A cautious and careful approach
On Friday 16th July, Bishop Sarah Mullally , who chairs the Church of England’s Recovery Group, said: “The relaxation of restrictions on Monday (19th July) is only possible because of the vaccination programme which has reduced the percentage of those with Covid who become seriously ill or die. We are indebted to all who have developed and administered the vaccines and we encourage anyone who has not yet done so to take advantage of the protection they offer. Many will welcome the possibilities now before us, not least increased numbers at life events and a long awaited return of congregational and amateur choir singing.
However, this is a difficult point in the course of the pandemic. Despite vaccination rates, cases are up, hospital admissions are up and long covid remains an ongoing concern. Therefore our approach needs to be cautious and careful. Taking personal responsibility means responsibility for our neighbour, not just for ourselves, and taking precautions to protect those more vulnerable than we consider ourselves to be. Local church leaders know their communities and their own circumstances, and we will support them making local decisions to keep themselves and their community safe. We would ask everyone to support those making local decisions and respect risk assessments, which are in place to protect everyone as we enter the next phase.“
The wardens of St Mary’s and St Benedict’s and I are concerned to balance the natural desire of those who wish to return to worship ‘as normal’ with those who are understandably anxious and who might not come if they do not feel reasonably safe in church.
The C of E have issued detailed guidelines for churches to consider. This embraces not only what happens on Sunday, but the many other aspects of church life, including weddings and baptisms and funerals, hospitality- such as coffee after services and Saturday café- and our outreach activities, such as Buzzy Bees and Solo lunch.
We are required to work through these, and to risk-assess them to decide what seems wise across so many of these activities. As Harry Graham-Brown has said in verbal church notices, we ask your patience. The third wave of the pandemic , as we all know, is in progress, and we, along with many other organisations, will need to adopt a cautious and careful approach, as part of caring for all God’s people.
May I end with wise words from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians from our service in St Benedict’s last Sunday :
“The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God, and the Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
With our love and prayers , Richard and Katherine.