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Mass events move indoors and online

21 May 2020

Thy Kingdom Come and Walsingham pilgrimage to be on websites and apps


Members of the crowd sing during the Pentecost service in Trafalgar Square, last year. This year mass gatherings for the Thy Kingdom Come initiative will move online

Members of the crowd sing during the Pentecost service in Trafalgar Square, last year. This year mass gatherings for the Thy Kingdom Come initiative w...

THE annual prayer movement Thy Kingdom Come — which last year attracted tens of thousands of people to mass events around the world — begins today indoors and online, owing to the coronavirus.

Since its creation by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in 2016, the global call to prayer from Ascension Day to Pentecost has been defined by mass gatherings, worship, picnics, and parties (News, 14 June 2019).

Archbishop Welby said: “It seems we are having to reinvent everything this year. Thy Kingdom Come, which is normally a time of gathering and of being together, is now to be done at home. Well, praise God. That is where the Church began — in people’s homes, in people’s houses — and where, in many parts of the world, it still happens.”

The app Thy Kingdom Come has been relaunched, and a new initiative, “Prayer and Care”, suggests practical ways of caring for others during the 11 days. Digital and printable resources have also been listed on the website, including The Upper Room, a virtual prayer room for continuous prayer; a prayer journal with Bible readings, reflections, and an illustration by the artist Charlie Mackesy; and a “Digital Family Prayer Adventure Map” for children to learn about prayer in an accessible way.

The map is accessible through a separate augmented-reality app, which includes Bible-story animations and video reflections from Archbishop Welby, the CBeebies presenter Gemma Hunt, and children’s authors. A printed map was originally to be distributed to half a million Key Stage 2 children in church schools in England and Wales.

Archbishop Welby said: “Let us regain our confidence as we pray between Ascension and Pentecost this year, praying for the coming of the Spirit that all may know that Jesus Christ is risen, that Jesus Christ is Lord, and in his life and love, there is hope and peace, and call and purpose. May God bless you in your times of prayer; may you know his living presence in your home.”

The diocese of Canterbury has organised a series of videos, email reflections, prayers, sermons, and other downloadable resources. The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, said: “The virus has taken many things from us, but it cannot rob us of our connection with one another, or of our connection with God.” Her Pentecost sermon is available for churches to download in advance.

The Mothers’ Union (MU) is marking Thy Kingdom Come with a short service streamed on Facebook at 2 p.m. tomorrow. It will include a welcome from the Archbishop, a sermon from the Bishop of Penrith, Dr Emma Ineson, and a segment from the Anglican Communion lead for Thy Kingdom Come, the Very Revd Bob Key.

He said: “It is a gift that prayer can transcend all boundaries in this moment. Wherever we are in the world, I know we can find great comfort in that and through God’s love.”

The Worldwide President of the MU, Sheran Harper, said: “Given all that is happening around us, it feels right at this time that we join together in prayer and give thanks not only for our frontline workers, but also for our friends and family.”

The Holy House, which contains the image of Our Lady of Walsingham

Also moving online this year is the annual National Pilgrimage to the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham on Bank Holiday Monday. The Priest Administrator, the Revd Kevin Smith, has created a programme of live-streamed events on this year’s theme, Mary, Queen of All Creation. It starts at 11.45 a.m., and includes a sung mass in the nave, a homily by the Revd Tim Pike, Vicar of St Michael’s, West Croydon, and Shrine Prayers from the Holy House.

Fr Smith said: “While we sadly are unable to welcome pilgrims in person to this year’s event, it’s heart-warming that so many people have embraced digital platforms to keep in touch with the Shrine during the lockdown. Despite the challenging circumstances, we are determined to celebrate our flagship event with renewed zeal, and hope that pilgrims across the country will join us online for the celebrations next Monday.”

As the places-of-worship task force met to discuss a phased reopening of church buildings this week, the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) organised a free Zoom webinar on the implications for church services, music, and musicians. It is due to be hosted tomorrow by the RSCM’s Chair of Council, the Very Revd John Hall.

The panel is to include the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster; the Deputy Director of the RSCM, Canon Sal McDougall; the C of E’s national liturgy and worship adviser, Dr Matthew Salisbury; the RC Archbishop of Cardiff, the Most Revd George Stack; and the National Clinical Fellow at the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, Dr Charlie Bell. The webinar will conclude with a Q&A session.

This week, Bishop Foster asked the Government to recognise the service of Isle of Wight residents who are trialling an NHS Covid-19 tracking app. So far, about 60,000 people have downloaded the app, which is intended to track the spread of the virus and help with the tracing of contacts.

Speaking in a virtual session of the House of Lords this week, he said: “The people of the Island often feel, with some justification, I regret to say, that they are considered last, if at all. Now, despite questions about privacy, effectiveness, and roll-out, they have been the first to step up and make a significant contribution to the nation’s common good.”

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) has published new guidelines for faith-based organisations and communities to prioritise safeguarding during the pandemic, including advice on Zoom meetings.

The document, published last week, explains: “During the current outbreak, there have been significant changes to the ways that faith groups engage with their communities, and this poses additional challenges to adapt safeguarding practices to meet their needs.”

It includes advice on protecting people who may be more vulnerable to abuse and neglect: concerned individuals should contact their safeguarding officer for support and to make a referral to social-care services.

Faith communities should be particularly vigilant regarding families living in poverty, signs of exploitation and grooming of children, financial abuse and online gambling, domestic abuse, and online abuse, including hacking, it says.

It advises Zoom users not to advertise the meeting ID and password; to download the app directly from the website to avoid scams; to lock the meeting once all participants have joined; to disable participant screen-sharing; and to know how to place a call on hold in case of an incident or concern.

An assistant curate of Christ Church, Endcliffe, in Sheffield, the Revd Ben Tanner, has taken to YouTube to answer questions about life and faith during the lockdown. The questions, sourced from the congregation, range from “Why am I so sick of communicating by Zoom?” to “When a loved one has died, how do I find the strength to cope?”

Mr Tanner said: “As a church, we are always trying to reach out to our community with the hope of the Christian gospel. Since coronavirus, we’ve had to change the way that we do that, but our hope is that these videos can be shared with friends and those outside the church family. We don’t claim to have all the answers, but this isn’t the first pandemic Christians have faced, and the message of Jesus has always been a source of hope in dark days.”

Faith communities in the Avon and Somerset area have worked with the emergency services to set up a helpline for people who are bereaved or anxious about loved ones. It is open to everyone from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week: 0330 229 1700.

The chaplaincy-development adviser for the diocese of Bath & Wells, the Revd Mike Haslam, said: “People are struggling with all kinds of issues: they may be bereaved, or worried about loved ones who are sick, they may be very anxious about their economic situation, or they may be scared. We are there to listen and to care for everyone.”

Archbishop Welby has offered staff at St Thomas’ Hospital, in Lambeth, where he has been volunteering in the chaplaincy team (News, 15 May), the use of Lambeth Palace’s garden to take breaks from their work, Horticultural Week reports. His wife, Caroline, made the announcement in a video of the garden made for the National Garden Scheme’s campaign Help Support Our Nurses.

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