Letter to parishioners, 23 July 2021

Friday 23 July 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

In this week’s gospel reading we will hear of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand and of his walking on the turbulent and stormy waters. As we tread warily into a new future we should take this reading from John’s gospel as a message of great hope for us all. As Jesus saw the crowd’s need for the most basic of necessities, food, he rewarded them with an abundance that was beyond the imaginations of all. Then, as his faithful disciples journeyed into the life-threatening storm, he came to them with the words: It is I; do not be afraid. Many people are feeling apprehensive and fearful as we move from the constraints of the last sixteen months into a level of freedom that has become unfamiliar to us all. Let us take heart in the familiar accounts of Jesus’ love and compassion for humanity contained in this week’s gospel message (John 6.1-21). Let us trust that we will be provided for by the one who came to bring new life. Let us also trust that if we stretch out our hands to Christ in faith we might hear those wonderful words: It is I; do not be afraid.

As we journey on in faith, we have come to the moment when the churches in our Benefice that have been closed for so long can once again experience the joy of eucharistic worship. In August the services in our Benefice will be as follows:

  • Sunday, 1st August
    9am            Holy Communion at Swayfield
    10.30am      Holy Communion at Irnham
    4pm            Evensong on Zoom
  • Sunday, 8th August
    9am            Holy Communion (BCP) at Burton-le-Coggles
    10.30am      Holy Communion at Corby Glen
    4pm            Evensong on Zoom
  • Sunday, 15th August
    9am            Holy Communion (BCP) at Bassingthorpe
    10.30am      Holy Communion at Irnham
    4pm            Evensong on Zoom
  • Sunday, 22nd August
    10.30am      Holy Communion at Corby Glen
    1.30pm        Holy Baptism at Swayfield
    4pm            Evensong on Zoom
    6pm            Holy Communion at Bitchfield
  • Sunday, 29th August
    10.30am      Benefice Holy Communion at Burton-le-Coggles

I will be announcing the dates and times of Harvest Festival Services across the Benefice over the next couple of weeks.

On Monday I wrote to you all in response to the government’s lifting of the majority of the Covid regulations. Today, in my usual weekly letter, I would like to offer more clarification of how we will be proceeding in the immediate future.

The primary focus of how we gather in worship remains the same. The guidelines issued by the Church of England focus on one underlying principle: the personal and corporate responsibility of individuals and organisations to protect others and themselves. This principle underpins the following code of practice which I intend to institute with immediate effect:

  • All worshippers should still indicate their intention to attend a service in advance. This can be done by email or telephone message directly to myself. The Church of England guidelines state: the government is asking that venues do continue to ask people to register for venue check in … as it will continue to form one of the main ways of them identifying people who may have been exposed to coronavirus. If you have not ‘pre-booked’ you will be asked to complete a Track & Trace form before taking a seat in the church.
  • You will still be encouraged to use hand sanitiser and to wear face masks in church services. The Church of England guidelines state: Although social distancing and face coverings are no longer required by law, the incumbent may still make decisions to retain some or all of these measures if they believe doing so is important for safety in their building. There is no doubt whatsoever that many members of our congregations are medically vulnerable for a variety of reasons. It is our duty to protect those people. In respect of social distancing, all pews will be open and there will be no pre-designated seats. However, I would ask you to respect those who wish to remain distanced from others as they join us in worship.
  • Many of us have lamented the absence of hymn singing from our services. Whilst there is provision for the re-institution of this tradition, I will not be taking up this option immediately. In order that we might sing ‘safely’ it is recommended that we do so only whilst wearing masks. Until I have a clear indication that we are all willing to do this I cannot risk the obvious dangers of community singing. It is my hope that within a short period of time I will be able to move from this position, but it will depend on mutual cooperation and respect for fellow worshippers.
  • The government has announced that there will be no limits on the numbers of people allowed to attend the Occasional Offices, namely baptisms, weddings and funerals. However, I have to take into account the procedures I have put in place for the well-being of the majority, as well as the need to protect key members of the team who are usually in attendance at these services. I will, therefore, be imposing a limit of 50 people attending these services with immediate effect. There will be no use of additional seating in any of our churches.

It is my hope and prayer that we might all stay safe and well in the days to come, and that we might all work together to protect each other from the ongoing effects of the coronavirus.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen