With a new lockdown upon us, I'm writing to let you know how that affects services at St Bene’t’s. And before I get to that, please know that I am praying for you all in all the complications and stresses of adapting to changed circumstances once again.
Communal worship is exempt from the lockdown restrictions, and remains one of the few permitted activities. However, just because something is permitted does not mean we should do it. Having discussed this carefully with the wardens, and in consultation with the PCC, we have decided to suspend public worship in church on Sundays with immediate effect. Sunday services draw the biggest congregation, and with the current level of infection locally being high, and the increased transmission risks from the new variant, we believe the safest option is not to meet in person on Sundays. There will continue to be an online service posted each week to the website and our YouTube channel, as well as a Godly Play video. Zoom coffee will resume on Sundays at 11am (using this link). The sermon can be downloaded separately on the website for those who would find that helpful, and is also available on a phone line for those without internet access: 01223 643870.
We recognise that in person worship in church is an important point of stability for some people, and plays a significant role in their mental and spiritual health. So weekday services will continue on a reduced pattern: St Bene’t’s will be open for the Eucharist on Tuesdays (10.30am), Wednesdays (12.30pm) and Fridays (8am). These services are shorter than those on Sundays, and tend to draw smaller congregations, so we feel confident in managing the risks associated with opening. Having reviewed our risk assessments in the light of the new strain of the virus, we are also making a couple of small changes to the services - you can view our safety measures here.
No one should feel they must come to church, and for those who are particularly vulnerable, the best course of action is not to come in person at the moment. I am cheered and made hopeful by hearing from several members of the congregation who have already had both their vaccine jabs, and until such time as the vaccination programme is rolled out more fully, we all need to take additional care both of ourselves and of others.
The Eucharist will go on being offered daily, albeit privately on those days when there is not a public celebration of the Eucharist in church. And Evening Prayer continues daily via Zoom (joining details are on the website). We have also taken the decision to stop opening the church for private prayer, for the time being. For those who want some quiet time to pray, the church will be open half an hour before each service on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
I am more grateful than I can express to our wardens for their unfailing support and wisdom: we all owe them a debt of gratitude. And we are blessed in a PCC that works together harmoniously, supportively, and wisely: I thankful to them and for them, too. And for so many of you, whose support and encouragement has meant a lot as together we have sought to navigate our way through difficult times. It’s my prayer that these gifts will continue, and build us all up in faith and love, as we seek to serve God and our neighbour.
With my love, and ongoing prayers,