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Whilst the rest of England moves into a new phase of the pandemic and restrictions are eased, Leicester, as you will know, continues in lockdown – in fact, since the recent spike in cases we have been put back to an earlier and more restrictive phase of lockdown.
This applies to church life as much as other areas. We are not able to open our church buildings at all now, even for the Minister to enter and pray alone. Urgent and essential maintenance can continue but only under the very strictest of conditions. Plans to begin opening for private prayer, then later for funerals and weddings and eventually for Sunday services, have all been put on hold – at least until the Government’s review on 18th July.
The St Guthlac’s PCC this week agreed that shortly after that date we too should review our cautious re-opening plans – and obviously this will be in the light of whatever is decided about the city’s continuing lockdown. Until then I’m afraid we just have to wait.
Around the city I sense on the one hand a feeling of intense disappointment – many of us had made plans to meet with more distant family and friends, or for holidays – but also on the other hand a resolve to do whatever is needed to reduce the number of infections and get things back on track. Like me, you may very well feel both these things at the same time!
The Bible verse that comes to my mind for this time is from Hebrews 12: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
This is not a path we have chosen but it is marked out for us. So once again can I encourage you to persevere in a regular pattern of
It is tempting to think that, with change around us, these things are less important – in reality the opposite is true. The race is not yet over but we know the finishing line is ahead. If we keep our eyes on Jesus then, even in these most challenging of times, our faith can be strengthened and we will be ready for all that’s asked of us in the future too.
NEW UPDATE 26/06/2020
You will no doubt have seen in the news the Government's announcement that places of worship may reopen from 4th July. This is what we have been waiting for! Behind the headline however, things are not as simple as they may sound.
In order to open safely every place of worship will be expected to stick to guidance on numbers, distancing, cleaning and what exactly we can and cannot do when we meet.—and as I write we are still waiting for that guidance from the Government. In time we will also receive further guidance from the national Church, but the Bishops also have to wait for the Government guidance. This makes it impossible to do much in the way of planning for re-opening at the moment.
However our PCC will meet this week to consider a careful Risk Assessment of our church building in relation to re-opening for times of private prayer and for funerals. We will identify the hazards and risks involved, the control measures that we will need to put in place, and our collective capacity to put in place all those measures.
After considering the risk assessment we then have to agree if it is possible to open safely, and is this something we want to do, given all that will be necessary to make it happen.
If we do decide opening is possible, then time for essential preparation will be needed. We will also need volunteers to clean the church after three months of being closed up, and to ‘supervise’ the building when it is open. Without enough volunteers it will be much harder to have the doors open.
I know that it is very frustrating for many of us to continue in this state of waiting, but I hope you can see that we are doing our best to work within a complicated situation, and with regulations that restrict what we might otherwise wish to do. Above all we want to ensure that everyone is kept as safe as possible. We are called to a life together and that means looking out for the well-being of everyone, especially those who might be more vulnerable than others.
Do please continue to pray for our PCC and Ministry Team as we try to find the best way ahead.