Thoughts from the Vicarage 30

Good afternoon on this chilly May afternoon,

I begin with good news today! I managed to get Belinda to stay still long enough to take a new photo. After all she isn’t always scampering over my book stack – I know, scaring the birds isn’t such a good idea either! Really Belinda – they’re our friends from Brazil and Ethiopia please be ‘alert’… we don’t want any harm coming to them.

20 questions – no, only 7 and any answers?

Belinda has just reminded me that we posed a few questions on Monday – I wonder if you’ve had time to think about them. I was tempted to write my own replies but Belinda says that would be rude and I’d do better to wait *politely* and let others respond so if you are so moved please do so – otherwise this is far too much of a monologue.

Where do you see hope in this?
Where do you see love in this?
Where do you see joy in this?
Where do you see the helpers in this?
What do you grieve?
What have you lost?
Who has helped you?

No need for answers on a post card but do respond via email, letter, telephone if you feel so moved.

An 8th question was raised by The Times newspaper …

Is the church absent from society? The article accused the Church of England of ‘vacating the public square’. In fact, the church followed the guidance of the Government whilst we were all on the edge of a public health crisis. Now, I don’t wish to get into a political debate here but along with many others I would wish to rebut that accusation.

I wonder what you think – has the church been absent from society during these weeks of lockdown? Of course ,we’ve not been able to worship in any of our churches. But has the church been absent from society? I think not.

If you would like to read further on the response to that question, I’ve attached a splendid response from the Archbishop of York designate Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell which is an encouraging and stimulating read. I highly commend it to you and would love to hear what you think!

An article from Bishop Stephen Cottrell

And what about our beloved buildings?

It has to be said that there is something about our buildings that raises our spirits, our hearts and souls in worship. The fact that we enter physically into our churches where generations have previously worshipped is something I personally hold very dear – it simply means a great deal to me.
Just look at the roll call of Vicars in St Michael’s reaching far back to 1017. Think of the great cloud of witnesses across time – the body of Christ gathering together along our Valley throughout time.
When I received news that as an incumbent I was able to return into church there was only one response. I strode to St Michael’s and prayed the Midday Office – on my own. I wrote further in the register and recoded the date. It felt like history in the making. I walked around gazing at the familiar landmarks of the church and I sang … in prayer, in joy, in lament and I prayed for you all, for those who couldn’t be with me … in any of our churches.

The Guidance and some thoughts …

• The guidance on Church use has slackened a little and I want to keep sharing what I can with regards to the situation.

• As an incumbent, I am now allowed into Church to pray, to livestream services, to record them if I wish and to ring a single bell from floor level.

• July may see the opening of our churches for private prayer but as far as holding public worship is concerned, I am sorry to say that it is unlikely to be before September.

• Evidence has shown that singing is particularly risky activity with coronavirus. There will be much to address around all types of singing in church.

• It would be simple if the Church were to open on a day in the Autumn and everyone would be back as one. It is becoming increasingly clear that this is not going to be the case and our journey out of lockdown will be far more complex.

• At some point we are going to have to ask a how will we come back to each building?

• It maybe that we come back to the Church building without everyone being able to be physically present.

• My greatest desire would be to simply say that on a certain date everyone would be back in church. It will not be that simple because of the very nature of the lockdown and the decisions that have been made for some, and the decisions that some have made for themselves.

• Please do pray and reflect, because how we navigate this will be important and signify significant things about our values and our identity as Church.

Your voice is needed …

I think it is important that we all ‘have our say’ about Coronavirus and the church. I sense this all the more strongly because of our rural situation. This is a link to a survey the aim of which is to assess responses to the Covid-19 crisis among churchgoers in the UK.

The questionnaire asks about your own experience and reaction to the outbreak, as well as your opinions about how the church locally and nationally has responded. The answers you give are anonymous and will be treated confidentially, so you can feel free to express your opinions.

There are several sections that include questions about you and your church. They help researchers understand how different people in different contexts have experienced the pandemic. At the end of the survey there is an invitation respond in your own words to what has happened.

It is an anonymous survey and has been ethically reviewed and complies with the relevant regulations of the General Data Protection Regulations. It took me about 25 minutes to complete.

And finally …

Gracious God give skill, sympathy and resilience to all who are caring for the sick and your wisdom to those searching for a cure. Strengthen them with your spirit, that through their work many will be restored to health through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen