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Vicar's Letter for this month

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Dear Friends,

As you will be aware the first weekend in July will bring with it a significant easing of the current lockdown. Amongst a host of other changes, is the good news that hairdressers and barbers can open again!  I’m sure many of us will be joining the queue for a long overdue haircut! I have already booked mine!

The news that churches can begin to open for services again is also very welcome!  Many will be delighted that they can, at last, look forward to going back to their churches. Church weddings will also be possible from 4 July. We will not be going back to ‘normal’. It will be another ‘new normal’, following conditions and guidance yet to be set by the government and the Church of England.  We may have to wait a while for the national church guidance before we can begin planning for our return to church at the Good Shepherd. Community Centres can also open from 4 July, but our Community Centre will need to have a Deep Clean before it can open. This will be happening the first weekend in July.

So, although churches can open from 4 July, there could well be a few weeks to wait before our church is open again.

Bishop Steven outlined key principles for the decisions to be made, in a recent letter to clergy, lay ministers and churchwardens in the Diocese:

‘ ….The most important is to prepare prayerfully, thoroughly, carefully and locally, with clergy and PCC’s consulting together about how to resume public worship. . Every parish and benefice is different. There are serious health and safety considerations to be worked through in every place. We will be able to meet in our buildings again, but this will be far from a return to normal life before lockdown.

'Understandably, there will be many who want to return to normal as soon as possible and who may put pressure on clergy and PCCs to act very rapidly. This should be resisted. Whatever pattern of worship is offered will need to be sustainable and will, most probably, need to continue alongside the virtual worship and fellowship which has been so fruitful during the lockdown. We may, therefore, need to look at simpler patterns of worship for a time....'

These are wise words for us to take to heart as we plan and prepare on the PCC for our return to services at the Community Centre.

There are some things we already know about in advance of opening church for services again.

Sadly, we will not be able to sing together, for the time being, at least. I know that is something we have all been missing during lockdown. Holy Communion will have to be administered in one kind, as we were doing just before lockdown started. We will need to observe the appropriate social distancing to keep everyone as safe as possible. Services should be shorter, but there may be more of them. We will not be able to serve refreshments after services yet, and long conversations at the door are discouraged. The good and careful hand hygiene measures in place before lockdown will continue. Some of our congregation who are vulnerable themselves, or have household members who are vulnerable, may still wish to stay away or be anxious about returning to public worship. Numbers may be restricted by the social distancing required, and we may have to set out the church in a different way. All this will need to be discussed once we have information from the national church authorities. 

Please do pray for the PCC as we plan and prepare.  Be assured we will keep you informed of progress, and let you know when a date has been agreed to open for public worship again. Our priority has rightly to be the safety and well-being of our church members. We will also be making decisions about our children’s groups, and other midweek groups and services. Coming out of lockdown will be a marathon, not a sprint!

Talking of running – I have set myself another challenge for the summer. I have decided to do the Couch to 5k running challenge! Whilst I would refute being a ‘couch potato’ (As would most people who have a dog!), I have never been a runner! Sadly, I did not seem to inherit the athletic genes which seem to have blessed most of my family, but not me.  So, this will be a huge challenge, and right now the thought of running 5k fills me with horror! With this in mind, I am hoping you might consider sponsoring me to do it, in aid of church funds. Our church, like all churches, is going to be facing continuing financial challenges due to the lockdown – the loss of money from loose collections and cancelled fundraising events – I am hoping any money raised in sponsorship will help. Your support would add a spring to my step!! I probably won’t finish the challenge until September at the earliest. The One You ‘Couch to 5k’ builds you up over 9 weeks, so plenty of time to save your pennies! More information to come.

Many of us would normally be looking forward to holidays in the coming weeks. Some will not be able to have the holiday they planned, or the place they hoped to go. I pray that whether you are home or away, God will bless you all with time for relaxation, rest, and refreshment in the weeks ahead.

With my love and prayers,

Joan