Please forgive the length of this letter, but it will contain a lot of important information regarding our current new circumstances in respect of COVID, so please do read through it carefully.
These last two years have been quite a journey into the unknown. We have all had to cope with very difficult circumstances, a great deal of worry and fear, and at times we have had very stringent restrictions. Our thoughts in the parish are very much with those who have died in the last two years and with those who have lost loved ones to this horrible disease, who found the whole process of grieving all the more difficult due to the necessary restrictions.
I want to thank all of you for your support and understanding of the rules and limitations we have had in place during this deeply stressful time, and I would like to thank all those who continued to help us provide services despite the lockdowns and restrictions. We are particularly indebted to Richard Bannister, Andrew Johnstone, Tristan Russcher, and a number of singers from our choir who went above and beyond to provide us with uninterrupted worship.
The COVID regulations are changing and we are entering a new phase of this pandemic where we can be a little more hopeful that the end is truly in sight. For many, this will be an exciting time to rush at with joy, but for others it will be a very frightening and unsettling experience. I’ve always said that it would be easier to enter a lockdown than to come out of it, and that will be the experience of many. We need to take into account everyone in the parish as we move forward.
From Sunday, 30 January, you will see some significant changes in our worship and gatherings in church. Some aspects of what we ‘normally’ did will have to wait for a little longer, so I will ask you to be patient as we work through all the changes. While the rules regarding social distancing have been lifted, we need to be mindful of those who may still be ‘shielding’ for someone vulnerable at home. There are still many who long to return to church but have not yet done so, and recent changes may make that return all the more intimidating.
Considering all of this, there are many things which will change in our services and other aspects that will not, which I outline below:
What Is Changing
- There will no longer be any socially distant seating in the nave of the church or in the choir. You can sit wherever you wish and beside anyone. We will, however, maintain the two side chapel areas as zones of social distancing until review at the end of February.
- Congregational singing will return.
- We can now share the peace in the usual manner during the service, but please be aware that some may still feel a little uncomfortable with this. Do not be offended if you are offered an elbow rather than a hand!
- Communion will be administered from the sanctuary rails and you will come forward in the normal manner to receive. I will administer communion to those in the side chapels by going down to them at their seats.
- The choir and servers will process in and out of the services in the usual manner.
- The 9.00am said Eucharist on Sunday will resume in the side chapel using the normal service booklets.
- At the end of the service, there is no requirement to file out from the back rows first. You may leave at any time once the choir exits.
- You are no longer required to sanitise your hands on exiting the building, but good hand hygiene is still recommended.
- Contact tracing is no longer required.
- There will be no restrictions on numbers for any services.
- Baptisms at the main Sunday services can resume.
What Will Not Change
- Masks will still be worn throughout the services, both for congregation and choir.
- The readers list will hopefully resume very soon, but in the immediate term I will continue to read all of the lessons.
- Tea and coffee will not be provided in the parish room after services, but this will be reviewed at the end of February. We hope that it will resume shortly after that.
- You will still be required to sanitise your hands on entry to the building.
- Communion will still be administered in one kind only, subject to revision at the end of February.
The virus has not disappeared and we still have very high community infection rates, so it is still vitally important that if you or any member of your household has COVID, or has any symptoms, that you do not attend services.
This is the most important element of this letter!
Choir rehearsals for the boys and girls during the week will resume, but the sanitising of work stations, the wearing of masks, and the pod system will be maintained for the safety of all attending, subject to review at the end of February.
During these last two years, my own household visiting has been very limited and has often proved very difficult. Household visiting is now permitted. If you would like a household visit, please do let me know.
Thank you, everyone, for all that you have done during this pandemic; for your continued financial and parish support, for your understanding of the restrictions that have been necessary for the safety of us all, and for your patience with it all.
Fr. Andrew McCroskery