Notwithstanding all the strangeness round about us, I hope that your celebration of Christ’s birth was enjoyable and valuable. As promised earlier in December, I have kept an eye on the public health situation, government & church guidelines, and have consulted with my clerical colleagues across Newport about how to respond to the current situation.
I’m sad to say (but comfortable with my decision) that my intention is for St. John’s once again to go online-only for worship throughout the month of January. I am truly sorry to those who will undoubtedly be disappointed by this decision; but I believe that, on balance, our collective health, and the example we set for others, requires it.
The simple fact is that a Tier 4 lockdown looks exactly like the lockdown of spring 2020, with the single exception that it is possible, as a concession, for schools and places of worship to remain open. This in itself should give us pause. Adding to this, it appears the Welsh schools have now opted to start the new term largely from an online-learning environment, and we can only assume that this is for good reason.
Just before Christmas, as we entered this latest phase of pandemic management, Bishop Cherry sent a letter to all her clergy, including the following words:
Whilst places of worship do not need to close for services and worship, I would strongly urge clergy and PCCs to review very carefully the services that they have planned to offer. … 2m is a lot further than most of us think and, even with the best will in the world, we naturally gravitate towards one another. It is OK not to hold Christmas services in our churches this year. It is OK not to attend public worship in a church building this Christmas. Far better to stay safe and to keep one another safe. Far better to live-stream with a minimum of people present, if that is possible.
Having considered this advice, I opted to remain open for Christmas, as was permitted, as I did not wish to deny anyone the sacrament for whom Christmas would not feel like Christmas without it, provided they understood the risk. Now that the festival is passed, however, the Bishop’s words remain, and we do well to pay heed. Her intention is clear enough.
I have made this decision, as I said above, in consultation with the rest of the Newport clergy, as we all felt that a united response would be best for everyone, clergy and laity alike. I am prepared to review where we’re at mid-month, in case matters change for the better. (You’ll recall that the government has not yet announced an end date to Tier 4.) But for the time being, you can assume that in-person services will not resume till at least the 6th February.
In the mean time, you can find me every Sunday at 11:00 on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/StJohnsChurchMaindee . I do hope you’ll join us there.