The Prime Minister made an announcement on the 4<sup>th</sup> January regarding England going into lockdown until at least mid-February but, surprisingly, places of worship being able to stay open for public worship as well as individual private prayer.
I have been in discussion with the Churchwardens of both parishes about this, and we - regrettably - have significant reservations about remaining open for public worship with the new, virulent strain of the Covid virus; these are as follows:
- The majority of our congregations are in a vulnerable category either through age or because of other underlying health conditions
- We are close to receiving the vaccine (probably over the course of the next 2-3 months)
- We have a duty of care for our congregations, for those "on duty" at services, for our parishioners, for our families and for ourselves
- The Ministry Leadership Team have reservations, for personal reasons, about their availability to lead/preach at live services; we therefore have a much depleted team to call upon
- We feel it is more sensible to reduce the risks for everyone by having on-line services rather than live public worship.
These reservations have been put to the two Standing Committees who have agreed, with heavy hearts, that with immediate effect we suspend public worship in the three churches in the benefice until the lockdown it ended. (We will review this mid-February; with the possibility of commencing public worship again from the end of February.) Bishop Rose and Archdeacon Andrew have been informed of this decision.
- We will record a service and make it available, on-line, every Sunday morning (and reintroduce the time of fellowship, with coffee, on Zoom after the service)
- The parish churches remain open for individual private prayer seven days a week
- St. George's church will be heated for two one-hour periods every day (10-11am and 2-3pm) so that the church is more comfortable if people wish to make use of the space for private prayer. Revd Ylva and I will diary some of our time to be at St. George's Church and at the Mission Church if you wish to meet and talk
As this situation is going on far longer than any of us had imaged:
- We will look at arranging a form of on-line, weekly Bible Study; a sort of “on-line Home Group”. This will be available, on Zoom, to anyone who wishes to join in for Christian fellowship in this way. Watch this space!
- We will also review and update the on-line resources that are available on the church websites.
I know this will be of considerable disappointment to some. We are not taking this action lightly. Please remember that there will also be others who hold passionately to the view, “It’s about time services in church stopped!” The virus is serious; the country is in lockdown to try and break the spread of the virus. We need, as the local church, to be part of helping with that break so that – along with the vaccine – we can all get back to a more normal life sooner rather than later.
Please continue to look after yourself. If you want to talk, please pick up the phone and call.