Remembering HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Dear friends,

Yesterday was a day of sad news for all of us, but especially for Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family. Please hold them in your thoughts and prayers.

At such a time as this, there would usually be many opportunities for individuals to show their respect and gratitude to the Prince, as well as their love and concern for the Queen. However, we are still limited in what we can do, and Her Majesty has made it clear that she does not wish any of the mourning to put anyone at increased risk and that therefore no special exceptions are made to general regulations at this time.

In the light of these restrictions, it seemed that the simplest and legally safest approach was to change our services tomorrow (Sunday 11th April) to give people a chance to pay their respects.

As always, let me encourage you to make your decisions based on your own circumstances. No one should put themselves or others at extra risk. To this end, weather- and technology-permitting, we intend to offer the following options:

1 Services in each parish church, with attendance up to the maximum allowed under Covid regulations. Each service will also be amplified into the church yard. This way if the numbers are above the maximum, or if you simply prefer not to gather inside at this time, it should be possible for you to join with others.

2 The service in St Andrew’s, Heddington will be streamed live via Facebook. The link is https://www.facebook.com/events/272555127835005/ and should work even if you do not have a Facebook account. However, the internet is not always reliable, so please accept my apologies if this doesn’t work, and consider option 3 below.

3 A recording of that service will be made available afterwards on this website to watch when you wish.

The service times are as follows:

St Mary’s, Calstone 9.45am
St James’, Cherhill 10am
St Andrew’s, Heddington 11.15am
St Swithin’s, Compton Bassett 2.30pm
All Saints, Yatesbury 4pm

With every blessing

Matt and team

Villages magazine back, and Easter services update

It feels like an age since I last had something to update here. This time, two pieces of good news:

Because the rate of infection is falling, we have decided to restart the Villages magazine. It will be slightly staggered, so that each issue can provide information matching the stages of the Roadmap, so won’t be coming out on the first of each month like usual.

Secondly, we are going to be having more services in our churches again. These will begin with a service of Holy Communion in each church on Easter Sunday. Details of these and the rest of the services for April can be found here, in the Villages magazine, and in the “News” section of the website. This is a reduced rota, partly because it is still challenging to provide services in the current climate, but also because without singing and chat not everyone wants to be back in church. There will be an online service available each week as well, as long as we can manage.

Don’t forget to send me your pictures on the theme of Hope or New Start by next Sunday.

Blessings

Matt

Villages magazine pause

We have decided to once again suspend publication of the Villages magazine. This is for 3 reasons:

  1. While the risks involved in delivering the magazines are small, any unnecessary risk should be avoided,
  2. The government has asked us to stay at home, and we want to support that message by not making extra journeys, and
  3. In any case, there is little material and so much uncertainty at the present, that it would be confusing to put in adverts which are not correct or where dates have had to be changed.

Whether we restart in March or April depends on the course of the pandemic and the success of the vaccinations.

Your subscriptions (and advertising) will of course be extended

Blessings
Matt and team

Christmas update 23rd December 2020

Dear all

Given the large number of changes the government has had to make recently, I thought it might be useful to update you regarding services in the Oldbury Benefice this Christmas.

First, as yet no services have been cancelled. Even in Tier 4 the government permits public worship to continue provided appropriate measures are taken to keep people safe. We feel that our measures are at least in line with best practice, and if you follow the rules, we can continue to meet safely.

However, I am aware that many of you feel it is no longer appropriate to gather, and I have much sympathy for that position. In fact, I would go so far as to say something I never thought I would say as a vicar – if you are able to get through this Christmas without coming to church, maybe you should do so! To help with that, I will be putting a communion service online (on Youtube) on Christmas Eve at 11pm, so that you can use it instead of a midnight communion service or on Christmas morning itself. Do please consider seriously whether this would be the better option for you and your loved ones.

If you do come to one of the services (and you are most welcome to do so, although you do need to pre-book for Calstone and Heddington, and it would be helpful if you could let me know for Cherhill or Compton Bassett), please follow the rules carefully. If we reach our capacity, I regret that we will have to turn people away. This is something else I never expected to do as a vicar, but please understand why it may be necessary.

Please stay safe this Christmas.

With prayers and blessings

Matt

Carol and Christmas Services – keeping each other safe

As you hopefully already know, Cherhill, Heddington and Yatesbury will be holding outdoor carol services this year. We are all very grateful not only that this is possible, but also that a limited amount of singing is also permitted.

However, no one wants these wonderful events to be the cause of suffering, so could I ask you to follow the guidelines below so that we look after everyone.

1 Hands, face, space. As usual, please come with washed hands, face masks and keep your distance from others. I know we are outside, but wearing masks will reduce the risk even further, so please do consider this seriously, especially while singing.

2 Keep the volume down. The risk of spreading covid is linked to the volume of sound produced rather than whether you are singing or speaking. Could we ask you therefore to sing at a normal conversation level, even if the carols lend themselves to enthusiasm.

