I am sure that many of you will have watched the announcement from Boris Johnson yesterday evening. In many ways it was not unexpected given the trajectory of the virus at the moment. It was however surprising that, in the guidance that has been issued, public worship in churches is still permissible.
This morning, I held a Zoom meeting with the churchwardens from St Bridget’s and St Mary’s and the ministry team, to talk about our response to re-entering a national lockdown. We have also been awaiting the guidance from the Diocese to see what options are available for local churches.
It is clear from the announcement yesterday (and the reports in the preceding days) that the new variant strain of Covid-19 is more transmissible than the existing strain. It is also clear that the health services are beginning to buckle under the pressure of treating the increased caseload, whilst also carrying out the vaccination process which I know many of you have already received at least in part. I think we also have to recognise that a significant proportion of our congregations in both churches fall at very least under the vulnerable category.
Given these facts, and following a very good conversation this morning, and in line with the guidance from the Diocese, we have decided that morally and practically, the correct decision is to close the churches for public worship for the duration of the current lockdown, and so we have asked for dispensation to close both St Mary’s and St Bridget’s until the end of February in the first instance (to be reviewed when the lockdown restrictions are reviewed). The letter from the Diocese very much encourages churches to consider making this decision, and I know others locally are thinking similarly. I know that this will disappoint some people, and maybe you won’t agree that the decision is correct, but it is our belief as ministers and churchwardens, that to add any additional pressure to our health service, or to encourage places of meeting with others even if we are meant to keep a safe distance is not an acceptable course of action.
But to look forward, we will continue to provide online worship as we have been doing. All rotas that have previously been issued will now be suspended and I will be putting together a new rota to include people from both churches for readings and prayers. And of course, a time will come when we can look forward to being back together when it is safe and practicable to do so.
As ever, midweek Night Prayer will continue on Zoom, and I think the homegroups and Encounters are now also meeting online, so if you are not a part of those and would like the opportunity to meet for Bible study and prayer with others please let me know and we can arrange that for you. And if there are specific needs that arise during this time, or you need additional support please do let me know and I will see what we can arrange.
With every blessing