Letter to parishioners, 30 April 2021

Friday, 30 April 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

Over the course of the last few months I have received many emails and telephone calls which have asked the same question: When will we be open for public worship again? When I have responded that there have been services at least twice a week since the beginning of last August I have been met with expressions of surprise and, in several cases, disbelief. These questions, and the responses I have received, have caused me to spend some time pondering how much more we could have done during prolonged times of apprehension and restriction; they have also caused me to reflect upon the hopes and aspirations people have of the Church.

Between January and April there was great pressure placed on clergy to close their churches once again. It was suggested by the House of Bishops that parish clergy were being irresponsible if they kept their churches open for public worship, and that the only ‘sensible’ course of action was to lock the doors and return to on-line worship alone. This was not the course of action I chose to take. I made it very clear that only a direct order to close would lead me down that path.

Of course, four of our churches have remained closed and the worship has been focused in our two largest buildings in Corby Glen and Irnham. As we move forward I have been praying about how worship might return to Bassingthorpe, Bitchfield, Burton-le-Coggles and Swayfield. Over the next few weeks I will be publishing a plan that will bring one service per month to the churches that have been locked for so long. As we hear of the success of the national vaccine roll-out, and as the country begins to hear the good news of dramatically falling infection and death rates, it seems appropriate that we step out of the world of fear and look at a post-pandemic future.

These thoughts of churches being closed and re-opened have been on the minds of many involved in Church governance over the last year. The Church throughout the UK is in a financial crisis that has been exacerbated by closures and an inevitable fall in income. The situation is so grave in most dioceses that radical plans are being formulated up and down the country. The Diocese of Lincoln is no exception in this matter. Next Saturday, 8th May, there will be a meeting of the Diocesan Synod which will consider and vote upon a draft plan that could have a dramatic and lasting effect on the life of the Church in every town and village in the county. We need to pray that wisdom and calm might prevail as the necessary discussions and votes are undertaken at that meeting. But … we also need to look at ourselves and our own attitudes to Church.

The question: When will there be services in our group of parishes again? feels strange because our parishes are, in reality, linked into a wider community of faith. The viability of our whole Church family calls upon us all to recognize God’s call to respond to and to celebrate all that he has given, and all that he continues to give, even if that generosity demands that we recognize that we cannot stand alone.

At the moment we are journeying through the season of Easter. Soon we will celebrate Pentecost. As we do every year, we will pray that we might know and share in the inspiration, the joy, the guidance, the strength and the courage of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In these ongoing times of challenge and uncertainty, let us pray that the Holy Spirit might really come into our lives and light us up as beacons of Christ’s love, service and joy in this troubled and divided world.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen