Church of England Diocese of Manchester Newchurch Saint Nicholas with Saint John

A Letter from Fr Scott

Letter from Fr Scott, our curate-in-charge

There’s a sense now that we’re slowly returning to normal in church - processing at the beginning and end of services, hymn-singing, fellowship - and experiencing again the aspects that most people said they missed. We still have some way to go, particularly with regard to events such as Jolly Tots and the Place of Welcome . And we’re not sure when we’ll return to sharing the Chalice. But we’re getting there. And it’s a testimony to us all for our patience and fortitude during what’s been a dreadful 18 months.

It’s an 18 months that will live long in our collective memory. The worst of the pandemic is behind us, but it’s left scars that may never fully heal. Coronavirus has touched many facets of human life . Its effects are unpredictable: some have experienced nothing worse than a bad cold; others have suffered permanent damage to their health. Many have been affected in different ways: jobs lost, livelihoods decimated, businesses destroyed. Credit to the Government: it has stepped in to support millions with furlough and a highly successful vaccination programme. But there is other hidden damage that may never be repaired.

We’ve all seen and heard of the effect of this virus at the micro level. We remember the frustration of supermarket queues and unnecessary bulk-buying. The repeated lockdowns that placed unrelenting pressure on households already struggling with economic downturn. We hear of relationships that have fallen apart. We regularly encountered impatience and distrust in the street and on the roads. The education of children has suffered, often at vital times in their learning. Many babies were born who hadn’t seen a full human face for many months. And amongst all this, the individual tragedies. We heard of those grieving who’d been unable to spend a few last moments with dying loved ones. We heard of care homes that were locked down against desperate relatives who could only see their loved ones through windows. And we heard of the funerals that could only be attended by the funeral directors and the minister.

And we also remember the enforced closure of our churches. Locked doors at Easter last happened when Pope Innocent III was in dispute with King John over who should be the next Archbishop. The Pope pulled rank, and commanded all churches to close except for baptisms and the sacrament for the dying. That was in 1208. By an extraordinary coincidence, it happened on 23 March, the same day as the Government placed the UK in lockdown. But we were ‘lucky’: our churches were only closed for a matter of weeks; Pope Innocent’s interdict lasted 6 years.

One event that was cancelled last year was the All Souls’ service. If there was ever a time to hold this, it was during a pandemic that had taken many thousands of lives. Many had been taken within the Valley, and some known to us personally. We were unable to solemnly commemorate those who were loved and lost. This year’s service is to be held on Tuesday 2 November at 6pm, and I hope and pray that everyone who is able to do so will attend. Remember when we gathered for the healing service of St. Luke on 17 October? All Souls also provides a time of healing. It’s a time when we remember the lives of so many taken from us and to continue to commend and entrust them to God’s safekeeping. It also offers us a time of reconciliation, with our unresolved grief, hopes, fears, and concerns for the future.

So, please come along on Tuesday 2 November at 6pm and be part of that remembrance, a time of prayer, reflection, and the healing that only a loving God can give.

With blessing,

Fr Scott