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 Morning: there is a Sunday Morning service 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. Please see their Facebook page for more details.
  • Sunday Evensong: news of an occasional Sunday Evensong will be given on the website.
  • Morning Prayer: As we are able to be back in church, the daily Morning Prayer services have ended. Feel free to re-watch any of the previous ones we have uploaded.
  • 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.

Walking Advent Calendar

Dear friends,
I expect many of you have (or have had) Advent calendars where you open a window each day working up to Christmas. Following the excellent Walking Market, I wondered if we could do something similar for an Advent Calendar to brighten up the time coming up to Christmas. The idea is that the whole of Standon and Puckeridge will be the calendar, and that there will be a new “window” in the village that opens each day throughout December (and stays open until Boxing Day) that illustrates a line or verse or the whole of a Christmas Carol.

The window could be simple and small (e.g. in the doorway or window of a house); or it could be a display in a front garden or on a roof; or it could be a co-operative effort on a green space among neighbours; or it could be by a school, a pub, a shop or a business. There could be more than one “window” each day. We will then put them on a map so that people could walk between them each day/evening to see the new ones that have opened. Are you interested? If so contact Marion, our administrator on [email protected] She will book you in and put you on the map that we will publish in due course.

Below is the list of the subjects and the days they should open.

Please feel free to contact me at any time about this, especially if you can publicise it a bit more.

Best wishes
John Chitham, Rector

Day Topic
Tue 1st Once in Royal David's city, stood a lowly cattle shed.
Wed 2nd Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o'er all the earth.
Thu 3rd Ding Dong merrily on high, in heaven the bells are ringing.
Fri 4th Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the feast of Stephen.
Sat 5th The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown, of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.
Sun 6th The rising of the sun and the running of the deer.
Mon 7th It came upon the midnight clear that glorious song of old, from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold.
Tue 8th I saw three ships come sailing in.
Wed 9th Deck the halls with boughs of holly.
Thu 10th In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan.
Fri 11th O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.
Sat 12th Hark the herald angels sing: "Glory to the new-born King".
Sun 13th Silent night, Holy night, all is calm, all is bright.
Mon 14th Joy to the world! The Lord is come, let earth receive her King.
Tue 15th Good Christian men rejoice with heart and soul and voice.
Wed 16th God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.
Thu 17th Away in a manger, no crib for a bed.
Fri 18th O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant.
Sat 19th Sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation.
Sun 20th O holy night, the stars are brightly shining.
Mon 21st We three kings of orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Tue 22nd Star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright.
Wed 23rd The first noel, the angel did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay.
Thu 24th While shepherds watched their flocks by night.

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

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

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