When the restrictions and safety guidelines are lifted on the 19th of July, for some it will be a matter of great rejoicing, for others a reason for anxiety and alarm. As a church community we will need to be sympathetic, humble, unselfish, and patient with one another in the days ahead. St Paul writes to the Ephesians with some good advice for us: ‘Be patient, bearing with one another in love.’
It is our intention at St Michael’s and St Peter’s to negotiate the lifting of restrictions, slowly and carefully.
What will this mean?
- The two Sunday Masses at St Michael’s will remain until 1st August when we will revert to one Mass at 10am which will be livestreamed.
- The socially-distanced pews will remain until at least September, though people will now be able to sit where they wish – as close to, or at a distance from others as they feel able.
- Mask wearing will not be required, though it is encouraged for those who would prefer to continue with a mask in a public space.
- We shan’t ask for your contact details unless we are required to do so.
- We will continue with Holy Communion in one kind for the time being.
- The priests will continue to wear face coverings for the distribution of Holy Communion.
- We will continue to acknowledge one another at the giving of the peace, without any physical exchanges.
- Congregational singing will return, at first with hymns and, over time, with the service setting.
- Sunday Evensong will begin again in September
- Creche, Little Angels and Youth Group will begin in September.
- It is hoped that refreshments after Sunday Mass will return in September.
What will this mean in the longer term?
Recently, reflecting on the pandemic restrictions, Bishop Rowan Williams asked:
“Will the end of the lockdown see us finding the strength to face and name some of the things that have stood in the way of fairness, truth and security? That would mean noticing who has been paying the heaviest price – communities and social groups that have been disproportionately affected: the people with mental health challenges who had to live through nightmares in isolation; under-protected and poorly-rewarded workers in the NHS and elsewhere, who have had little choice but to go on exposing themselves to risk so that the rest of us can have some basic amenities; young people whose employment prospects have disappeared… Will we be set free to think about a greener future?”
These are very significant questions which challenge a response from us all as we face the future.
One of the questions we also face is whether people will come back to church when the restrictions are lifted. I hope, if you haven’t yet been, then you will consider doing so in the knowledge we are doing our best to keep you safe.
As clergy and as a PCC, we have been considering some other fundamental questions for us as a parish church, both at St Michael’s and St Peter’s.
- Have we represented Jesus well during the lockdown?
- Are we representing Jesus well as we come out of the lockdown?
- What have we learned and what are we still learning?
- How are people hurting and what can we do to help them?
During these last 18 months we have learnt that things can be done differently and as a result have experienced them afresh. And we have dearly missed things which in the past we have taken for granted. One thing is sure, people’s problems, anxieties, fears, and pain will not be over when the lockdown ends.
May God grant us joy in believing and, of your charity, please do remember us all in your prayers and particularly those who are vulnerable and who will still need to shield.
With my prayers and good wishes,