Dear friends,

I was interested and challenged to read this article recently:

Christians and the bubonic plague by The Ven John Barton
The Reverend Richard Peirson was one of the exceptions.  Most of the other clergy in the City of London had fled the Great Plague in 1665, but Peirson stayed behind to look after the parishioners of St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, where he was Rector. The parish was densely populated and the pandemic was catastrophic. The church’s register records 636 burials that year in the month of September alone, with 43 interred in one day.

Houses of infected people were marked with a red cross on the door, with occupants kept inside for 40 days. Handcarts were pulled along the city streets to cart away the bodies; the drivers’ cries of “Bring out your dead”, became etched in the memories of subsequent generations. Relatives were banned from attending funerals.

The official count numbered 68,596 deaths in London alone, but other estimates suggested two or three times that number. Bubonic plague – for that is what it was – was incurable. Poor people were fatalistic about it but complained that even their ‘spiritual physicians’ had abandoned them. Clergy of the Church of England were often supplanted by non-conformist preachers.

It wasn’t just the St Bride’s Rector who put his life in jeopardy by staying at his post. While most wealthy people, along with King Charles II and his court, escaped the plague-ridden city, Churchwarden Henry Clarke also chose to remain at the church. When he succumbed to the illness, his brother William took over. William survived for a fortnight.

Plague cases continued to occur sporadically at a modest rate until mid-1666. That year the Great Fire of London destroyed St Bride’s Church and much of the City of London. It was rebuilt to a design by Christopher Wren, but almost obliterated once more in 1940 during World War II before being restored yet again.

Today’s Rector, Canon Alison Joyce, says that compared with her predecessor Richard Peirson, she has it easy. Like everyone else, she is confined by the lockdown rules to her Rectory next to the church. But her pastoral work continues, and she collates sermons and archive music to create a Sunday webcast service. Alison writes, “these days it is a ministry of telephone calls, emails and Facetime. I offer such practical help and support to the vulnerable as I can . . . I keep a candle burning before our main altar and continue a ministry of prayer.”

Alison says she is surprised when people regard the faith as a kind of celestial insurance policy against bad things happening to them. The first followers of Jesus knew that in dedicating their lives to following the crucified and risen Christ, their discipleship would take them into the very heart of darkness, not away from it.

She adds, “Hope is no hope at all unless it can engage with utter despair and meaninglessness.”

Yours in hope and with much love in Christ,


Jonathan Widdess
Vicar of Cumnor
01865 863702

Here is this weeks news….

Alpha Course

We had a great time at online Alpha this week and this is the last chance to sign up to this course. We’re hoping to run another course in the autumn. 
We meet via Zoom, start with a video talk and then discuss. If you have any questions please contact Jonathan ( or 01865 863702) or to sign up go to

Zoom Weekly Prayer Meeting

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14
As a parish, we believe in the power of prayer and we want to gather together at this time to seek God’s face. So, every Monday morning starting on May 11th we’re gathering together online to pray for one another, our families, friends and neighbours, our parish, our nation and the world.
We’ll be using Zoom. Everyone is welcome. For more details on how to connect, see this web page.

Sunday Service Online

This Sunday’s online service is led by Jonathan with Jessica Turner preaching and another special appearance from the St Michael’s Church Choir. It will be online at 10:30am on Sunday 3rd May,, or you can listen in by phoning 01865 920993.

Janet Gow

Janet Gow, an active member of St Michael’s for many years, died peacefully, early last Sunday morning 26th April from Covid 19 aged 87. Unable to visit her because of restrictions, her family were with her on Skype during her final hours.  

She will be buried in Appleton with her husband Abe. In these unusual times only 10 immediate family members are able to attend the graveside service. However, her coffin will be passing through Cumnor along the Abingdon Road past Cumnor Church, en-route to Appleton between 11.40 and 11.45am on Wednesday 6th May should any of her friends wish to pay their respects. 

Unlike services held at crematoriums, there is no provision for live-feed to family and friends for graveside burials. The family are therefore hoping to have a digital service sheet available, should you wish to follow it at home, which they can email to any who would like it. 

Please contact Janet’s daughter, Cathie Little, on if you would like her to email you a copy.

New Book – Where is God in a Coronavirus World? By John Lennox


If you or someone you know is asking lots of questions about where God is in the current crisis, we can recommend this excellent little book by John Lennox, a Christian apologist and Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University.It’s available here:


Thank you to everyone who has sent in a selfie. I’d love to add as many people as possible to the photos of us all. You can see the slideshow that was part of last Sunday’s service by clicking here:
If you’d still like to take part in this please will you send a selfie (a digital photo of yourself) to Sarah at just need your head and shoulders in shot. Think passport photo but definitely more smiley than thatWe’ll need lots of you to join in for this to work, so don’t be shy!

New Dial-in Worship Phone-line


The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has launched a free national phone line as a simple new way to bring worship and prayer into people’s homes while church buildings are closed because of the coronavirus.
Daily Hope, offers music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England at the end of a telephone line.The line – which is available 24 hours a day on 0800 804 8044 – has been set up particularly with those unable to join online church services during the period of restrictions in mind.

Borrow a pew bible?

Would anyone like to borrow a church bible? They are just sitting in church and it may be someone would actually like to read more, but either only has their presentation KJV in tiny script or none at all. We can deliver them to your doorstep (observing appropriate distancing and hygiene etc). Please ask your home group members and other contacts as well! Ring 01865 861541 or email if you are interested.

Please continue to pray for

Those on the frontline in NHS and care homes.The families of Janet Gow, Marjorie and Brian Tomkins, and Shelagh Roberts who have recently passed away.All the key workers and their families.Our PM and the governmentSchool teachers and pupils as they continue to adapt to learning from home.All those feeling lonely and isolated.All those who are ill.Our mission partner Bia.