Letter to parishioners, 19 July 2021

Monday, 19 July 2021

Dear Friends,

Today has been hailed by many as the long-awaited Freedom Day, the day when we can shrug off the burdensome mantle of Covid restrictions and live our lives without masks, without social distancing, without regard for the dangers of either catching or spreading the coronavirus that has both affected and taken the lives of many. This is, of course, nonsense!

Coronavirus is still with us. The infection rate is escalating exponentially, and is predicted to go much higher. Similarly, the hospitalisation and death tolls are rising – not as fast as it did in the pre-vaccine days, but the numbers are rising.

As the government removes the final restrictions that were imposed to protect the nation, it is appropriate that we should consider how we are going to respond within our worshipping communities.

The Church of England issued its guidelines on the afternoon of Friday, 16 July. Those guidelines focus around one principle: the personal and corporate responsibility of individuals and organisations to protect others and themselves.

Alongside the government’s relaxation of all regulation and the Church of England’s guidelines, I have received specific medical guidance in relation to my ongoing categorisation as ‘Clinically Extremely Vulnerable’. That final piece of the jigsaw says that I must proceed with extreme caution and act as though I have not been vaccinated. Basically, I have to treat every social setting as a potential threat to my own health.

Having said all that, I have spent much time considering how we might conduct services in our churches, probably for the rest of the year:

  • All services will be limited to a maximum congregation of 50 people.
  • Everyone attending a service will be encouraged to use hand sanitiser and to wear a face covering.
  • There will be no hymn singing until medical evidence suggests that it is safe to do so, and there is a clear and consistent drop in the infection rate.
  • Holy Communion will continue to be administered in one kind (the bread only).

All other issues will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

The Church of England guidelines make it clear that: The responsibility for making decisions about how to proceed lies with the incumbent. I take this responsibility very seriously, and have acted in consultation with the Archdeacon, who has instructed me to be very cautious in respect to the wellbeing of both parishioners and myself.

It is my hope that this will bring some of the speculation and uncertainty to an end for the time-being. I will, of course, be keeping a constant watch on how matters unfold in the coming weeks and will write again when I am able to make any significant change to the procedures I have outlined above.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen