Letter to parishioners, 14 May 2020

Read a letter from Revd Stephen to parishioners, written on Thursday 14 May 2020.

Dear Friends in Christ,

I had hoped to be writing to you a little sooner this week but circumstances have not made that possible.

After Sunday’s broadcast from Downing Street there has been a lot of confusion about how and when our churches will open again. I have received many emails seeking clarification, particularly in relation to the pastoral offices of Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals. Because weddings were specifically mentioned in the Prime Minister’s statement, there has grown up the feeling that all will be back to normal from 4th July. I have not written sooner because the House of Bishops met on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the uncertainty that has arisen in the last few days, and I hoped that a statement might be forthcoming that would help us to gain a better understanding of the situation. Unfortunately that statement has not yet been issued by the Bishops.

So … I will try to explain the situation for those who are in any kind of doubt. We remain in lockdown, despite the variations that were outlined on Sunday. All churches are to remain locked, although there is a chance that I might be allowed to enter provided appropriate deep cleaning has taken place ahead of my re-entry. In effect, and because of my personal medical condition, I will not be returning to our churches for the Daily Offices or to celebrate the Eucharist for some time. The Prime Minister mentioned the possibility of some churches being reopened, in a limited way, after 4th July, providing the government’s targets in relation to the continuing spread of the coronavirus are met, otherwise the closure will continue. There was also mention of weddings being allowed to take place with slightly more people present than the five essential participants. This is only likely to see us being given permission for about ten people to be present, thus accommodating the bride and groom’s parents as well as the priest and two witnesses. Alongside the uncertainty around the conduct of weddings in our churches, several members of parliament tried to persuade the House of Bishops to allow the conduct of funerals in churches to be reinstated. As of today, that has not been adopted. The Bishops agree that such a move would put them in direct opposition to the government’s policy in relation to social distancing, etc. Finally, as we all know, Baptisms cannot take place at this time for the same reasons that our other pastoral offices have been suspended. The only baptisms that can take place are those for babies who are in extremis and, therefore, in need of emergency baptism.

The closure of our churches continues to cause considerable upset and confusion. During these difficult times we continue to be urged to pray for each other from the safety and security of our own homes. Similarly, those who are not classified as being vulnerable are urged to continue supporting neighbours who are struggling to manage day by day with such issues as getting food and medicines.

Our website continues to be well used, and is offering prayers on a daily basis both for and with you all. For those without internet access, there is now a CD available of Sunday’s service and sermon – please contact me if you know someone who would like to receive one of these.

I continue to hold you all in my prayers and wish you every blessing,

Revd Stephen