5<sup>th</sup> January 2021
To all the church family at St Andrew’s
Happy New Year! As we digest the news that we are heading back into another lockdown, my mind keeps turning back to the joy of our Christmas services. Amidst the frustration and sadness of not being able to celebrate with so many family and friends, I am so thankful for our Carols by Starlight and Christmas Day services. Being able to sing God’s praises, celebrate the birth of our Saviour, and simply have some fun together as his people was a real tonic for the soul. The memories are still fresh and refreshing.
Of course, the new year has brought new challenges and yesterday the PCC Standing Committee met to decide how St Andrew’s is going to respond to the latest announcements. Praise God that amid the difficulties of this spreading virus the government has not legislated to prevent Christians meeting to worship. We are conscious of the privilege but also of the need to be wise and prayerful in how we exercise it.
Let me say a couple of things about our discussions and then lay out what we plan to do.
Firstly, Standing Committee recognised that our church family is made up of a wide variety of different people and we all have our own concerns, challenges and perspectives relating to everything around Covid-19. We are also very conscious of our need to contribute to a community effort to restrict the spread of this virus. At the same time, we are the Lord’s people and we have a unique responsibility to share the good news of Jesus ‘that brought life and immortality to light’ and our world has never been in greater need of this message of hope. Finally, we know that it is God’s intention that his people should gather and that some of the benefits of meeting are simply not replicated by gathering online, however grateful we might be for that facility. We recognised that for some people in our church, meeting online is enough and feels right, but for others it remains important to use the freedom we have been allowed to continue to meet in person.
The way we are proposing to move forward is therefore as follows:
Our Sunday Morning services at 10.30am will be online only. As we’ve got used to, you can join in through YouTube, Facebook, and our telephone service for those without online access. We will also be resuming Coffee & Chat at 11.30am via Zoom, which will give us a chance to catch up and encourage one another. Through these difficult weeks we want there to be a time and a place where our whole church family knows that we are coming together. This will be that moment, so let me encourage you to watch the service live and then drop into the Zoom call even if it’s only for a few minutes to say hello. It will make a big difference to us to see you there.
On Sunday evenings at 6.30pm we plan to hold a simple, in person, time of worship in the church building. We won’t be trying to create a normal evening service, but we will gather around God’s Word and pray together for our church, our community and our world. We will look together at the letter of 2 Timothy that our Growth Groups will be studying when they meet online. Numbers will be strictly limited, so it is vital that you book your place by lunchtime each Friday. If you are coming, please also expect to be asked to help out in simple ways as there will be limits on the number of people who are around to do the jobs that are needed. This time together has the potential to be very precious in the coming weeks but in order for it to happen we need to ensure that we are observing our risk assessments and ensuring that as we come, we maintain 2m distancing at all times, we stay seated once in the building, and that there is no mingling either inside or outside the building. I trust that we will never get used to this strange way of meeting, but at the same time we will care for one another by continuing to work hard at complying with the restrictions that are necessary at the moment, if we are to be able to continue to have the blessing of meeting in person.
All of these arrangements are going to be kept under review, as is the possibility of continuing to offer a midweek Book of Common Prayer service. Please make sure that you are checking emails and Facebook for the latest updates.
I continue to be so thankful for the many ways in which people have been supporting and encouraging each other through these last months. Keep going! It is such a blessing to be part of God’s family at St Andrew’s and it is vital that we keep finding ways to express the togetherness that we enjoy because of Jesus. On that theme, may I close with one last thought. I have already commented on how the Standing Committee was aware of the wide range of views and circumstances that there are in our church with regard to Covid. In the light of this it is inevitable that there will be a mix of views as to the plans that I’ve outlined above. Can I urge us to be gracious and understanding with one another. No one should feel guilty for the decisions that they have prayerfully come to regarding themselves and those they care for. Instead let’s work hard to deepen our understanding of each other’s needs and to care for one another as we maintain the oneness that the Spirit of God brings to his people.
Yours in Christ
Rev David Whitehouse