As the lockdown eased, St Mary’s started public worship again on Sunday 5th July, and St Michael’s on 19th July. We were the first churches in the Deanery to recommence worship. Our rural setting makes things a bit simpler, but even so, a great deal of work was required to complete the necessary risk assessments, and to work out the arrangements for cleaning, sanitisers and socially distanced seating. The worship has to proceed with no singing, which makes it rather “dry” so it is important to keep the services short. Also it has been necessary to reduce the number of services to keep the arrangements manageable.
I have felt a bit like Monty Python’s Black Knight, who carries on flighting as successive limbs are chopped off. “Yes, you can worship, but with no singing!”; an arm comes off. “And it’s socially distanced seating!”; the second arm comes off. From 26th July we all had to wear face marks; a leg came off. Then an email from the archdeacon insisted that we wear face marks even when speaking at the front of church; that was the second leg coming off.
Fortunately, by 8th August, when face marks became a legal requirement in churches, it had been agreed that the person speaking at the front of church should not wear one. That was like getting a leg back again!
It seems to me that the arrangements that we now have are likely to be in place for many months. Rather than simply cutting out the singing, we need to adapt our worship to the new situation. Services need to be shorter and simpler. We are allowed to play the organ, so we need to make good use of that. We need to try different arrangements to see what works best. We need to continue improving video services to cater for the congregation at home.
Since 5th July we have been fortunate to have Ollie Parkes videoing the 11am service. He achieves a much higher quality of picture and sound. It would be great to live stream the services, but there would be significant cost involved in getting WiFi into church.
The situation forces us re-evaluate our worship, to re-identify what we think is important and why. It’s my hope that it will not simply be cutting things we usually do, but that we will make the most of the opportunity to re-think, re-work and refine what we do in worship. I’d like to think that we will arrive at a deeper and clearer appreciation of what we are doing in worship, and why we think it is so valuable.
With prayers and best wishes, Fr Patrick
O be joyful in the Lord, all the earth;
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.
Know that the Lord is God;
it is he that has made us and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and bless his name.
For the Lord is gracious; his steadfast love is everlasting,
and his faithfulness endures from generation to generation.