The last ‘5 o’clock briefing’ occurred last Tuesday, 23rd June. The briefings have been an important part of the government strategy to get through these days of ‘lockdown’. Senior cabinet members flanked by leading scientists have led us through daily statistics. We’ve learned a lot about how to evaluate, handle, interpret (manipulate?), and present statistical data in the process. And we all now know what the magic ‘R’ number represents – who could forget?
All that is now over. We are flying blind.
So what does this mean for us? When can church services resume? When will we be back to normal?
These are great questions. I know that many of us are longing for the day when we can meet together again without fear. When we will no longer need to carry around a small bottle of alcohol hand gel, and when we can shake hands and hug our friends. And, most importantly, when we can attend a service of Holy Communion. I’m afraid the answer is, we don’t know. All we do know is that it will be some time yet before these things are possible.
So, what was Tuesday’s briefing all about? Didn’t it mark the end of lockdown?
Well, we are certainly, it seems, at the beginning of the end of lockdown. However, the process is not straight forward. All we can say for certain is that there is still a long way to go. While COVID-19 infections in the UK have dropped to very low levels, internationally infection rates and mortality are still climbing. This does mean that we can ease the lockdown at home, but international travel and business are still very much affected. The next important thing to note is that, while infection rates are very low, they are not zero. The virus is still with us and it wouldn’t take much to produce a rapid rise in infection and mortality again. This will be the case until either we develop and administer a vaccine, the population develop a ‘herd immunity’, or the virus disappears of its own accord. This last event always seems to happen at some point with pandemics, no one really know how or why. So, we can enjoy a little more freedom, but we must exercise sensible caution.
For St Botolph’s and St Edmund’s, as indeed all churches across the country, this has some serious implications. Whilst we await guidance from the bishops, the main things we know are that there will be no services of Holy Communion for the foreseeable future, meetings must be few in number and social distancing observed, and we are not allowed to sing. So, what can we do? Well, be assured that currently we have no intention of reducing our online offerings and alongside these:
- St Botolph’s church building will be open every Sunday afternoon from 2-4 for private prayer. Hygiene and social distancing measures are in place for this.
- Weddings and funerals are now allowed to take place in the church building. Guest numbers must be small, probably no more than 20, and hygiene and social distancing must be observed.
- We are considering some livestreaming from the church building, perhaps of morning prayer. You may be able to attend these services in person so long as hygiene measures are observed. Please let me know if you think this would be worthwhile.
This is the present situation as at Thursday 25th June. We are still awaiting any guidance from the bishops. We recognise that things are changing almost daily. We will keep you all up to date with changes as they occur.
Please keep in touch via: email, Whatsapp, twitter, messenger, text message, telephone, or letter. There should be something there for most of you!
May God bless you.