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Coronavirus Task Group

A daily meeting of the Church of Scotland Coronavirus Task Group has been taking place since the beginning of last week and they continue to advise us of the appropriate level of response to the variety of situations we find ourselves in.

To compliment this locally, across all our congregations, a local reference group comprising our Session Clerks, the QPC Admin team leader, Ernest Beattie, our Dalmeny Kirk Centre coordinator, Susan Douglas, our Church Secretary, Esther Conner and two doctors from our congregations have connected with myself in order that we might respond
appropriately at the right time to any guidance we are receiving. We met for the first time on the evening of Monday 16 March.

Following the announcement by the Government late that afternoon that we were all being encouraged to reduce our social interactions we were of a mind to close down our Church Services and meetings. Next day, the Church of Scotland Coronavirus Task Group met and issued the following advice which as you will see supported
our proposed actions:

“The Church’s Covid-19 Task Group met this morning (17 March 2020), and considered the most recent advice from the Scottish Government, issued on the evening of Monday 16th March, available here.

The Scottish Government advised that people should minimise social contact by avoiding crowded areas and large gatherings, including religious congregations, and smaller gatherings, listing areas which were of concern.

Worship – Cancellation of Worship Services In the light of the above, the Church of Scotland Task Group has agreed to ask, in the strongest terms, that all gatherings for worship should cease until further notice, with effect from Wednesday 17th March 2020, or earlier if possible. Other Scottish Churches are taking similar actions. This obviously includes Easter services. Some Presbyteries have already instructed this action. This will include, but not be restricted to, housegroups, meetings for youth work,
and church cafes. It will still be possible for an individual to offer a livestreaming of a sermon and prayers. Sunday broadcasts of a weekly service take place on Radio 4, and also on Radio Scotland; other radio stations are available.

Church buildings can be kept open as a place for people to come and pray. Notices should be clearly displayed asking that visitors observe robust hand hygiene, including washing their hands on entry to the church.”

I was reminded recently that the Chinese characters for the word crisis are made up of two words: danger and opportunity. In many ways we are finding our minds a bit
overwhelmed by the dangers of the season but breaking out in response to such dangers are a fruitful range of opportunities whichwe pray will sustain us through this season.

Over the last 24 hours we have been addressing the issues associated with responding to the dangers associated with this outbreak: e.g. advising office bearers of the
decisions to close down our church services and meetings, contacting and discussing with our many hall users their plans for the way forward, ensuring that any pressing decisions are made in as safe a manner as possible and finally what we need to do to communicate our situation to all our members.

Now that we have addressed the bulk of these we are now about to turn our attention to the opportunities that lie before us given the constraints we are all going to be
living with. Matters such as how can we support one another prayerfully, pastorally and practically.

Let me deal with these in turn:

1. Prayerfully & spiritually: If ever there is a time for prayer it is now. On our Church website and at the end of this Statement you will find prayer links to help us bring this situation before God. As to ensuring that we might continue to nourish our spiritual lives during this period we are looking into the technicalities of providing something online each week from the church, which we hope will provide a focus for us going forward. Watch this space…

2. Pastorally: Already our Elders and Pastoral Teams have been working on establishing a means of communication with all our members and though at an early stage in planning we hope in time, as the weeks pass, that we will all have the opportunity to connect with one another on as regular a basis as is necessary and helpful.

3. Practically: At a similar embryonic stage, discussions are being held in our community to ensure that any practical needs can be addressed and the network of people connected to our church may well be able to offer appropriate levels of support during the weeks and months ahead. Conversations are being held with QCCC, our local doctors surgery, community reps and ourselves. More to come as we seek to respond to the opportunities before us.

Coronavirus Prayer 1 Recently our present Moderator, Right Rev Colin Sinclair offered a prayer for us in the face of the unfolding situation we are facing – with a few tweaks we offer this to you for prayer:

Living God, how warmly we echo the voice of the Psalmist today as he, in testing times declared : ‘God
is our refuge and our strength – an ever present help in times of trouble;
therefore we shall not be afraid…’

And so Lord once again we turn to you – our refuge and our strength.

We put our faith in you, because you
have proved your faithfulness time and again and we reaffirm our love for you because you have never let
us go and nothing can ever separate us form your love.

We thank you that you are not distant from us but have drawn near, in your Son, Jesus.

He, having walked this way before us, has shared our life, tasted our death and
defeated it; and walking where we have walked he fully understands all our
worries and our fears.

In his testing times he stopped and looked upwards and in our testing times we
follow his example and pray…

We pray Lord for this pandemic spreading
across our world, remembering especially all who have lost loved ones – grant
them a special measure of your comfort and love.

We pray Lord for those seriously ill at
this time and uphold our National Health Service as it responds to this added
pressure on its already overstretched services.

We pray for doctors and nurses and all
in the caring professions, whether in surgeries, hospitals, care homes or
visiting direct. Grant to them protection and strength, the resources and
support that will enable them to bring their gifts and wisdom to all in need.

We remember those working behind the scenes,
those testing samples, confirming results, giving information to patients,
those involved in the search for a solution and an end to the impact of this
virus.

We pray for our Governments in
Westminster and Holyrood, as they work with the best medical advice available to
guide us on how we should respond and what action we should take.

May this crisis bring out the best in us, not the worst, may it inspire us to live
by faith and not by fear; to build bridges not barriers, to work together by
laying aside the many differences that so often divide us.

May we not forget our responsibilities to one another, not least to the vulnerable
and voiceless in our communities.

Help us to find ways of keeping in touch and offering reassurance to those with
underlying health issues; to any who feel particularly vulnerable, to those in
danger at present as the virus spreads.

We pray Lord for the disruption it causes to normal life, bringing new fears and anxieties: grant us your presence
as we spend more time absent from the physical presence of our normal
communities.

We pray for those who have been laid off
as their work disappears and for the resultant financial hardship faced by
individuals and businesses.

We pray for the impact this virus is
already having on the economy and the financial stability of our society.

We pray for those whose plans have
already been changed and for whom anxiety and uncertainty unsettle them at
their deepest level.

We remember those who cannot visit loved
ones in care homes locked-down and for the elderly whose social contacts have
been and will be severely curtailed;

May we as your people find new ways of living though this time, may we not forget
our faith, but draw strength from it and, as is often the case in such testing
times may we experience a renewed sense of your presence as we turn to you –
our anchor in the billowing sea, our rock in the stormy waves, our peace in the
eye of the storm.

God of grace and God of mercy, hear our prayers at this time.

Strengthen us, by your Spirit, so that we may
carry on our lives as best as we are able:

looking out for others,

showing love in action,

being faithful in prayer,

and bringing encouragement, hope and peace;

These prayers we bring to you, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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