I hope you are doing well through the current lockdown and seeing signs of hope alongside spring blossoming?! Please do give me a call at any time if you would like or need to.
I am writing to recommend how we might consider returning to in-person worship. It is important to say we are thankful to God for the way zoom has engaged us in worship and an experience of being a community of faith over the past year (we began on 22nd March last year!). It is not perfect of course and at the same time we are all keen to re-enter our church buildings for worship. Be assured that zoom worship will continue, even as we ease out of lockdown.
Consultation. Over the past week I have discussed possible approaches with our ‘Ministry Team’ (the Readers plus The Revd Bridget), all our churchwardens and one or two current medics in our congregations. Three churchwardens also attended a zoom event entitled ‘Becoming a Covid-Secure Church Ready to Serve Your Community’, run by the ‘Cinnamon Network’.
The resulting consensus is very clear, that we should follow the Government’s ‘4 steps’ plan alongside the vaccine programme for our vulnerable age groups, in determining when to return to in-person worship. In doing so we are putting our duty of care first and foremost not simply to ourselves, but to one another and to our communities. The unanimous view I have heard is for a preference for caution, so that when we return to in-person worship we won’t have to come back out again! Whilst I hesitate to put a date to it, I think we could consider in-person worship from Pentecost Sunday 23rd May, following the end of step 3 on 17th May. By this date over 60’s will have received both vaccine doses and the government’s plan to remove social contacts guidelines will hopefully be on track.
A plan to ease out of lockdown around the Benefice will be drawn up from that date with covid protocols in place. The Readers are willing to re-enter public ministry under these circumstances. However, this is about the virus and these plans may change depending on infection rates and prevalence of variants etc.
The Minster and some other churches may make a different decision. The important consideration is to make a wise decision based on an understanding of our own context. Worship is available via zoom, the website link and physical materials. Paula and myself are more than happy to help anyone make use of technology, indeed many have embraced it who at first rejected the idea!
We will continue to discuss our response to changing circumstances, not least at the next Benefice Council on Monday 19th April. The Cinnamon Network course confirmed we are doing the right things in terms of in-person caution and keeping churches open and safe.
I know this will not be everyone’s preferred choice, but we will get through this. The message of Easter is after all full of hope and new beginnings.
For the latest updates from the Public Health England, NHS and Church of England, please refer to the links at the top of the screen.
Finally, the role of Lay Worship Leaders (LWL) will be encouraged and reintroduced after some ‘refreshment training’ and we are covid clear. The Readers will help me with this to encourage a coherent approach to ministry across the 7 parishes.
Finally thank you for your patience, thank you to those who keep our churches open for ‘private prayer’, thank you to those who have been contributing to online worship and thank you to God who is with us always through every circumstance.