Dear Friends …
I’m pleased to be able to tell you that, for the first time in quite a while, there is reason for some guarded optimism about what’s going on with our church buildings. As I write, I’ve just received back from the Archdeacon our signed-off risk assessment to re-open St. John’s for private prayer — which we hope to do from next week. I understand it’s also likely that new regulations will be coming through soon regarding (limited) permission for weddings and funerals to take place in church. And, finally — although I’ve no specific news to report — with the English churches opening soon for (regulated) corporate worship, there is reason to hope that Wales will follow suit in its own way in the not-terribly-distant future. How long any of this will last in the absence of a vaccine is, of course, anyone’s guess, but I certainly will take what I can get at this stage.
For now, the plans are to open St. John’s for private prayer from 1st July and then on subsequent Wednesday mornings — when, under normal circumstances, many folk would want to be there anyway. It’ll just be for a couple of hours, 10:00 to 12:00, after which we’ll be cleaning the Church and letting a few days’ time do additional disinfection.
Should there be enough demand, we would be happy to open up on a weekend, as well, for a few hours, so please let us know if you’d find some value in it. Volunteers stand ready. Likewise, if you’d like to volunteer to help — unfortunately at this stage, you’d have to be under 70 and not at health risk — we would love to hear from you. I myself plan to be available during the Wednesday hours, so that anyone who wants a suitably distanced chat with the vicar or just to have a little time quietly alone with God in church will have the opportunity.
It’s a start. It’s not where we want to finish; but it’s a start.
When a couple of our parish leaders and I met to do the required risk assessment, we found (thankfully) that, once the work has been done to enable the re-opening for private prayer, it will not require much additional work, once we get the green light for corporate worship. We therefore began making the outlines of plans in that respect, too. To give you a sense of what I’m expecting there — and, again, this is not based on new guidance, but rather an educated prediction — I strongly suspect that, as with funerals and weddings, the numbers of worshippers will be limited, likely to about 30. We have therefore been discussing how to make that work, and will very likely lay on more than one worship service on the Sunday or in the week to accommodate demand. We don’t know what the state of play will be with the music, but at that stage, I think I’d just be so glad to see you all that, whatever is required of us, we’ll make it work!
In the mean time, we will continue doing our online worship and reflections. The current pattern is 11:00 on a Sunday morning, 20:30 for Compline on a Thursday evening, and Sally’s five-minute reflections at 9:00 on Mondays and Thursdays. In fact, we are already exploring how to maintain our online worship and presence even once the lockdown has been lifted; having found that these efforts have resulted in the inclusion of several people exploring church and many who are no longer physically able to attend, we want to be sure to keep them in the fold. There is plenty of space for them. Our YouTube Channel can be found on http://saintjohns.stream/youtube and our Facebook feed on http://fb.me/JonMaryAndyPhil. Please join us.
So it is that we continue to exist in a sort of “between-time”, albeit not one without motion or hope. I would continue to thank all who in these last weeks and months have contributed both to our sense of worship, our communications, and our active pastoral care within an unusual situation. We’ve had to learn new ways of being the Church — some of which may well continue into the post-Covid future — and find new way to be together, even in physical isolation. And, yet, we are doing just that, thanks be to God. I look forward to the day when we are free to meet again without restrictions. But I am grateful for all the evidence that God’s Church remains alive and thriving.
God bless you all,