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.

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.

Sacombe Remembrance 2020

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Remembrance Sunday 2020, when the Deputy Lieutenant, Mrs Sally Burton, laid a wreath.
Remembrance Sunday 2020 when the Deputy Lieutenant, Mrs Sally Burton, laid a wreath.

Update from Sacombe

We are delighted that St Catherine's has now received a faculty to restore our three bells to full working order which we believe have not rung for at least seventy years. As this is being funded privately it will have no effect on the church's financial reserves.

You may also be aware that we have a faculty to re-order the rear of the church to install a accessible lavatory and kitchenette. This is currently sitting with The Registrar pending legal agreement to run pipework across two adjoining landowners' land.

Derek Wheeler, Churchwarden

A letter from St Mary's Church

Dear Friends

It has been very difficult to do our usual communications during Covid, but we have not forgotten you and have continued in prayer for the village. Since it has been so long since our last letter, I thought it would be good to give a summary of all that we are doing.

Our services

  • Our main Sunday services are taking place in St. Mary’s, Standon, and All Saints’, Little Munden at 10.30 on a two-week rota. These services are also live streamed through our website, www.ubsms.org.uk where our YouTube is available. If you wish to be a member of the congregation, due to the restrictions on people numbers we ask you to contact our administrator Marion Smith ([email protected]). Marion can give you the exact schedule and will book you a place if there is room. It is now compulsory to wear a face covering in Church if you are able to do so. St Mary’s is Covid safe with hand sanitiser available and social distancing in place.
  • We also have our 8.00 am Holy Communion service at St Mary’s on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month. There is no need to book for this service.
  • On a Sunday afternoon there is the Centre Community Church which is present on Zoom at 5pm or sometimes meeting in person at 4.30pm. Details of how to access this service can also be found via the website on the Centre Community Church Facebook page.
  • On Tuesday mornings we have resumed the 9.30 am Holy Communion at Sacombe.
  • We are conducting Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals but as regulations change with COVID, so we try to be imaginative about how we help with these services. Please contact me through [email protected] or 01920 739483 (Vicarage) 07495 504433 (Mobile) for further information.

As you can imagine, there is a great deal of effort being put into our services at present. One great joy has been the return of the bells. Sadly we cannot ring a peal, as six people cannot socially distance in the belltower, but we are delighted that one couple, Nic and Sue, are ringing 2 bells on a Sunday.
St Mary’s is open every day during daylight hours for personal prayer or if you just want to visit.

Pastoral care

These last 6 months have been a very difficult time for many of us in our community and we are very aware of the loneliness and isolation that has been a result of this time. We would like you to know that there are many people in the Church family who would be happy to chat or help in any way you might need. Please call or email me or Caroline Franks [email protected] if you would like a contact or know anyone who would. We also have many groups to which all are very welcome; here is a selection:

  • Men’s group
  • Women’s group
  • Small groups
  • Young People’s Bible Study group
  • Children’s and Youth groups
  • Red Balloon Children’s Resources (our partner in our Youth Work ) which includes an interactive Sunday church, virtual groups and materials for families.

For more information about any of these groups and activities, please contact Marion or Caroline (as above).

Looking forward

With Remembrance and Christmas coming up we will be doing all we can to make these festivals meaningful for the village.

Remembrance: We are already working with the police and Parish Council to see what we can do safely and legally for Remembrance Sunday; we will be live streaming a service of remembrance at 10.30am and our website will have all the latest information. Sadly, attendance at the service will need to be by invitation only this year due to current restrictions.

Christmas: We are still working on our Christmas services and these will be announced in PS in early December. But one way or another, either live or recorded or a combination of the two, we hope to have carol, Christingle, Midnight and Christmas Day services. Watch this space.

This is a rather long letter about all that is going on in church life; believe me, there is more, but enough is enough! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me.

Best wishes
John Chitham, Rector

Resumption of services in the Benefice

Dear Friends,

I trust that you are well and continuing to be close to Christ.

I am writing to tell you about the next step in the resumption of services in the Benefice.

On Sunday 2nd August we will be meeting in Little Munden for Holy Communion and live streaming from there. As usual everyone will need to book in with Marion. There will be fewer places than at Standon (as the church is smaller) and so book your place early! This perhaps especially applies to those in the Dane End area!

The one difference to our normal pattern this month is that there will not be a service at Sacombe on the fifth Sunday as we cannot live stream from Sacombe (the internet connection is insufficient).
In September we will be looking to return to our previous pattern of services for Sunday mornings, with alternating services during the month at Standon and Little Munden at 10.30am, which will include two Holy Communions and two Morning Worship. There will also be the two 8.00 am BCP Holy Communion services at Standon.

We are looking at our afternoon and evening services, and both have difficulties for different reasons. Evensong will not be resuming until we receive the all-clear again to sing. The Centre also has difficulty resuming in the previous pattern and the Community Centre will not open until September. However during the summer school holidays we are having Sunday picnics in church grounds as long as the weather is fair, and otherwise continuing with the Zoom services. Everyone needs to look out for announcements each week, but perhaps this is in keeping with the nature of the Centre, keeping everything fresh!!

We are also looking into resuming the Tuesday midweek service at Sacombe by seeing the demand from those who usually attend. However, we will not, for the present, resume the Wednesday midweek service at Standon, for a variety of reasons (cleaning, moving of chairs, etc).

Meanwhile you may have seen that face coverings are being strongly advised for all who attend church. In other words, it is not compulsory but is highly encouraged. Those taking part in the service (readers, intercessors, Caroline and myself) will be asked not to be masked whilst speaking, for the sake of clarity in communication. However, we will ensure that we are an absolute minimum of two metres from people whilst speaking. Everything is being done to try to ensure the safety of everyone in church.

Do please continue praying for us. It is a joy to be able to serve here in these strange and challenging times.

With much love

John

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

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