you will have seen the Government announcement that churches are to be allowed to open for services again from July 4th. However, in his advice to clergy and churchwardens, the Bishop has stressed that the ability to hold public worship is permissive, rather than mandatory; i.e. that 4th July is the earliest date for services to resume, and that they can only do this where it is practical and safe to do so.
Fr David is able to open Good Shepherd, Lake, and St Saviour’s, Shanklin from Sunday July 5th, and Sunday mass will be said at 9.30 and 11.00 in those churches respectively.
Unfortunately, All Saints’ and St Alban’s are in a different position from this. We are currently in a vacancy so, in addition to undertaking a risk assessment, ensuring the churches have been thoroughly cleaned and that appropriate distancing-signage is put in place, we also have the challenge of finding a male priest to preside for us at each mass.
This situation is further complicated by the fact that, as things currently stand, clergy and readers who are over 70, are only allowed to exercise any public ministry with the express permission of the Bishop, via the Archdeacon. This also applies to volunteers, so all sides-people and others who assist in church must be under 70, too, unless they have been given specific permission by the Archdeacon.
In consultation with the churchwardens, and in agreement with the Archdeacon, it has been decided that sadly, for a number of reasons, it will not be feasible to reopen St Albans at the present time. However, at All Saints’, once we have had the risk-assessment signed off by the Area Dean, and have put all practical safety measures in place, we will hope it will be possible to put a regular pattern of Sunday worship in place.
In order to provide something sustainable though, given all the constraints under which we will be working, the Churchwardens and the Archdeacon have agreed that we need to be realistic. To this end, we will work towards the possibility of providing Sunday mass at All Saints twice a month, initially, with no weekday masses. This will not be ideal but, as I have said, we are fortunate that Good Shepherd and St Saviour’s will have a mass every Sunday; and those who wish to maintain a weekly pattern of attendance would be very welcome at either of these churches.
Depending on the guidance we expect to receive from the Church of England in the next few days, the earliest All Saints could expect to be open for worship will be July 19th; but I will get in touch with you again when we have more definite information. I would love to be able to open the church as soon as possible, and am working hard to make that happen, but we have to stick to the C/E Guidelines.
Things will be very different from the way they used to be; but I will keep in touch with you, as we receive more guidance about the steps we’ll need to take, in order that people can receive Holy Communion safely.
If you have any questions about this, please contact the Area Dean, or the Archdeacon, whose messenger I am!
On another subject, this weekend sees the Feast of SS Peter and Paul, and is one of the times in the year when ordinations usually happen. Ordinations have had to be postponed this year and will take place in the autumn instead; but I ask your prayers for those preparing for ordination and for those who are celebrating anniversaries of ordination at this time.
I am grateful to Alan Swanborough for providing our Gospel reflection this week.
My love and prayers,
The image is “Christ between Saints Paul and Peter” by Pietro Lorenzetti (c.1280/1290-c.1348) – From the Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston upon Hull, https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/christ-between-saints-paul-and-peter-233360