A message from Rev John Rainer, Vicar of St Peter’s
With the easing of some COVID restrictions and reports in the press about the pandemic drawing to an end, it would be understandable if someone asked me “when are we going to get back to normal?” Several things need to be made clear in answer to this.
For the moment we are keeping quite a few restrictions in place at St Peters. In some cases the Church of England’s guidance has been quite vague, and so we have interpreted the guidelines cautiously in order to keep everyone as safe as possible. But I would also point out that we have already moved a great deal further than many churches. I am aware of many of my colleagues who are still asking their congregations to book for services and to observe one way systems in their buildings. So in fact we have come a long way.
The danger from COVID has not gone away. Very high rates of infection amongst some age groups are being reported even now. We would ask you to wear a mask in church if at all possible, and be aware that some people are still very sensitive about close personal contact.
We are still working with an experimental pattern of worship which has taken us some time to get used to. Changing service times has had the effect of lower numbers at refreshments between services, which has been disappointing for some. Do take this opportunity to join us if you are able and chat to others over a cup of tea or coffee – available between 10.20 and 11.00am.
All Age worship at 9.30am – a very different service from the previous 11.15 service – attracts a small congregation which we hope will grow. At 11.00am we are settling into a pattern which alternates between Holy Communion and Morning Worship, with the choir leading musical worship most weeks and the Music Group leading every 4th Sunday. At 6.30pm we are alternating between a Celtic-style Communion liturgy and a non Eucharistic service which we have called ‘Reset’, with a shorter talk giving time for extended sung worship, testimonies and quiet reflection. Musical worship is led by the music group in the evening services.
Much of this has been developed with an eye on the future so that we create space for new people. In one sense there is no ‘normal’ to go back to. Instead we have tried to focus on the idea that the last two years have offered us opportunities as well as difficulties, opportunities to put new measures in place with the future in mind.
I am pleased to report that the work on the Hall roof which dominated last year is almost totally finished and paid for. A few minor remedial jobs remain. I understand that the solar panels are working and generating a small amount of electricity – it is winter and there’s not a lot of sunshine! It’s early days with this technology and we will keep you informed as data comes in.
The Staff are turning their attention to tackling the issue of whether we have the best technology to continue providing online material through live-streaming and the use of the church’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Some of the appropriate technology is expensive and we need to learn how to use it. Please bear with us as we seek to put this in place.
I am also pleased to report that we can now begin to welcome some of our Mission Partners back to St Peter’s for visits that weren’t allowed under last year’s restrictions. Garry Ion hopes to join us on 13th of this month, and visits are being planned with St John and Eleanor Perry in the spring, and with Sheila Leech and a small team from FEBA in July.
In the midst of winter it can be quite easy to feel overwhelmed by darkness and coldness, both physical and spiritual. These are moments when our faith is tested and we need to remember that such seasons, which don’t last for ever, are often as important to growth and life as the glorious days of summer. As we start to look towards Lent and Easter, let us remember that God is at work in us, seeking to bring about something new and different in His coming kingdom.