning to it. This is Holy Week, where we remember the events from Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday. These events will be remembered long after COVID 19 is forgotten, because they are the turning point of world history. Our Lord’s journey to the cross, through the dark night of Gethsemane to trial, crucifixion and resurrection is how God reconciled the world to himself. Ordinarily we would be meeting for various services in our churches to pray, remember and celebrate these great deeds. This year, as we know, we cannot. Instead all will have to be done virtually.

Our service pattern will be on the website with links through to You Tube. We plan to have Morning Prayer every morning this week except Friday (and Sunday). On Thursday at 7.30 pm in the evening there will be a Maundy Thursday Holy Communion service following a pattern I have devised. On Friday we will have both the service around the cross (as usually happens at Little Munden) at 10.30 am in the morning and an hour at the cross with four reflections at 2 pm in the afternoon. On Sunday at 10.30 am we will have our Easter Holy Communion.

Please pray for these services; pray especially for Rich who will spend a long time setting them up. Pray that they will be transmitted successfully! And also tell your friends and neighbours about them. Many are asking questions at this time and to have something both local and gospel-centred can be a great witness.

I have recently received a meditation on Psalm 91 from a friend of mine, Ruth Guinness, who works in a Bible College in Malawi. I think it may well be a great help to many in our present situation and I have asked Rich to put it on the website. Do have a look at it.

Finally, as ever, continue to pray for each other, phone one another and keep an eye open for your neighbours. Feel free to call me if there is anyone who is poorly or struggling in any other way.

With much love and prayers

John

Closure of church buildings

Dear Friends,

It is such a sad day with so much closing down and so many lives affected. I need to confirm that in line with government and Church of England expectations our three church buildings, All Saints, St Catherine’s and St Mary’s will remain closed. However it's only the buildings that are closed. The church itself is us - and as a people of prayer, worship, pastoral care, witness and (where possible) practical action – the life of our Benefice goes on.

The government has indicated that live-streaming of services can continue and so (unless there is other guidance) we will continue a live-stream Sunday morning service at 10.30am and a service of Morning Prayer is available each day on our YouTube channel. (search UBSMS YouTube). The Sunday live-streaming will always need to be from St. Mary’s as it is the only church with an internet connection that will allow live streaming. However I hope that we can move the recorded Morning Prayer videos around a little.

Please be assured of the prayers of our church community. Please continue to ask for and offer your prayers.

Please see our facebook and twitter pages or website for ways to keep in touch. Here we will post links to services, readings, prayers and information - and we will aim to keep these as up to date as possible.

f we church can help you in any way at this time, then please contact us. Details can be found on the contact page.

Do not forget, as we will be reminded in Morning Prayer next week, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever”. In the midst of our changing situation, he remains constant.

With much love,

John

Coronavirus Update

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you again about how we go forward as a benefice in both worship and pastoral care.

Pastoral Care

Firstly, on pastoral care. We are planning to try to set up a pastoral chain among the church family so that no-one is left out if there is any kind of need. Essentially everyone in the Benefice family (St Catherine’s, St. Mary’s, the Centre and All Saints) for whom we have details and can contact will have a person who will keep in touch and ensure that everyone is OK. They will also try to fix up help as it is necessary (not that they will do everything!). We will be contacting you shortly to say who you can contact and who will be contacting you. Needless to say, this will not preclude any other friendship contacts that you already have.

Also connected to the pastoral care is our responsibility in Christ for our neighbours and friends in the community. As Jesus says, “...Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? ’“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40)

So, we want to encourage each one of us to reach out to those who are in isolation in their homes. How can I help? We suggest that each of us identifies those who are self-isolating in our part of the village and contact them with a friendly phone call or note now and then and helping them in whatever ways we can. We will be collating advice on how that might be done and sending it out a little later.

Worship

The second area in church life that we are working on is worship. On Sunday we will live- stream a Communion service from St. Mary’s. This will include readings and a talk but sadly will only be me in the church (and probably Rich Franks a suitable distance away!). However I will trust that the congregation will be real but just not visible! We hope to do this each Sunday for the foreseeable future. It will be streamed on our YouTube channel, which can be found here. If you wish to have bread and wine with you for an “Agape” meal at home during the service you are very welcome.

In addition, I plan to create a VLOG (video log) each morning from Monday to Saturday with the Anglican Morning Prayer. This will include readings, a short talk, a song and prayers. I hope that you will be able to join me each morning. Again, these will be on YouTube here.

Please keep in contact and please follow the government advice. It is essential for the safety of all but especially the vulnerable.

With every blessing in Christ
John

COVID-19 Pandemic

Dear friends,

We write firstly to assure you of our support, prayer and love. This is a time of great anxiety and uncertainty where many are worried for health, loved ones and finances. We are writing this as an initial letter to give you some information and will write more fully shortly.

As you will have heard, all church services are suspended. Therefore there are no Sunday services, including The Centre, or midweek services in the Benefice. However, we’re looking into online services and other social media support.

Secondly, we are also looking into how we can give the maximum pastoral and spiritual support for those in any kind of need. Again, there’ll be more information coming out about this very shortly. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to be in contact with John or Marion if there is any urgent need of any kind.

John

Is belief in God dangerous?

As I go around speaking to people there are some who say to me that belief in God in dangerous. “Look at all the bad things religion has done in the world”, they say, “wars and bigotry and division. If that is what God is like, I prefer to have nothing to do with him.” And I have to say that I agree entirely, if that is what God is like. There is no doubt that some religious movements have done terrible things. This is certainly true of some kinds of Islam today, and indeed at times misguided Christianity. For example, Christians hang their heads in shame when recalling the Crusades. However, I do not believe it is that simple. In the last hundred years or so it has not been belief in God but non-religious movements that have caused the most trouble. Secular movements like Imperialism (think World War One), Fascism (World War Two), Communism (Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot) and tribalism (the Rwandan genocide) have led to the murder of millions and millions of people.

Well, someone might say, that is not my type of secularism. To which I can only say, the Crusades are not my type of Christianity, my type of religion. As a Christian I follow Jesus the Christ. His way to worship God was to sacrifice for others, to love and to die for them. He denounced injustice but also told us to turn the other cheek and to forgive others. He literally died for each one of us, to give us an example but also to win the spiritual war. The way of Christ is to resist evil through self-giving and love.

Belief in God as we see God in Jesus is not dangerous, except in one respect. If you begin to follow him with all your heart you will be completely changed. In that sense there is nothing more dangerous than believing in God, if by dangerous we mean having our lives turned upside-down. But that kind of danger is for our good and for the good of everyone around us. That kind of danger I can advocate whole heartedly!

John Chitham, Rector

Subscribe to