2020’s Day of Prayer for victims of abuse

The Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Abuse is marked this year on Friday, 3 April 2020.

Resources for our prayer and reflection are given below.

Prayer for Healing and Reconciliation

Praise to you Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
the source of all consolation and hope.
Be the refuge and guardian of all
who suffer from abuse and violence.
Comfort them and send healing
for their wounds of the body, soul and spirit.
Help us all and make us one with you
in your love for justice
as we deepen our respect for the dignity of every human life.
Giver of peace, make us one in celebrating
your praise, both now and forever.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing.

Matthew 4: 123

Stay with us, Lord. Stay with us, Lord,
Stay with us, Lord. Your presence calms our fears.

When trust is fragile.
When voices go unheard.
When we are unable to pray.
Stay with us, Lord. Stay with us, Lord,
Stay with us, Lord. Your presence calms our fears..

When suffering is endured.
When memories are reawakened.
When we feel betrayed.
Stay with us, Lord. Stay with us, Lord,
Stay with us, Lord. Your presence calms our fears.

When darkness weighs upon us.
When we cannot see you.
When burdens feel too heavy.
Stay with us, Lord. Stay with us, Lord,
Stay with us, Lord. Your presence calms our fears.

When hope seems faint.
When we are weak.
When faith seems difficult.
Stay with us, Lord. Stay with us, Lord,
Stay with us, Lord. Your presence calms our fears.

Let’s Be Honest
A Service written by Survivors which has been used as a deanery focus for prayer. The Bishops used parts of this service when they met together in Valladolid last May to listen to, and learn from the experiences of survivors of abuse.

For more information.

The Parish ‘All-comers’ Art Club


The BBC has published a news story about David Hockney who has been making art while in lockdown.

David Hockney's sketches of his house in Normandy
One of David Hockney's Normandy paintings
One of David Hockney's Normandy paintings

He is not the only one. So has been our parish are group!

The group usually meets twice a month on Tuesdays, but during the present crisis it is pretty much permanent session…

It is being guided and encouraged at distance by Geraldine Foster through a WhatsApp group – and through other means for those not on-line.

Here is Geraldine’s introductory note for the group as we begin this time of isolation.

If you would be interested in joining please feel free to email your email or phone number to the parish (or ring and leave a message), and they will be passed on to Geraldine.

The group is very friendly and supportive, and most of us are raw beginners – and Geraldine is providing generous and helpful guidance.

All are welcome.

Here’s one from me. Not in the Hockney class, but it was enjoyable ‘work’.

Reflecting on our present experience as Church

The United States journal, the National Catholic Reporter, has been interviewing people on what the experience of Covid-19 and its consequences might have to teach us about Church and world, and our faith.

Some of the responses they have received are posted below.

Catholic parishes across the world are closed. Millions of Catholics have been unable to physically take part in the celebration of the Mass for weeks, and they may not be able to again for months.

Simply put, the coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally changing how we do and be church.

What could these changes mean for us in the long-term? How will they affect us in the years to come, well after the initial threat of the pandemic has passed?

Over the past week, NCR surveyed two dozen theologians, social directors, non-profit leaders and pastors, asking them each to consider these questions. We’re presenting the answers over the next three days.

Today, we focus on questions of community. In the following days, we’ll focus separately on questions of church governance and the church’s social mission.

Recognizing the whole

SSr. Simone Campbell is executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby.

When this coronavirus pandemic abates, I pray that we as a church will have awoken to the fact that we are indeed one body. As one body, we have a shared responsibility for each other. Pope Francis and the popes before him are correct when they say that the economy should serve people, not the other way around.

If we learn this lesson, then the Gospel will live in our lives in new ways.

Healthcare will be seen as a faithful mandate of Jesus’ care for the lepers, the blind man and the widow whose son has died. Health care will return to being a ministry that as a matter of faith must be given to all. Health care will cease being big business that is exploited by the pharmaceutical companies and the hospital systems.

Wages to support a family will be a matter of justice, both within the church and outside it. Wages sufficient to allow all to live in dignity are key to the survival of this one body. Maybe we will learn the lesson that when people have the reality of enough to live on, then they can invite others into their lives. Inviting others in is the heart of a flourishing church.

