Following the Prime Minister’s Statement on Monday 4<sup>th</sup> January, detailing new restrictions in England to control the spread of Covid-19, The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Covid Recovery Group, said:
“The Prime Minister’s words underline the severity of the situation for the country, as the virus continues to spread rapidly. At a time like this, the Church is here to offer comfort and spiritual support to everyone. We have a duty to care for each other, but particularly those who are vulnerable or who may be most at risk.
“The Government has chosen not to suspend public worship in England at this time and we will continue to follow the guidance and ensure that churches remain as safe as possible. The Government guidance on the safe use of places of worship makes clear that those attending a place of worship must not mingle with anyone outside their household or support bubble.
“However, some may feel that it is currently better not to attend in person, and there will be parishes which decide to offer only digital services for the time-being. Clergy who have concerns, and others who are shielding, should take particular care and stay at home.
“I would urge everyone in our churches to pray for those on the front line in our public services - the NHS and those working in social care, for schools and many others on whom we depend; and for parents and carers of children at this anxious and stressful time.
“There is hope. The vaccination programme is underway and, as Christians, we have a deeper hope in God that comforts us beyond fear itself. As we have been remembering this Christmas Season, even in the midst of our darkest fears, that hope brings light.”
For the time being, St Mary the Virgin & All Souls, Bulwell will maintain its current, covid-secure patterns of public worship in church; our 9.30am Walsingham Mass on Thursdays and our 10am Parish Mass on Sundays. Funerals can take place, following Government and Church of England guidance and advice. Foodbanks can continue to operate. Weddings can also take place, in exceptional circumstances.
I am conscious of those who will be advised to shield again, and those who will not wish to attend worship in the light of the increased numbers of cases. St Mary’s will continue to offer live-streamed and recorded worship via our Facebook page, YouTube channels and church websites, together with the national Church of England online weekly worship, daily audio prayer services via the Time to Pray app, and the Daily Hope telephone line for those who are unable to access the internet (freephone 0800 804 8044).
Recognising the ongoing nature of the pandemic, and a longing in some churches to receive Holy Communion in both kinds, revised guidelines have been issued by the Church of England regarding the administration of the consecrated bread and wine in a manner that seeks to minimise any possible health risks.
The simultaneous administration of consecrated bread and wine is to be effected by the priest taking a piece of bread carefully from the paten or ciborium with the fingers and touching it briefly but carefully to the surface of the wine, allowing a small amount of the wine to suffuse into the bread. This is called ‘intinction’. The following key points should be noted:
• The words of distribution (‘The body and blood of Christ keep you in eternal life’) will be said to the whole congregation immediately after the invitation to Communion, whilst the congregation are still in their pews, not to individuals at the altar rail. All who intend to receive respond by saying, ‘Amen’.
• The priest will sanitise hands in advance of the distribution; and each communicant must sanitise their hands before receiving.
• Communicant and priest must both wear face coverings, and the communicant must move away from the communion station before removing their mask to consume the consecrated bread and wine.
• The priest will communicate last and must not drink from the chalice until this point.
• Communicants who wish to continue receiving under one kind only should continue to do so, but to make this clear to the priest before she/he administers the sacrament.
The following guidance remains in place:
• Please do not gather in groups of more than six people when entering or leaving the church building.
• Entry and exit is by the South Porch only.
• Please do not enter the building if you are displaying any of the symptoms of coronavirus.
• Please use the hand sanitiser provided on entry and exit to the church building, if you visit the toilet whilst in church, and before you receive Communion.
• Please sign in when coming to church, using your own pen, to help the NHS Coronavirus Test & Trace.
• The wearing of facemasks is mandatory in church buildings (unless you are medically exempt from wearing masks, or are leading the service or part of the service). If you are able to wear a facemask, please bring one with you.
• Please maintain social distancing
• There should be no mixing between households
• The kitchen area is closed to reduce the church building’s cleaning regime. For the same reason, the Children’s Corner is also closed. Families are encouraged to bring suitable books/toys etc for their children and have them with them on their pew. Whiz Kidz leaders are providing an activity packs for children to take away with them.
• You are welcome to light candles as an aid to prayer, but please use your own lighter/matches.
• Please bring your own Bibles to use and Orders of Service if you have access to a printer (if not, an Order of Service can be provided for you). A revised Order of Service is attached for this Sunday. The Orders of Service can be taken home and brought back to use again the following week.
• There will be no physical sharing of the Peace.
• Amateur choirs cannot take place. However, our organist, Philip Miles, will continue to play during our Sunday services.
• The priest (and anyone who helps prepares the elements) will sanitise their hands before touching the elements, and before offering the consecrated bread and wine to communicants. If others assist in preparing the elements, then hand hygiene and physical distancing precautions will apply.
• In order to avoid touching the altar rail and to maintain physical distancing communicants should not come to kneel at the altar rail, but instead they should form a line maintaining two metres distance to receive the bread from the priest.
As ever, there is no pressure to receive Communion if you feel unsure. Some may prefer not to receive Communion physically but to receive a blessing from the priest, or to receive ‘Spiritual Communion’ instead. In the case of the latter, the following prayer can be said by the individual whilst remaining in their pew during the Distribution:
Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits you have given me, for all the pains and insults you have borne for me. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen. (Prayer of St Richard of Chichester)
As ever, please take precautions to look after yourselves and be exceptionally careful. I acknowledge and share the sadness that many are feeling at not being able to meet together as we used to do, but I prayerfully and confidently look forward to the day when we can all meet together again.
Stay safe, stay well and God bless you