Thoughts from the Vicarage 49

Good afternoon dear friends,

The clergy, Christine and myself and the wardens of all three Churches of the Valley met yesterday evening to discuss how we respond to the opportunity to resume worship and to decide on what comes next as we emerge steadily and carefully from lockdown.

We will return to public worship

from this weekend, All Saints, East Garston 9.00 and St Michael & All Angels 10.30. After church coffee will be online at 12.10 this week.

In line with guidance both from the government and the church we’ve worked out that we are in a good position to put in place all that is necessary to make things safe and as smooth as possible. Each church has thought through practicalities and risk assessments have been completed.

My key thinking

around which we have developed plans is that first and foremost the safety of all is paramount.

And we agreed that all the following, in no order of importance were important:

  • worshipping together, gathering together is important
  • being able to receive the sacrament is important
  • worshipping in our buildings is important
  • worship being accessible to all is important

Worship will look different and

will take place under fairly stringent social distancing rules. It will feel very different to the services we are used to. It will be said, with no hymns. People will have to sit where they are told to sit, apart from others. Families, couples, those in the same household will be able to sit together. There will be no choir and the sacrament will be received in bread only. We are encouraged to keep things short which will mean a short homily, two readings and brief intercessions. A Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) sheet is attached with detailed information.

Whilst it is a great joy

to be able to announce that we will return to public worship from this weekend we understand that for some people, for a wide variety of reasons this will not be possible. You are in our thoughts and prayers. It may be that you would feel more comfortable attending during the week when congregations are smaller. I am concerned about worship and sacrament being accessible to all and so I will be holding…

Short mid-week Eucharists

will take place as part of the Vicar on Tour pattern for those who’d prefer it. This will be followed by the usual ‘social’, physically distanced time. The Sacrament will be reserved in St Michael’s. It will then be available should those shielding wish to avail themselves at home – back garden communion. In this way all those who wish to, will have the opportunity to participate in prayer, Eucharist and fellowship.

Compline, Morning Prayer and Coffee after church

will continue as per the ‘latest normal’. The time of coffee will change and I will keep you abreast of that.

Thank you

very much to all those who have worked so hard in preparing for this return. Each of our congregations is thankful for your hard work, commitment and faithfulness.

A FAQ sheet is attached.

Please read it carefully to ensure that you know what to expect if you choose to attend Worship. The leaflet will be available in our churches. Please do share this information with those who may wish to return to worship but are not online.

Should I attend?

It will be matter of individual choice and personal responsibility whether you choose to attend. Everyone’s individual circumstances are different and only you can make this choice. By following official advice, we have reduced the risk of transmission. If you are shielding you should follow NHS advice and of course you should not attend if you are unwell.

I am thrilled

that we will be able to obey Christ’s instruction to gather together to “do this in remembrance of me” again. It felt wrong to delay celebrating the Eucharist together for any longer than we had to. I am already feeling really excited about this, that a deep ache in the soul will be ended.

Please do feel free to be in contact with us if you’d like to talk through some of your thoughts, your feelings or your anxieties or indeed your joy! Similarly, please do ask any questions that are not answered here or on the FAQ sheet.

Finally …

A Prayer of Blessing used today at the confirmation of Stephen Cottrell as the 98th Archbishop of York. It seems rather fitting today.

May the love of our good and generous God guide and protect you;
may the hope of the gospel sustain you and bring you joy;
when you are lost or lonely, when the road ahead seems hard,
or when the darkness gathers, may the light and peace of Christ be yours;
and the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

God bless