When this is over, I pray that we learn the lesson as one church that Jesus calls this body to be whole. Working for justice becomes seen commonly as a Gospel mandate. COVID-19 has made us aware of our interconnectedness beyond racial and economic divides. Let us learn that this one vulnerable body can be vibrant church when we work together for justice and the wellbeing of the whole.

A paradox of incarnation

Lisa Fullam is a professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in California.

The effect of COVID-19 on the church is a paradox of incarnation. On one hand, our communities are less physical, less incarnate: A simple hug, coffee with a friend, gathering for church, are put on hold for the indeterminate duration. Priests webcast from empty churches; the faithful participate from home. The profound physicality of the sacraments is absent.

On the other hand, our communities are more physical, more incarnate. I spend more time attending to my physical micro-community of spouse, home, garden and neighborhood. There is something eucharistic about virtual dinner with friends — we break bread together, apart — in an event that is more than a phone call.

In our technological age, distance need not have stopped me from virtual dinner with friends across the country, but oddly it did. And we start with the physical. “Are you OK?” “How’s your mom?” Likewise, in virtual church, there is a chorus of “What do you need?” “Can I shop for you?” Our virtual parishioners are more eager than ever to respond to the simple incarnate needs in others’ lives — as simple as the bread and wine that we shared pre-pandemic.

In an age in which so many are drifting or storming away from the church, will the experience of the absence of the common loaf and the common cup leave the rest of us more free, more able to demand justice and mercy in the church and more willing to seek and practice those virtues elsewhere, if we are not answered? And to bring the sacraments with us?

Pros and cons of virtual church

Julie Hanlon Rubio is professor of Christian social ethics at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in California and is working on a book called Catholic and Feminist: Is It Still Possible?

Since my family moved to Berkeley in 2018, Sunday mornings have been a struggle. We’ve visited at least 10 parishes in the Bay area, but we have yet to find one that feels like home. Last Sunday, attractive options for praying in community online were almost overwhelming.

A Jesuit in Los Angeles was offering Mass from his room. A former student was gathering women from around the country to reflect on the readings. Students at my school were gathering for the first night of what was to be a regular prayer time. Relief washed over me. All of the sudden I didn’t have to struggle anymore.

I could gather with people who share my particular take on Catholicism — deep incarnational faith, progressive theology and a strong commitment to social justice. I could count on insightful preaching that would challenge me in a setting that felt like the home Masses I grew up with. I had the small faith-sharing group I had been searching for. I had access to a rich variety of Catholic prayer forms led by lay people. Zoom was, as one of my friends said, like “Facebook come alive.” I could have the church I believed in without ever leaving my home.

Yet I also strongly believe in the idea of a local parish, where you show up to worship with people who aren’t like you, but to whom you are connected as members of the Body of Christ.

I’m grateful for Sunday mornings that feel like opportunity instead of struggle. But I’m worried about what will be lost when we choose the church we prefer over the one down the street.

What are your thoughts? On what we learn about community from our present experiences?

Feel free to post them as comments below.

A scripture reading for today

Each day during Lent there will be a reading from that day’s Mass posted, chosen by a parishioner, and with their own brief reflection for the day.

For some suggestions as to how to get the most from the reading, click here.

Wednesday 1st April:
Wednesday of the 5th week of Lent

King Nebuchadnezzar ordered three men to be cast into a white-hot fire because they refused to worship his God. These men trusted and had total confidence in the powerful and saving love of our one, true God; they were thrown into this fire and remained unharmed and were set free.

What do we worship? Do we truly honour and praise God, our father? What stops us from having this full confidence in faith?

First reading: Daniel 3:14-20,24-25,28
King Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have erected? When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, or any other instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you must be thrown straight away into the burning fiery furnace; and where is the god who could save you from my power?’

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.’ These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, ‘Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ ‘But,’ he went on ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm. And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’

Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall helps with Food Bank Donations during present crisis.

