Fr Patrick writes…
On Monday 4th May The Times published a letter signed by 600 people requesting that clergy be allowed to enter their churches for their own prayers and to make video services. The letter was skilfully timed, just before a House of Bishops Zoom meeting on 5th May, and it clearly had an impact. The Bishops agreed that, based on local conditions, Diocesan Bishops could authorise their clergy to enter the church buildings. Our own bishop made the authorisation immediately but urged us to “make haste slowly” so that no risks were taken in re-entering the buildings. I waited until 21st May (Ascension Day) before making a video service in church. However, I was back in the Rectory garden for my Pentecost video (31st May) because I wanted to use my red hot poker plants as an image for the tongues of fire that we remember at Pentecost!
Since Monday 1st June I have resumed my practice of saying Morning and Evening Prayer in church, Monday to Thursday each week. Even though this must remain private prayer for now, I am still grateful for the dignity and structure that this discipline brings.
On 6th June the government Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick announced that places of worship will be able to open for individual prayer from 15th June (later 13th June). At St Mary’s Lapworth we started work on the various risk assessments, access and cleaning procedures needed to support this. Since 15th June we have opened the building, 9am until 5pm each day. It has been a great joy to have the church building open, and there has been a steady trickle of people coming for individual prayer.
St Mary’s is a relatively easy church to open. The location is remote enough to give confidence that it will not be overrun with visitors. The church is spacious and with Michele Twelftree, Verger, living nearby a daily cleaning routine is feasible. Most churches in the deanery have been unable to open, or are opening for only short periods in the week. It is necessary to keep St Michael’s Baddesley Clinton closed.
From 15th June we have also been allowed to conduct funerals in church, with social distancing measures in place and no singing. Organ practice is also allowed, and I have been pleased to speak to at least three organists interested in St Mary’s organist and choirmaster vacancy.
At the time of writing, public worship and access to Holy Communion are still not allowed in the Church of England. It is intended that 15th June is the first step in a wider programme of opening up places of worship, but this will be phased in over time. Small scale, said services may become possible quite soon. I fear that singing will be the last thing to be re-introduced, and church services might feel a bit dry with no singing!