This page contains information relevant to the current outbreak of Covid-19. It includes news, material for personal devotion and on-line resources and worship.

Thought for the day – reflections from members of the circuit

To see a Message from the Bolton Methodist Circuit click here

A message from the Chair of District, Rev Paul Martin:

Greetings from the District Manse!

There are more questions than answers. I have been inundated with questions about finance, Synods, governance, furloughing, property, pastoral matters – the list goes on. In many cases I haven’t been able to give the answer and have had to resort to the standard, “I’ll have to get back to you on that one”.

Perhaps the biggest question is what will the new normality look like? What have we learned (and continue to learn) during the pandemic and attendant lockdown which we will want to carry forward into the future? To put a theological spin on it, what is God teaching us? It would be a missed opportunity if each church, and indeed each follower of Jesus, does not reflect on how we might change and adapt what we do in the future. For example, I have been hugely impressed at the way ministers (and others!) have made provision for worship via one of the on-line platforms available. Anecdotally, more people seem to be accessing this worship than would on a Sunday morning. With the obvious caveat that some will be excluded from this medium (either because they don’t have or can’t or won’t use the technology) there is a great evangelistic opportunity. Such platforms can be steps to greater engagement with God.

That opportunity throws up another question: if ministers are going to continue making this provision, what will they stop doing when the lockdown ends in order to make the time? My daily Bible readings at the moment feature the Acts of the Apostles. Life in the early church which was full of questions, evangelical opportunities and not a few arguments! Let’s pray for God’s wisdom and guidance as we reassess what we do.

God bless, Paul

A prayer from the President of the Conference:

Loving God If we are ill, strengthen us
If we are tired Fortify our spirits
If we are anxious Help us to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.
Help us not to stockpile treasures from supermarkets in the barns of our larders!
Don’t let fear cause us to overlook the needs of others more vulnerable than ourselves
Fix our eyes on your story And our hearts on your grace
Help us always to hold fast to the good and see the good in others.
And remember there is just one world, one hope,
One everlasting love, with baskets of bread for everyone.
In Jesus we make our prayer,
The one who suffered, died and was raised to new life,
In whom we trust, these days and all days.

Prayers about the Coronavirus outbreak

Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy in this time of uncertainty and distress. Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may rejoice in your comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, you taught us to love our neighbour, and to care for those in need as if we were caring for you. In this time of anxiety, give us strength to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick, and to assure the isolated of our love, and your love, for your name’s sake. Amen.

God of compassion, be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation. In their loneliness, be their consolation; in their anxiety, be their hope; in their darkness, be their light; through him who suffered alone on the cross, but reigns with you in glory, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For those who are ill Merciful God, we entrust to your tender care those who are ill or in pain, knowing that whenever danger threatens your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe.
For hospital staff and medical researchers Gracious God, give skill, sympathy and resilience to all who are caring for the sick, and your wisdom to those searching for a cure. Strengthen them with your Spirit, that through their work many will be restored to health; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. From one who is ill or isolated O God, help me to trust you, help me to know that you are with me, help me to believe that nothing can separate me from your love revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. For the Christian community We are not people of fear: we are people of courage. We are not people who protect our own safety: we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety. We are not people of greed: we are people of generosity. We are your people God, giving and loving, wherever we are, whatever it costs For as long as it takes wherever you call us.

Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference

Live-streamed services

Wesley’s Chapel in London will continue to live-stream worship, adapted for no physical congregation. Service times
Wednesday 12:45
Thursday 12:45
Sunday 9:45 and 11:00.
All these services will be available at: UCUAUqhmhevz5sqhh72LIMxA

Message from Ian Smart, presenter on the Bolton FM ‘Spirit of Bolton’ Show and minister at Harwood Methodist Church

This is about the new ‘Prayers for Bolton’ show starting this Sunday.
As you will be aware, we are not going to be allowed to hold worship in our buildings for the next few weeks – however we are a worshipping people and worship needs to go on.

Therefore, can I tell you of two things that will be happening this week, and which will grow from the following Sunday.

