A Weekly Message during Lockdown from St Peter’s Vicar, Rev John Rainer
Last Monday the government introduced a new national lockdown in the face of rapidly rising rates of coronavirus infections. However, the guidance issued alongside it in England does not require places of worship to close (as it does in other parts of the UK). So far the Church of England has not issued any blanket guidance to clergy and congregations, but has offered support to all churches seeking to respond appropriately to local needs, making it clear that closure is an option which should be seriously considered.
This leaves us at St Peter’s in an extremely difficult position. If we continue to offer the pattern of services which we have got used to in recent months, we would seem to be contravening the spirit of the message to ‘Stay at home’, thus putting all of you at risk despite operating within the law. I entirely understand the position of those who would say that to attend public worship at this time could be viewed as irresponsible, and that staying away is the right thing to do. On the other hand, the decision to allow places of worship to remain open can be seen as an attempt to address prolonged isolation, which for some people might be profoundly damaging to their mental health. I understand the view of others that Christians should not stop worshipping together because circumstances are difficult and could have serious consequences (Hebrews 10.25).
Key decisions about worship in parish churches are rightly the business of the PCC which will meet on 14th of this month. However, decisions about the next two Sundays have to be made before then. The Staff were informed yesterday that we also have a problem with one of the main church boilers, and as a result we have decided to proceed as follows : –
Until the PCC are able to make a ruling, our worship at St Peter’s will move online as it did last year, i.e. –
- Picnic Church will now cease. Instead, Rachel and others will be leading online family worship every Sunday at 10.00am on Facebook.
- The 10.45 service will take place online on the YouTube channel for the next two Sundays only. Depending on the PCC decision this service may resume in church after that.We very much hope that the issues with the church heating will have been resolved by then.
- There will be no evening services at St Peter’s. An online service will be available on Sunday evenings.
- The Wednesday Holy Communion service will not take place until further notice.
- Funerals and weddings can take place at St Peter’s if Tier 4 regulations regarding these are observed.
- Online evening prayer will be provided immediately on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5.30pm in addition to the current provision of Morning Prayer on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – on the church’s Facebook page.
All church business meetings and home groups should now take place online. The Church Office will be closed, but Judith will be working her usual hours from home, and she can be contacted by phone and email in the usual ways. We will do our utmost to remain in close touch with everyone, particularly those with limited or no access to online provision, via a weekly newsletter and Vicar’s letter.
I am very sorry if any of you are disappointed by these measures – I share your frustration – but having weighed up a lot of things very carefully I feel that the current situation in the country leaves us with few alternatives that are safe.
In these difficult and tiresome circumstances, I would encourage everyone to include in their devotional times a reading of the Letter to the Hebrews. This isn’t always the easiest book of the Bible to understand, (don’t worry too much about that!) but it was written to a group of Christians facing persistent hardship and repeated setbacks, and who were tempted to give up in the face of such things. This is the book which encourages us to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith’ (ch 12 v.2) and tells us that under a new covenant established by Jesus, God has prepared something far better for us than anything experienced by his people in the past (ch.11 v.39-40). He is worthy to be praised! (ch 13.v15)
With love and prayers