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Locked down or opened up?

by Michael Ford last modified 19 Mar, 2021 07:14 PM

As our parishes rise to the challenge of ever-evolving conditions and recommendations, many are not only keeping their feet, but finding fresh momentum.

Locked down or opened up?

Hilfield’s Brother Sam

“There seems to be a real energy around the Pewsey Deanery”, says Colin Heber-Percy, vicar in the Savernake Team and editor of the Pewsey Deanery Prayer email.

At the beginning of the first lockdown, the Deanery Outreach Group (DOG) discussed how to keep people encouraged through the darkest days, how to nourish people spiritually. Out of these discussions came the idea of a daily reflection, edited and largely written by Colin.

These emails of reflection and prayer began daily, became twice weekly in the summer, but have become daily again this Lent. The emails now reach well over a thousand people around the world (including many on the fringes of church life and non-churchgoers).   

Colin attributes part of their success to the challenge they have offered people as well as the comfort and encouragement.

He says:

“People have appreciated a non-sermonising style, a more discursive approach, and the acknowledgement that there are not always easy answers, that we all grapple with serious issues.”

The home grown, very personal nature of them has appealed too, not least a guest appearance from Colin’s car, a Seat Ibiza!

During Lent, the reflections are taking people through John’s gospel. Rural Dean Gerald Osborne comments:

“There is something quite remarkable and of the Spirit for so many in one deanery to be exploring a gospel daily together”.

Complementing the daily reflections is a Tuesday evening Zoom Lent series on conversations in the gospel: ‘How Jesus meets us…’ led by Canon Patrick Whitworth. These evenings are attended by over a hundred on Zoom and YouTube livestream and more catch up on the recordings (see

Another highlight during the year has been an Advent ‘virtual retreat’ led for a week by Hilfield’s Brother Sam. His deeply spiritual and prayerful guidance, with his usual humour, gave some light in the darkest months of the pandemic.

Surveys show that people who leave the church don’t necessarily lose their faith. Over the year the deanery has found a way to feed them; the Church not closing, but opening up during lockdown.

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