Firstly, Bolton FM have agreed that Sue Snowdon and I will offer “Prayers for Bolton” which will be an act of worship for those unable to attend church worship on Sunday. This will be between 6pm and 7pm this week only, switching to an earlier, and hopefully longer, slot on the following Sunday. We are working with Keith Armstrong from Bolton Christian Community Cohesion, to try and get representation from across all the Bolton churches, and we hope to include input from across the faith groups as well. That said we will see what is possible. For now, we have a way of at least being able to offer some worship this Sunday in a way that is hopefully low-tech enough to allow just about anyone to listen. I can confirm that our “preacher” on Sunday will be The Rev’d Paul Martin, our Methodist Chair of District, delivering a message to everyone. In future weeks we hope to have other prominent church leaders.
Bolton FM is available on 96.5FM and online at – it is also available on your smartspeaker and digitally via TuneIn.

May God help us and be with us in our struggles
Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, Professor Clive Marsh, reflects on where God is during the coronavirus pandemic.

My hunch is that if someone were to do a check across the Internet of uses of the word ‘virus’ in recent years, a large number (the majority?) might have referred to computer viruses. Now we are struggling collectively, across the world, with a virus for real. Of course, there have been plenty of real viruses around before now. But of late they’ve largely been under control, at least in the West. The dominant theme in many of the faith-related comments I’ve seen about Covid-19, though, is striking: suddenly we realise we are most certainly not in control, ‘we’ being humanity as a whole. The fragility of life is emphasised, the limitations of knowledge become plain and human hubris is challenged.

We may quickly then want to remind ourselves that ‘God is in control’ in response. True though this will prove, the tricky thing is that it might imply that God somehow caused the virus. I suggest we don’t waste any time with such apportioning of blame, or on some need to locate a cause. Yes, there will be scientific explanations for where the virus came from, and there are scientific endeavours happening as we speak to fight it, and we should be thankful for all that work. God is in the midst of those efforts. But as for handling and responding to the situation which the God-given freedom of the natural world has thrown up, Jesus’ response to the blind man is decisive (John 9.3): don’t ask about sin here, just concentrate on what happens in response to the situation we’re in. Even if there may be a sense in which God is ‘responsible for everything’, don’t press for detail, ask where God is being revealed now, as people cope, adjust, show compassion, help neighbours, find new ways of connecting, stop their busyness, support the weak, learn the value of rest.

The feeding of the 5000 (Mark 6.30-44, and other versions) is a story which works on so many levels, though connects directly with the calls from leaders of supermarket chains urging people ‘just to take what they need, so that others can get what they need too’. The disciples’ exasperation at how all could possibly be fed is being dealt with in the present. I wonder whether the repeated emphasis that ‘there is enough food to go round’ will keep on being repeated, on a global scale, after coronavirus has abated. And thinking of the petition in the Lord’s Prayer to ‘give us this day our daily bread’ (Matt 6.11), the reminder to live simply so that others may simply live has never seemed more pressing.

The coronavirus is here to stay, as part of life, and will take its place alongside others which are already known and tamed. There will be other viruses yet to come. God’s world remains wonderful and fragile, and God has entrusted so much to us, as human beings, to be involved in its care (Gen 1.26-27), not because of any particular merit, but just because this is how humans are to be understood (Ps 8.4-8). May God help us and be with us in our struggles.

Join the Lent course via Skype

This is an invitation to anyone who would like to join a Skype session where we will attempt to have a discussion based on Week 4 (Some groups completed week 3 last week) of the Lent Course. It won’t be a service as such. It will be a Bible Study and it will involve watching the clips and talking about them over video link or typed chat. If you send you Skype ID (starts with live:) I will add you to the group. If you haven’t created a Skype ID yet you just need to search for it in the “Type here to search” window (Windows 10) or download the free app from App Store or Google play if you use any other platform such as Apple IOS or Android. The theme is “What do we have to do to be saved?” Email me if you are struggling with it. We plan to start at 10.45 am on Monday. It will be Week 4 if you have the book. I have put links to the Bible text (John 9:1-42) and to the video clips on to the group chat page. Once you are in the group you will be able to see them. If it works we will do session 5 at the same time the following week. If enough people want an evening slot I will arrange it. Just let me know.

We have half a dozen people so far for Monday. All welcome!
Pastor Chris Holmes email: