Letter to parishioners, 26 June 2020

Read a letter dated 26 June 2020 from Revd Stephen

Friday, 26 June 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

Here we are at the end of another confusing week!

I am pleased to say that we have finally heard back from our insurers, and it looks as though we may be able to open our churches for private prayer in the comparatively near future.  We just have to ensure that we are totally Covid-compliant and Covid-secure to make sure that we could never be accused of being negligent should anything ‘go wrong’.  As soon as I am satisfied that the appropriate guidelines have been met, I will be arranging for some of our churches to open two days per week, for three hours on each day.  The details will be published as soon as possible.

Just as the issue of ‘private prayer’ looks as though it is being resolved, we have had another challenge thrown at us.  As you will be aware, the Prime Minister has announced that churches can re-open for some public worship and weddings from 4th July.  Before I go into more detail, I do need to say that none of our churches will be open for public worship of any kind before the first Sunday in August, at the earliest.  Up to this point I have been able to avoid emphasizing my need to continue shielding on health grounds, but now I have no choice.  My final session of chemotherapy will be this coming Monday.  In order that I might get myself into a position of being able to re-enter our churches safely, I will need to follow the national guidelines and not ‘pause’ my shielding in any way until 1st August.  Furthermore, when our churches do re-open for public worship it will not be a return to the pattern of services we knew pre-lockdown.  Whilst the government guidelines for shops, pubs, hairdressers, etc. have been issued, there is still no word on how churches will be expected to re-open.  However, we do know from the House of Bishops, and from our own Bishops, that the re-opening will need to be managed carefully and over a long period of time.  Whilst I am not in a position to say what my final decision will be, it looks as though there will be one service at one of our churches each Sunday morning and, possibly, a service in a different church in the benefice at 4pm each Sunday afternoon.  I will write giving the final details of how public worship will work when the necessary guidelines have been issued and processed.

The other announcement that has caused confusion surrounds the conduct of weddings.  Again, the government has made a very vague announcement that weddings can resume with a maximum of thirty people present.  That is all they have said so far.  This does not mean that weddings will resume on 4th July, I’m afraid.  As is the case with public worship, the Church of England is still awaiting the appropriate guidelines and regulations.  This has been a very distressing year for those who had planned to be married.  We need to continue to pray for all of those couples as they journey through this time of disappointment and disruption.

I am sorry that I find myself writing another negative letter.  So much of my time seems to be spent trying to track down and interpret ‘rules’ that were never intended for churches in the first place.  I ask you all to continue praying that this confusion may soon come to an end, and that we may once again join together in the joy of Christian fellowship and praise.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen