As many of you are aware, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a statement on Tuesday 17th March suspending church services for the immediately foreseeable future. The impact of this announcement is considerable on churches throughout the country, and other religious groups are making similar arrangements as responsible organisations. The message that we are receiving is not so much that Church is put on hold, but that we are to enhance our natural inclination, shared, it must be said, by the community as a whole, to support and help our neighbours, and especially those in vulnerable situations. In other words, that we ‘do’ church differently; realistically and prayerfully. So, in practical terms, what does this mean? To some extent one predicates a reply to that question with the comment that whatever is put in place may have to be adapted or changed according to how the virus outbreak develops, and what advice is received from the Government and the Church of England in the coming days and weeks.
As I see it, this is what we shall put in place:
- Ensure through word of mouth, social media, telephone contact etc. that those most isolated and vulnerable are not left without necessities and comforting support.
- Maintain the life of daily prayer, albeit not in publicly advertised services, by encouragement for us all to pray at home, and feel part of the whole Church in a cycle of devotional life undiminished by the absence of corporate worship.
- Keep all four churches open every day for people to visit and use.
- Maintain a weekly notice sheet, which will be available on the team website, in hard copy in the churches each week, and, on request, may be delivered to households that are isolated.
- Put in place a daily ‘thought for the day’, which will be found under ‘blog’ on the www.swanageteam.com website, and will be produced in hard copy for the churches, once a week, or perhaps more often.
- Have a link on the website to streamed services from the Church of England.
- Morning Prayer will be read at 8.00 a.m. every day (including Sundays) in St Mary’s Church, though not as a public service. Requests for prayers at this daily time of prayer are most welcome.
- Candles are always available to light in St Mary’s during the hours it is open. John Staples or I will always light a candle for you, should you be unable to light one yourself, either for yourself or for a loved one or friend.
- Funerals may still take place in Church
- All meetings are cancelled, including the PCC, and it is likely that the APMs and APCMs will be postponed.
- Maintain a regular update of news items on the website and through the Parish magazines.
- Provide information for those who are planning weddings or baptisms in the churches and who may be anxious as to the situation as it continues to develop.
- Give additional support to the Swanage Food Bank (please see additional news item)
P.S. Particular arrangements being made at St Nicholas’ Church Studland and at All Saints’ Church Swanage may be found following the links to their specific websites.