Letter to parishioners, 6 August 2020

6 August 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last Sunday public worship resumed in our Benefice with services of Holy Communion at 9am and 10.30am in St John’s Church, Corby Glen.  Significant numbers of people joined together in prayer and worship for the first time in months.  This week services will take place at the same times in St Andrew’s Church, Irnham.  I would like to remind you that is essential that you should contact me to let me know of your interest in attending one of these services as soon as possible – bookings do not automatically carry forward from week to week.  I know from several emails and telephone calls that some of you feel uneasy about the concept of ‘booking’ to go to church.  Despite this uneasiness, I need to say that what is being asked in this respect is the same as is being asked in almost every other aspect of our lives at the moment.  The Church is being asked to demonstrate that it is taking seriously the need to practise appropriate social distancing and, therefore, that it is also protecting all who join together in prayer and worship.  Over the last few months our churches have been closed and the Church, as a national institution, has been working in the background of daily life.  The government has now given us the chance to meet in restricted numbers and show the rest of the community that we are not a defunct organisation.  It is our duty to take the trust that has been invested in us seriously and to conform to the guidelines and regulations that have been laid down for us to follow, and that have been endorsed by the House of Bishops, the leaders of our Church.

As well as reminding you of the need to let me know of your intention to attend a service, you also need to take note of the latest regulation that was announced by the Prime Minister last week.  From this Sunday it will become compulsory for all those attending public worship to wear a mask or other face covering, unless you are in one of the exempt categories.  Again, I am sure that, for many, this is a level of intrusion into our church life that feels excessive.  Whatever we might feel on a personal level, this is not an optional guideline, it is a direct instruction that we cannot ignore.

We are all living in a very different world.  Every aspect of our lives is subject to a new set of rules.  This week Vicky and I have been in the Lake District, allowing me to enjoy a few days of convalescence.  During that time we, like everyone else, spent a lot of our time putting on and removing masks.  We also found that unless we had booked to go into many buildings, there was no chance of our being admitted.  Sadly, our churches are in exactly the same position.  Churches are public buildings and have to demonstrate their compliance with the same restrictions that are now controlling every other aspect of our lives.

For many this week’s letter will create a sense of resentment and anger.  I am sorry if that applies to you.  It is important that we all take seriously the potentially deadly virus that continues to rampage throughout the world.  I do understand that this may feel unacceptably intrusive, but I would ask you to pause and consider why the Church should be different from every other aspect of our lives.  It is our duty and our responsibility to lead the way, to show that we understand the need to take care of those amongst whom we live and worship, and to set aside our personal preferences and prejudices and focus on praising the God who does love us, just as He has since the day He created this world.

With all good wishes and every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen