Closing doors, opening hearts
Tue 24 March 2020
Today seems like a good day to re-open the Sheldon blog which has been dormant for a few years.
Today is our first day of being Coronavirus-closed.
Our social media channels (see links below) will continue to be places where we post things to keep you cheerful - lambs, flowers, views, etc. We know that things to smile at are much needed in hard times. We'll use this blog for the bigger news. If you'd like to stay tuned then please subscribe and you'll get an email whenever we post an update.
A week ago we closed Sheldon for all group activities but hoped we would be able to carry on with private retreats a good while longer. However, it's a fast moving situation and we made the decision to close completely on Sunday, ahead of the government lockdown announcement yesterday. We've been contacting people, arranging refunds, credits and transfers, shutting up the accommodation, etc. Monday was the last day at work for our staff team, and our final guest headed back home. Bookings are obviously our main income source. Almost everyone has needed a refund or a credit and we don't know how long we'll have to stay closed or how quickly bookings will recover once we re-open. We are therefore availing ourselves of the government scheme to keep paying all but one of the members of our staff team while they are 'furloughed' - the government covers 80% and we are topping up the 20%.
And what of the Community? Well we're here and looking after the place and eachother. Three of us come into 'vulnerable' categories so we are effectively self-isolating as an extended family. Alice and Andrew only joined us in February so this is early days in our life together. Alice is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in haematology and we are hugely proud to be seconding her back to the job she finished in Exeter in December. She will start work there on Thursday and will be living with their son in Exeter for the coming while. We also have another family living with us temporarily who are doctors and waiting for their deployment and redeployment. They will remain safely distanced from the community members. It's good to feel we can be playing our small part in supporting just some of the medical folk who will be doing difficult work in the coming weeks.
The only member of our staff team who hasn't been stood down is Darren who is the managing editor/curator of the Sheldon Hub www.sheldonhub.org. The Hub is our online support resource for people in ministry and is a mature (3 years old) community of peer support and resource sharing with 1700 members. We are not rushing about at this stage because it's not clear yet what the additional needs will be. There are already plenty of forum threads on the personal and professional challenges for people in ministry. Each one is having to discover what church leadership means when churches are shut, pastoral care can't be done face to face, many are themselves in 'vulnerable' categories, and their roles will ramp up as there are more dead to be buried and bereaved to be comforted.
We will continue to pray daily at 8am, and at other times although our pattern may vary. We welcome any prayer requests you would like to send us.
We are immensely grateful for the messages of support, goodwill and prayers from many Friends. And for those who have donated all or part of their booking refunds, enlarged their standing orders, sent gifts, or planning to hold a virtual birthday party in aid of Sheldon! You know who you are - thank you. We do have reasonable reserves we can draw on thanks mainly to a couple of generous legacies a few years ago (bless you Pat, Mary and others), so we are reasonably well placed to come through this. But it will be a challenge for us all as we work out what our calling is day by day, what our ministry looks like day by day, and how we keep each other and ourselves safe.
Our prayers are with you, and we welcome your prayers for us.
Do keep in touch by whichever of our blog or social media channels suit you best.
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And we'll keep this page Sheldon bookings updated if we need to cancel beyond 21st June and/or when we start making plans for re-opening.