I’m sure many of you have been eagerly anticipating the reopening of our churches for public worship. As I have tried to explain, both in our monthly newsletter Directions and in the weekly Sunday Pew Sheets, this is not an easy process, especially for smaller, rural church communities like ours.
Having carefully and prayerfully considered all that needs to be in place for us to safely open our churches in accordance with the government’s and the Church of Ireland’s protocols, and also the number of people needed to share the responsibilities contained in those protocols, as well as the age profile and underlying health issues of both those who would be required to lead services, those who would need to be present to assist in church and many of our parishioners, the Church Wardens and I have decided that none of the churches within our Union of Parishes will be open for public worship immediately.
As you may recall this part of the government’s “Roadmap” was not due to happen until after 20th July, so in some respects we are not “missing out” by waiting a couple of weeks. The reason for our waiting is partly to allow time for us to ensure that all the practical and administrative requirements are in place. The Select Vestry at its meeting on 30th June did its work in respect of the latter. We now have to ensure that social distancing and guidelines and basic equipment needed in case of a Covid-19 incident are all ready for when we reopen.
The other reason for waiting a couple of weeks is that the Church Wardens and I feel we need to proceed with caution. We are only a few days into Phase 3 of the lifting of restrictions, the widest ranging of all so far. It appears that wherever in the world this has happened so far there have been some increases in cases of Covid-19, with restrictions having to be reimposed in some cases. When we are satisfied that reopening our churches is not going to compromise anyone attending then we shall be happy to welcome you back, knowing that you will be safe.
To that end, the situation will be monitored on an ongoing basis and a decision made in two weeks’ time as to whether we can reopen some of our churches on a phased basis. You will be notified as to which of our churches will be opened and when, and what you can expect to find and what you will required to do when you come. It will be a vastly different experience to that to which we have become used, but we hope that by taking this slightly longer time to facilitate the recommended protocols needed, we can make it a joyful and welcoming return to our worshipping together.
Please keep the Church Wardens, Select Vestry, and me in your prayers in the coming weeks as we continue to work our way through uncharted territory as regards all that we need to do.
With thanks for your patience and understanding,
Dean Gerald Field.