The Trustees of Royal Sutton Coldfield Community Town Hall Trust, the charity which runs Sutton Coldfield’s Town Hall has confirmed that it will collect donations of food for local food banks during the current COVID-19 crisis.

This is because the normal collection centre, which then distributes to two food banks in Erdington has had to close due to volunteer shortages.

The Town Hall was scheduled to stage Tudor Musical Theatre’s production of Legally Blonde this week, followed by a sold-out comedy show featuring Bill Bailey next Friday. Since government restrictions were brought in on social distancing, all shows after 15th March and into the summer are postponed until later in the year and into 2021.

The Town Hall will continue to operate with skeleton staffing for blood collections and community requirements resulting from the coronavirus crisis. The first request for help was from The Trussell Trust Foodbank Network, which runs Six Ways Baptist Church and George Road Church Food Banks in Erdington. Food and household items are urgently needed by both these and other Sutton Coldfield Food Banks in the coming weeks, as more families than ever are hit by the economic impact of the virus.

In a statement, The Trussell Trust said: “Those who have the least resources to cope with this crisis must not be forgotten at this time. Some of the specific challenges we face as a result of the spread of the virus are:

• A significant proportion of our 28,000+ volunteers are older people, many of whom are now not able to volunteer because they are in higher risk groups.
• Many of the people who need to use the food banks in our network have health issues and so may be needing to self-isolate or comply most strictly with social distancing guidelines.
• Maintaining food stocks at a time when many people are going out less or are more urgently focused on providing for their own households.
• Potential for increased demand where workers are being laid off or shifts reduced due to impact on businesses.

Gerald Goshawk, who runs Erdington Foodbank explained: “Erdington Foodbank is already one of the busiest in the whole of the UK. We are now experiencing heightening demand; together with increasing pressure to deliver to people who are in isolation; and major problems with obtaining food donations. We would be so massively grateful for help from the people of Sutton Coldfield.”

Any non-perishable foodstuffs are appreciated, but our current priorities are: UHT milk, Sugar, Tinned custard, Pasta sauce, Coffee, Fruit, Packet rice and Rice pudding. We will soon need to replenish stocks of Meat, Vegetables, Fish, Cereals, Vegetarian meals and Tomatoes”. Non-food items such as feminine hygiene, toilet rolls, deodorants and soap are always needed.

Those who cannot leave the house at all or who would prefer to donate money for stock can do so via our website

Birmingham City Council’s Mick Brown commented: “As a Councillor for Gravelly Hill Ward where residents often depend on the good work foodbanks do to support their local communities, including the ones at Six Ways Baptist Church and George Road, as part of the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network. I can only thank them, the trustees of Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Hall Trust and the many people who make donations to this essential service. Whether donating 1 item or 10, every item makes a difference to the collective effort to support individuals and families at this difficult time”

MP for Royal Sutton Coldfield Andrew Mitchell added: “At this very difficult time for everyone, our Town Hall and its staff and friends are playing an important and safe role in supporting this vital work. I want to thank them”.

The Town Hall will accept donations of food to its main entrance foyer on Mondays and Fridays for the next few months, commencing Friday 3rd April, 10am – 2pm.

Donors can incorporate the drop off into their daily exercise or park in the short-term spaces by the Cenotaph in King Edwards Square.

Staff are engaging in strict social distancing to reassure donors. The Town Hall’s Managing Director Julie Rennison will be one of those staff on site. “Locals can simply drop off any donations in the Entrance Vestibule – we will acknowledge a thank you from the other side of our inner glass doors!”

Those who want to help while self-isolating can donate to the website mentioned, who will buy in bulk food stocks to distribute locally.

The Town Hall will not be keeping food on the premises and it is a drop off point only, not a food bank collection service.

Over the coming days, the staff remaining at the town hall will push the message of donations via social media. Local comedy actress and voice over artist Josephine Enright from Erdington, has volunteered her services in narrating an information advert. The Town Hall would like to engage a volunteer video editor to compile a short piece from home. If interested, please contact Town Hall MD Julie Rennison at julie.rennison@townhall-scart.co.uk

A scripture reading for today

Each day during Lent there will be a reading from that day’s Mass posted, chosen by a parishioner, and with their own brief reflection for the day.

