|After consultation with the Bishop and Church Wardens I have today taken the difficult decision to cancel all Christmas Services in the Cashel Union. I do so after much soul searching and with a heavy heart for reasons as I have outlined below but in no particular order of importance.|
I have spoken with Mike O'Meara and Revd Bronwen Carling, who were due to take a service on Christmas Day, about my concerns for them. Both are of an age and with underlying health issues which place them in the category of people the government is recommending "Shield" themselves. None of us are in a position to be with family or friends this Christmas for that reason, and yet I would be asking them to put themselves in a possible place of risk given the new variant of the Coronavirus is almost certainly prevalent in Ireland. Under the Covid requirements in which we were trained back in March I was told that I have a duty of care to "employees". I feel very strongly that I would be neglecting that duty of care by continuing to ask them to lead services over Christmas when we did not do so at Easter.
I am equally concerned about the age and health profile of many of our parishioners who might equally be at a level of risk with which I am not comfortable. I have no doubt that there are parishioners who might attend services out of a sense of loyalty and duty to those turning up to lead those services I feel equally strongly that I have a duty of care to them, some of whom may be relieved if the decision as to whether to attend has been taken out of their hands.
Then there is my own situation given my ongoing health issues. I have continued to celebrate the eucharist every Sunday since we were allowed to return to public worship. I cannot in all honesty say that I have always felt entirely comfortable doing so, in spite of all the safeguards in place in our churches. Given the current situation I have found myself asking "If I wasn't a priest would I be attending church this Christmas given the situation we're in?" The honest answer is "I doubt it". I know how that may sound because I am a priest, and I have duties and responsibilities as do any other professionals, but as a consequence I have to ask where do I stand when, as the Bishop has said, we clergy are to assure parishioners that they should feel under no pressure whatever to be present at services over Christmas? .
Finally, I have great difficulty with the logic of the Government's reasoning that, when we had to close churches for public worship at Easter in a less concerning situation than we now find ourselves in, why is it reasonable to allow up to 50 people in churches on 25th December but it's unsafe to do so from 26th onwards?
I know this will come as a great disappointment to many of you, as it does to me. I have not taken this decision lightly but after much soul searching and prayer for guidance in this dilemma. I can only hope that you will be able to understand my reasons. I will be posting a podcast service of Holy Communion for Christmas Day and will send those details with a copy of the service out by email tomorrow. I am also exploring how I might be able to stream a live service on Christmas Day. If that is possible I will let you know.
If you are aware of others who may not have access to our social media and web pages, please can I ask you to let them know of this arrangement.
With the kindest of regards and my wishes to you for a blessed Christmas and a peaceful and hope filled New Year,