Dear Friends at St Andrew’s and St Nicholas’,
Hardly the start of the new year that any of us had been hoping for! I think we’d all had enough of this by the summer, and each additional restriction since have been more and more of a struggle. And now we’re hit from all sides with schools closed and the anxiety of a new variant that is sending the infection rates soaring.
But there are, at least, more reasons to be hopeful this time. Most importantly, the end of these restrictions is a reality, not wishful thinking, because of the vaccine. Secondly, support bubbles can continue: and I would urge all of you living alone to find someone to share with in such a bubble if you haven’t done so yet. This will be at least a 6 week lockdown, and human company is very precious. We have people in the congregation willing to help if you don’t have an obvious candidate. Thirdly, places of worship are able to remain open for which we are very thankful. This is partly in recognition that churches, mosques and synagogues, behaving responsibly, have not been the source of any major spreading of the disease; but also recognising that, for people of faith, to be able to worship is as important as having food on the table.
I do entirely understand and respect those of you who have decided to worship at home until you have been immunised, and clearly, if you were told to shield last time, you should do so again and not attend church until 3 weeks after you’ve had the vaccine. But the fact that the church is open is symbolically a recognition of our being together in worship even if you aren’t able to attend. There is also the option to pay a visit to the church during the week if you make it part of your daily exercise. You will probably have the building to yourself and so be very safe.
For those of you who would like to continue coming to worship, we will adhere strictly to the new procedures we adopted last week for Tier 3. I’ve copied those changes again at the end of this message in case you didn’t receive them.
If you chose to come, the encouraging thought is that because we are all required to stay at home, none of us pose a severe threat to each other when we do gather on a Sunday. Compared to going to a supermarket where hundreds of people from around the area will have been there in the course of a day, the 50 or so very responsible people you would be sharing worship with represent a good option.
We will continue to provide liturgy, readings and prayers each week for those not at church, (as we have since Passion Sunday last year!) and telephone contact from a member of the congregation for all who live alone and are isolated. If you haven’t had anyone contact you, and would like that support, do please let me know and I will arrange someone to offer it for you.
I still remember the question someone asked back in the March lockdown, “Am I the only one who isn’t coping?” and the answer is, no, you’re not. If you need help or support through this hard journey, please, please do ask – there is no shame in it. In fact the opposite is true – it’s not right to suffer in silence. “We are here to help each other walk the mile and share the load.”
God bless and much love,
Email sent out last week:
2nd Jan 2021
Tomorrow will be our first Sunday worship in Tier 3, and the wardens and I feel that we should change some of the procedures to take account of the increased rate of infection that we are now sadly experiencing in Chippenham. And I did promise at the start, that if the local situation changed, we would adjust what we do accordingly.
We’re so thankful that no one from our regular congregation has had Covid so far, and we absolutely want to keep it that way! So the short time between now and when our vulnerable folk have all been immunised is crucial.
Several of our congregation have had their first jab, and from 2 weeks after, are thankfully safe. The second jab extends the length of immunity, but the first gives you full protection. Don’t be discouraged by the inaccurate media reports about needing a second jab before you gain immunity – you don’t.
Clearly, everyone must make their own decision about how to adjust to this increase in local infections, and we will entirely respect your choice and try to provide appropriate worship for everyone.
For those who do come to St Andrew’s, these are the changes we would ask you to adhere to strictly:
Wear a mask to enter church, pick up bread (if needed), service sheets and pewsheet and go directly to a seat. Seats have been spread out further, so you may not be able to sit where you customarily do. If you are able to still bring your own piece of bread, that will help the flow on entry.
If you choose, you may then remove your mask whilst seated, as in a restaurant.
There will be no taking of names, and your name cards are not now needed, as we will simply take a photo of the whole congregation at the beginning of the service. This will be on an ordinary camera, not a smartphone, so it won’t get onto the internet! Nor will it be looked at or printed unless we are alerted to a positive case and need to ask those seated adjacent to self-isolate. Visitors and newcomers whose names we might not know, will be asked to write name and phone number on a piece of paper themselves.
Sidespersons will not therefore stand by the doors, and you should not stop to talk to anyone until seated.
Singers will continue to lead our hymns for us, but will be further spaced out, and please, no singers over the age of 70 for the present, unless you have had your jab at least 2 weeks previously. The congregation are now asked not to sing even quietly for the time being.
At the end of the service, please put your mask back on and leave immediately (unless you have a task to perform in tidying up) and use the doors nearest to you – so north aisle through the north door, south through south, and nave through the glass doors. Please, no stopping to chat or socialise until you are outside. I will go out immediately after each service so that you can find me outside if you need to.
I’m sorry if these measures seem a bit draconian after the relatively relaxed “new normal” we’ve been getting used to, but cases in St Mary Street and Causeway make it clear that the virus is close, and cases in nursing homes that have been following very strict procedures, make it clear that it is now extremely infectious. We don’t want to fall at the last fence when we have all endured so much to keep everyone safe.
Thank you and God bless Rod x