3 Follow the one way system. This is intended to keep everyone apart as much as possible.

4 Stick to your cone. We will have measured out 4m between each cone. This should allow you to gather as a group of up to 6 around a cone while still keeping 2m from anyone else. Please don’t move away from that cone (except to leave), even though I know it is tempting to look for a better line of sight sometimes.

5 Respect the numbers. We think there is more than enough space at each venue for the people with links to that village, church or school. They are intended for these people only (and of course family if you have decided to gather for a Christmas bubble). Once we have reached our safe limits we will have to turn people away. Please understand that we would LOVE to host everyone who wants to be there, but safety is the most important consideration.

6 Please do not hang around for long afterwards.

Sorry for all the “don’ts”. I hope they are all straightforward, and you can understand how they meet what we are all being asked to do at these times. We want these services to bring joy rather than sickness. To that end, we are more than happy for you to share these experiences with others via video (including live via FaceTime or similar), but I would be grateful if you respected the privacy of others there by not sharing images or videos publicly in social media without the permission of those who can be clearly seen in them, especially children.

Looking forward to sharing a safe and joyful Christmas with you all.

Matt and the team.

If you wish to view the Risk Assessments for the outdoor carol services please click on the village you are interested in to download a PDF file.

Heddington

Cherhill.

Remembrance

In the light of the latest government guidance relating to the new lockdown, we have had to cancel all public Remembrance services. However, it is possible for services to go ahead in a different format, so the current plan is as follows (subject to change, I’m afraid):

Sunday 8th, 10.45am

On Sunday, there will be gatherings at the War Memorial in Compton Bassett and the Garden of Remembrance in Heddington. The services are limited to those involved in them, serving or retired military, and those representing the community or a relevant charity. If you are in that group and think you should be there, could you please contact the Royal British Legion for Heddington, or the Parish Council for Compton Bassett. Numbers will have to be limited for everyone’s safety.

Tuesday 10th, 6pm

There will be a service from St James’ Church Cherhill, with the Scouts (including Beavers and Cubs) joining via Zoom.

Wednesday 11th, 10.45am

There will be a service by the War Graves in All Saints’ Churchyard, Yatesbury. I regret that this service is closed to the public and will be streamed only.

The services at Compton Bassett, Cherhill and Yatesbury will be streamed live via Youtube (look for “Oldbury Benefice”) and are open to everyone to watch. A direct link for each service will also be available on this website in the “Online Services” section and we will try to share the links via email and Facebook as widely as possible.

Please note, all the services will be more or less identical, so it is a case of which one you wish to view, if any. You may prefer to follow the suggestion of the Royal British Legion and stand at your door in silence for 2 minutes at 11am on Sunday morning.

Finally, although there is a general bann on singing, special permission has been given to sing the national anthem on this occasion.

Back everywhere!

6 months after we were required to shut our churches to public worship, and 2 months after services recommenced in Heddington and Calstone, we are finally going back into all our churches. Look out for services in Cherhill, Compton Bassett and Yatesbury.

It isn’t possible to have services everywhere each week, so do keep a look out for where the services are each week. You can find the latest details on this website, in the Villages Magazine, and on https://www.achurchnearyou.com.

We will also continue to provide online services for those who feel uncomfortable inside with others – at least a live stream of one of the services, and a pre-recorded option where possible.

Looking forward to seeing you at something over the next few weeks.

Matt, Linda and the Oldbury Benefice

Harvest

Harvest services in our churches will be a little different this year. Usually, we decorate the churches and invite you to join us in church for a celebration of thanksgiving. This year we are going to do things slightly differently.

Not all churches will be having a harvest service.

Those that are having one will be having it outside to ensure that as many people as possible who wish to come can do so while feeling safe. There will be no singing, but we will have a short service of thanksgiving and prayer, including a chance to donate tinned or packaged goods to the Calne Food Bank.

The dates are at the bottom of the Welcome page of this website, but in summary, they will be on Sunday 27th September:

Calstone 9.45am
Cherhill 10.00am
Heddington 11.15am

Please do come and join us if you can.

Matt and Linda

Updated advice for church services – face coverings will be compulsory from 8th August

Wear a face mask

We have been preparing to restart public services to a limited extent in our churches. Following the government’s advice, we had made the wearing of face coverings a matter of personal choice, although it has always been strongly recommended when you are indoors with people you don’t usually meet.

However, following today’s announcement from the Prime Minister, it will no longer be optional – you must wear a face covering unless you are exempt.

While this new rule only comes into effect next Sunday, may I strongly advise you to wear a mask this week already if you are planning to attend church. We will be keeping the services short – approximately 30 minutes – to minimise the risk and to reduce the inconvenience some experience when wearing a mask.

Zoom coffee morning this Sunday

A reminder that this Sunday at 11.30 we will be hosting a zoom coffee morning. Anyone is welcome, whether you have attended church regularly before or not. If you want to join, then please email me (mattearwicker@gmail.com) or use the contact form and we will email you the instructions for joining in.

Matt