Let me begin by wishing you all a Happy New Year! I’m conscious that such sentiments might sound rather hollow at this stage but I’m still very hopeful that once these first few months are behind us we will start to see some genuine signs of recovery and restoration. I am certainly praying so!
In the meantime, though, we need to dig deep and battle on through. I’m sure that a new ‘National Lockdown’ will not have come as a surprise to us but it still demands big things of us. I am particularly mindful of children, parents and teachers who are having to face up to further school closures and the challenges that will now confront them.
When the new ‘Lockdown’ was announced I was surprised to see that places of worship can still remain open. However, in my mind, just because they could does not necessarily mean they should. This is clearly the opinion shared by many other Christians and Church Leaders too and I was encouraged to see this very helpful piece of guidance given to churches by our own Bishops and the Diocesan Staff Team. In a pastoral letter on the Diocesan website they said this:
‘While churches are permitted to hold services in line with national guidance on the safe use of places of worship, clergy and PCCs should consider not doing so and instead offer some form of digital worship if at all possible. Face-to-face worship should only be provided where the church’s risk assessment and precautions have been rigorously reviewed’.
The point being made is that it is now beholden on us to make wise decisions about the way forward and what our ‘worship’ should look like over the coming weeks. More than that it actually suggests we would need good reasons to justify meeting together for worship in a church building. With that in mind, and having spoken to all our Churchwardens, let me outline the way forward for our churches: Overton, Laverstoke & Freefolk, North Waltham, Steventon, Ashe and Deane. We need to suspend all services and effectively lock ourselves down from this Sunday (Jan 10th). That will then continue to be the case for the following six Sundays: Jan 17th, 24th & 31st and Feb 7th, 14th & 21st. After that we will have some idea of the lie of the land and whether or not we can start to relax things again. It also takes us up to the School half-term and the decisions then made about schools will give us a further and helpful steer on things more generally.
From this Sunday (Jan 10th) services will be on-line on the St.Mary’s church website as they have been before. The website address is: www.stmarysoverton.org.uk We will also be looking to resume’ Zoom Coffee’ at 11am on each ‘Lockdown Sunday’ and the link will be sent out beforehand.
Churches can still remain open for private prayer and we trust that people will be able to find some comfort and solace in the silence as they come before God and meet with him there.
Amy and I will send out weekly thoughts as we did before and we trust that even though we might not be able to meet physically we will still feel connected as we continue on this journey together. Looking further ahead how wonderful it would be if Easter truly heralds a time of change and new beginnings. We would then be celebrating God’s goodness to us on all sorts of different levels!
Let me close by saying if anyone would like further support at this time don’t hesitate to call me or Annabel on 589614 or drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
With love and prayers James