The Government allows places of worship to remain open in this new year lockdown. This is in contrast to the two previous times of restrictions; the first where we were required to close and the second where we were free to open. The advice from the Church of England and the diocese is that each PCC with their incumbent should now decide. If we are staying open to complete a new risk assessment; if not to make that decision clear and inform the bishop of Sheffield who will give immediate support to the decision.
I am extremely grateful to our PCC members who have replied to my request for their views. There has been careful, reasoned and nuanced thought. The majority view, including (and this carries real weight) that of both our Wardens, Maureen and Dorothy, is that we should close for January.
I am therefore announcing and will inform the bishop that we will close for the Sundays and Thursdays in January and then review.
I think it is appropriate to share the factors involved in the decision and do so asking they are received. This difficult time will not be helped if we critique each other or compare ourselves to others, or feel a compulsion to act against our judgement.
The factors that have been included are:
1. The real spiritual and emotional benefit that attendance at services has brought people who have gone through so much already.
2. The permission and advice allows us real freedom and balances that with real responsibility for people’s well being.
3. We have had no recorded incidence of a Covid infection or trace while we have been open for worship and that is a tribute to the care we have taken after our risk assessment. People have felt and said they feel safe.
4. There have been incidents where people have needed reminding to wear a mask; for the mask to cover mouth and nose; not to walk across pews or people. There have been groups and people closer than 2 metres talking to each other. The vigilance and the risks associated with the above are clearly increased now the variant virus is being detected in our area and before most people have been vaccinated.
5. Our national and local society are asked to stay at home and reduce travel and contact; should we then opt out of that solidarity with them by making a journey to be with others in a way the majority are restrained from? What witness is it if we meet in a way they cannot or should not?
6. How would we feel if as a result of our being open for worship there was an infection and in the worse case, hospitalisation or death among our congregation that their attendance may have caused?
I hope in reading the above you will feel the same concerns and difficulty in decision making that the PCC, Wardens and I as Rector have felt. But a decision must be made. The magazine for February will have additional pages to read and we will keep up the telephone calls we make to one another. These are simple ways to tide us over the next weeks. Some of you may still have the Prayers in a time of Coronavirus the Church of England issued as a booklet to hand. There is a national online Church of England service each Sunday to follow and BBC Radio 4 have a Sunday morning broadcast service and BBC 1 TV have a weekly service too. These are useful while we wait to meet again. And God willing, we will meet again soon.
The Rev. Canon Ian Smith - Rector of Warmsworth