A parish update following Government plans to reopen churches
I trust you are safe and well. I am writing to you today to provide an update on the current information about when our churches can reopen. The Government confirmed on Sunday 7 June 2020 that places of worship across England will be permitted to reopen for individual prayer from Monday 15 June.
The government said this move recognises the spiritual and mental health benefits for people being able to pray in their place of worship, and that for some people this cannot be replicated by praying at home. Individual prayer will be permitted from 15 June, but communally led prayer, worship or devotion such as services, evensong, informal prayer meetings, Mass, Jummah or Kirtan will not be possible at this stage.
We now have a policy statement on what will be legal from Monday 15 June, but this is not an instruction to open churches by government or The Church of England. Indeed the Archbishops and Bishops are calling the change in policy an 'opportunity not an obligation'. As the R rate of infection in Lancashire is now around 1, if not higher in some place, there is a real risk that infections will once again increase. Therefore, we need to move with care and caution.
The change in regulations comes with the stipulation that only private prayer is allowed from 15 June, with the clear instruction that baptisms and weddings are not included along with regular Sunday worship, and that the open church must be supervised - although it is not clear what this means in practice. The House of Bishops meets on Tuesday 9 June and funeral ministry will be on its agenda. If there is anything to report I will let you know as soon as the information is available.
In our parishes, we are aware that church reopening will happen at some stage so I will be discussing with the wardens from Eccleston, St Mary the Virgin and Charnock Richard, Christ Church the plan for this to happen safely. We know cleaning will be a major concern for many of you, so these logistical matters will be resolved before the doors are unlocked. I do not expect to reopen either church as early as 15 June, but again I will keep you informed of developments.
Current Patterns of Worship Our worship has increased in variety over the last three months and I am most grateful for the positive comments that I have received. We are involving a wide range people from both parishes, Bishop Philip preached for us on Ascension Day and the young musicians who make up Vox ex Animo are enhancing our worship on a regular basis. Despite this I still hear critical voices each week. Please be patient as we are using domestic equipment to produce relatively high quality results and everything, camera post production and website management is all done by just one person, me - and this is not my core activity or skill.
For the moment we will continue as we have since 18 March with:
Wednesday 11:30 online eucharist for the United Benefice
Sunday 09:30 online parish eucharist for the United Benefice
Can I remind you that you can view these services live or after the end of the service at anytime in a number of ways:
The YouTube Channel
It is important to establish a wide online presence because of the funding and project plans for both parishes in the future. If you click this link you will go direct to the new YouTube channel which is called Eccleston and Charnock Richard Parishes. However, the computer code in the heading makes it more difficult than necessary to find us. However, when we reach 100 subscribers the heading can be changed to a meaningful title which will enable those searching to discover us quickly. Subscription does not cost - it is a way of making sure you get information on new videos and posts. Therefore PLEASE press the red subscribe button on the YouTube Channel below the title banner for updates
Following the success of the Dial a Reflection telephone number during the period of Thy Kingdom Come, we have decided to maintain the service for those who have no or restricted internet access. As you are reading this letter, you may not be affected but may know someone who is. Please pass on the information that the weekly sermons will now play on the telephone number 01257 447380.
Please let me know if there are any situations I should be aware of or if you just want to talk. I hold you in my prayers each day during the Daily Office and twice each week at the eucharist.
Yours in Christ