It is hard to believe this is our fourth magazine since lockdown began. I think we are now entering week 14 at the time of writing this. I hope everyone is keeping well and positive in these challenging days. A friend of mine who is a young widow described lockdown very powerfully in a blog post she wrote recently. She said while we are all in the same boat, we have very different cabins.
I’m conscious that for some, lockdown has been a very positive experience where they have had the opportunity to get many jobs and projects completed they don’t normally have time for. They have had the chance to spend more time with their immediate family and it has brought people closer together.
For others too it has been a much more challenging experience. There are some who have been unwell and had to self-isolate and look after themselves when they feel absolutely awful. Many with underlying medical conditions have had to cocoon at home for the past 3 months and feel the sense of isolation acutely. While some are very content in their own company, others love to have regular interaction with others and desperately miss that human contact.
Some too are in very uncertain positions regarding their income and employment and this causes enormous stress and anxiety as people try to return to a new normal.
I don’t know what you look forward to the most when we are eventually permitted to go about again. Maybe it’s the freedom to go and see some of the people you love the most in the world, to share a meal or a coffee with them and give them a big hug. Maybe it’s experiences you miss like a meal out or a trip to a café you love going to. Maybe it is getting back to a sport you play or the opportunity to worship together as a church community again.
The one question many people have been asking me when I telephone them is, when are we going to be able to do this and it’s a question I can’t answer at this point.
There is a road map in the Republic of Ireland for returning to various activities and the return to church looks like it is potentially coming in early July. As yet we have nothing definite on the table here, though we recently received a document from the Diocesan Office encouraging us to think about all the restrictions and conditions that we have to comply with whenever we open our doors again. The document stressed it was at an undetermined date.
Putting in place all these measures is going to be quite a process. We are considering the document carefully at vestry level and we will not be opening the doors before we believe it is safe to do so and we have done all in our power to comply with the guidance and ensure everyone’s safety as far as is humanly possible. This is quite a responsibility and we would ask for your prayers and your patience as we do all that we can to make that possible.
It will involve discipline and cooperation on all our parts as we observe social distancing. Our numbers will probably be initially restricted as we adhere to the 2 metre rule, though I understand that families can sit together when we are permitted to assemble again.
We won’t be allowed to have prayer books or hymn books and we will have to wipe down hard surfaces between services. We don’t know if we will be allowed to sing initially or whether we will have to wear face masks. It is not easy to make plans with this lack of certainty and a definite timeline and I understand that people are feeling impatient with this.
We will be continuing for the foreseeable future to provide online services and to make it possible for those without internet access to be able to phone in to our designated number to hear a recording of the Sunday service.
Normally in the July/August magazine I am wishing those who might be heading away on holiday well and encouraging them to support the local congregation wherever they happen to go. I usually say that it’s a good opportunity to maybe experience worship that is different to our own and to enjoy that experience.
While I suspect many of us won’t be straying too far this summer, you certainly have plenty of choice when it comes to online services. I know many have been taking the opportunity to tune into services from different places on a Sunday and that’s a great thing to do.
Linda in the office has been working hard to try to ensure that those who can’t download the magazine will have one posted to them and we want to reassure everyone of our ongoing prayers in these days.
As the restrictions begin to lift I am very happy to come and pray with those who might like a conversation in the garden or indoors when we are permitted to do so. In the meantime, I will continue to pray through our parish lists every Sunday morning in the church, praying for protection and blessing for you and your household.
We have been encouraged to see people participating in the weekly parish prayer meeting via Zoom on Thursday evenings at 7pm and Thursday evening is also the time when we usually record a Facebook Live in the church and remember in prayer those we have been asked to remember.
In a time of uncertainty when we don’t have definite answers to many people’s questions about the reopening of church, we remind you that while the doors are closed, the church is very much open for business. We want to encourage people on their faith journey using resources on our website and Facebook page, through the experience of public worship recorded weekly and sharing devotional resources in this magazine and through the twice weekly blogs on the internet. We’re incredibly grateful to people for phoning regularly and providing pastoral support to each other and praying for one another and it’s beautiful to hear how faithfully people have been doing this and how much it means to people.
We will endeavour to communicate to people as soon as we know further about when it is safe and permissible to gather together again. Please pray for Bishop David and others who are trying to make these important decisions based on Government advice, the weight of responsibility upon those in authority is very great at this time.
In the initial stages we may have to hold less services to allow for proper cleaning to take place after each gathering and my thoughts at this stage are that we will be gathering at 11am and 7pm when permitted to do so.
Many people in the coming months will be preparing to move on to a new stage in their education, maybe moving to second level or third level and our thoughts and prayers are with you as you prepare for that transition.
We’re conscious too that many may be nervous about returning to church initially and asked to shield by their doctor because of underlying medical conditions. Please do comply with the guidance you have been given and be assured that services will continue to be available both online and through the telephone service. We would hate you to feel anxious or unsafe when we return and having watched some countries having to impose restrictions again after relaxing them, we will be moving forward with caution.
In all of the uncertainty we are glad to place our hope in the one who has promised to be our anchor in the storm, Jesus of Nazareth, and we look to Him for steadiness and reassurance and we continue in our mission to make Him known and share His love with others.
Much love to everyone.
Jonathan Pierce (Rector)
Telephone 02890 793822