For some suggestions as to how to get the most from the reading, click here.

Tuesday 31st March:
Tuesday of the 5th week of Lent

The Gospel today is a challenging read. 

Jesus argues that the Pharisees  who resist his teaching will die in their sin – and extends his warning to an unbelieving world. 

At times like this, we want security, a comfort blanket that everything will be OK.  For most of us, physically we will be fine, but we must not forget the need care for our spiritual health. 

We need to pray and seek the Lord’s intervention to help us believe that Jesus is the divine ‘I am’ and as St Peter states in Chapter 4 of Acts, the only name by which we can be saved.

Gospel: John 8:21-30
When you have lifted up the Son of Man then you will know that I am He

Jesus said to the Pharisees:

‘I am going away;
you will look for me
and you will die in your sin.
Where I am going, you cannot come.’

The Jews said to one another, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ Jesus went on:

‘You are from below; I am from above.
You are of this world; I am not of this world.
I have told you already:
You will die in your sins.
Yes, if you do not believe that I am He,
you will die in your sins.’

So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus answered:

‘What I have told you from the outset.
About you I have much to say
and much to condemn;
but the one who sent me is truthful,
and what I have learnt from him
I declare to the world.’

They failed to understand that he was talking to them about the Father. So Jesus said:

‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man,
then you will know that I am He
and that I do nothing of myself:
what the Father has taught me is what I preach;
he who sent me is with me,
and has not left me to myself,
for I always do what pleases him.’

As he was saying this, many came to believe in him.

Official Information provided by Birmingham City Council

The current crisis has all sorts of practical consequences for people’s employment, finances, and security. The following summary of advice has been provided by Birmingham City Council.

To sign up to receive future updates directly from BCC, please click here.

Keep in Touch

COVID-19 Update: 

In light of the impact COVID-19 is having on the economy, Birmingham City Council would like to ensure our residents are fully aware of all of the financial support which is being made available through the Government.

Going forward, we will issue a weekly update with details of any grants or relief which business can apply for with links to the relevant sources of information.

Information if you are an employee

Sick Pay

You can get £94.25 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks. If you are staying at home because of COVID-19 you can now claim SSP. This includes individuals who are caring for people in the same household and therefore have been advised to do a household quarantine.

Statutory sick pay

The Government is legislating for SSP to be paid from day 1, rather than day 4, of your absence from work if you are absent from work due to sickness or need to stay at home due to COVID-19. Once the legislation has been passed, this will apply retrospectively from 13 March.

COVID-19 Sick note

If you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can get an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’) after 7 days of sickness absence.

Furloughed workers

If your employer intends to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, they will discuss with you becoming classified as a furloughed worker. This would mean that you are kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off. This will allow your employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. You will remain employed while furloughed. Your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary, but does not have to. The Government plans for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to run for at least three months from 1 March 2020, but will extend if necessary.

Universal Credit

Whether you are currently in or out of work, if you are on a low income and affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, you will be able to access the full range of the welfare system, including Universal Credit. From 6 April the Government will increase the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for one year. Both will increase by £20 per week on top of planned annual up-rating. This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants.

Information if you are self-employed

Lay-Offs and Short-Term working

Your employer can ask you to stay at home or take unpaid leave if there’s not enough work for you. A lay-off is if you’re off work for at least 1 working day. Short-time working is when your hours are cut. There’s no limit for how long you can be laid off or put on short-time. You could apply for redundancy and claim redundancy pay if it’s been four weeks in a row or six weeks in a 13-week period. For lay-off pay entitlement and short-time working payments, you should get your full pay unless your contract allows unpaid or reduced pay lay-offs. If you’re unpaid, you’re entitled to guarantee pay.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed. You can apply if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:

  • have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
  • traded in the tax year 2019-20
  • are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
  • intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
  • have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19
  • Your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income come from self-employment.

Income tax payment deferral

If you’re self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system can be deferred to January 2021.

Support for businesses paying tax: time to pay service

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

Statutory sick pay

If you are not eligible for SSP – for example if you are self-employed – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or the new style Employment and Support Allowance. If you are eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home.

Universal credit

Whether you are currently in or out of work, if you are on a low income and affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, you will be able to access the full range of the welfare system, including Universal Credit. From 6 April the Government will increase the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for one year. Both will increase by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating. This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants

Support for rent costs

You should check your eligibility for Universal Credit, which is available for people in and out of work. Support for rental costs will be paid through Universal Credit. From April, we are increasing Local Housing Allowance rates to the 30th percentile of market rents. This applies to all private renters who are new or existing Universal Credit housing element claimants and to existing Housing Benefit claimants.

Benefits and financial support

Employment and support allowance

You can apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work. It gives you money to help with living costs if you’re unable to work and support to get back into work if you’re able to. You can apply for ESA if you’re employed, self-employed or unemployed.

Council tax support

You may be entitled to up to 100% Council Tax Support if you or your partner is:

  • A pensioner
  • Entitled to a disability premium or disabled child premium
  • Entitled to Employment Support Allowance and who also receives a qualifying disability related benefit
  • Receiving a carer’s premium
  • Receiving a war disablement pension, war widow’s pension or war widower’s pension
  • Caring for a child dependant under 6.

If you are of working age (other than those listed above) you will now have to make a contribution towards their Council Tax bill. As Council Tax Support will be calculated as a means tested discount, the amount each household will have to pay towards the Council Tax will depend on their individual household circumstances.

Council tax hardship fund

BCC has been allocated £17m through the Government’s COVID-19 Hardship Fund to deliver relief to those who are struggling to make council tax payments in the current economic climate. These reductions will be applied after any award of council tax support (CTS), and will not affect the CTS scheme itself or entitlement to any other benefits. The government expects authorities to reduce the bills of all working-age recipients of Council Tax Support by £150, or by a lesser amount if that is all that remains to be paid for the year. It does not expect taxpayers to have to apply for this reduction – authorities should already hold enough information to be able to award this automatically. It does not matter whether or not a taxpayer has been affected directly or indirectly by COVID-19. The government recommends an upfront payment, although it accepts that in some cases it may be better to spread it over the year.

Housing rental payments

Contact your landlord if you’re struggling to pay rent; they may be able to give a rent reduction or accept late payment. Make sure you get something in writing. The Government announced on 18 March that landlords will not be able to apply to court to evict tenants for at least three months. That includes if you rent from a private landlord, a housing association or the council. The new law is expected to come in very soon.

Mortgage payments

Mortgage lenders have announced they won’t apply to court to repossess homeowners for 3 months starting from 19 March. They will also allow a three-month payment holiday for those struggling to cover their mortgage because of coronavirus. Be aware that this option may mean your monthly mortgage payment goes up after the payment holiday ends. Check if you have insurance that will cover your mortgage payments instead. For example, mortgage payment protection insurance or through your current account

Free advice

You can receive free and impartial advice on a range of matters from organisations including:

  • Consumer rights: Free consumer protection advice from the Government on issues including contracts, goods and services
  • Employee rights: Free advice on worker’s rights from the Government
  • Money Advice Service: Free and impartial money advice from an organisation set up by the Government
  • Citizens Advice Service: Free advice on a range of topics including debt, money and finances; law and court and consumer rights
  • Shelter: Free advice on issues such as housing, homelessness, eviction, repairs and repossession

A FINAL IMPORTANT REMINDER: if you have any concerns about coronavirus, all the important official advice to help restrict its spread and how to deal with any infection can be found on the NHS website.

Some resources for families (especially those with younger children)

Mostly the postings on this Blog have been directed at adults, so far. Time for catch-up.

Here are a wide range of different materials very firmly aimed at families with younger children.

Some are activities for parents to lead, others are intended to be made directly available to the youngsters.

Do please post your comments and observations in the comments section below, or on this posting on our parish facebook page.

It’s an opportunity to learn what parents and children find most helpful and why.

  • List prepared by Frances Bibey -for which many thanks.
  • Photograph: (c) 2018, Allen Morris. St Peter and Paul, Aston.