Latest Rector’s Letter

My dear friends,
I wonder if any of you keep a diary? I wish that I had been doing! 2020 is certain to go down as a memorable year in history, and I am already finding that I have forgotten much of what happened before – even some startling and unusual events. It was only when doing a crossword, in which one of the answers was ‘prorogation, that I remembered 2019’s controversial suspension of parliament. In truth, I confess that I wouldn’t even have known the word without the events which unfolded last year.
I suppose that suspension of parliament must happen from time to time, or there wouldn’t be a word for it in the dictionary. We don’t have an equivalent word for the suspension of worship in church, which suggests that it doesn’t happen! In each of our churches we have a service register in which we record all the acts of worship which take place, and it felt very significant to write ‘Services suspended due to Covid-19 pandemic’ across the pages. Those words will be an interesting find for future historians.
I don’t know whether public worship has ever had to pause at Astbury or Smallwood before. There have been some who said that the continuity of worship, and even worshiping in buildings, didn’t matter – but the decision that not even clergy could enter the buildings to pray on behalf of all was one I was uncomfortable with. I think that our connection through history to special places is important to us. It seems that you agree, because our survey last month showed that the majority of us are ready to return to church if it is safe to do so. You’ll find some analysis of the 51 replies in this issue.
But it is not just returning to a special place which we want. The survey showed that we miss the community we share, as these comments show:
‘Although live-stream is better than no service, there is no substitute to being together in church.’
‘Loneliness can only be slightly removed via a video link. There is definitely a need for a physical service.’
‘In my opinion life has to go on, as long as we stay as safe as we possibly can be.’
I have decided that we will resume our morning services pattern, from the beginning of September. But for some people, the videos we have made have been a lifeline, and we must try to maintain them. So, at Astbury we are investigating having an internet connection into church so that we can broadcast live, as well as showing weddings and funerals.
Our schools tell us that because of their own constraints they will find it helpful to use our church buildings more, and so we are very glad to be able to accommodate some of their collective worship and special events. St Mary’s is a big space which is hard to clean by hand; and so (with the help of historic buildings advisors) we have decided to invest in a misting machine to keep it clean between uses. We have also bought a contact-less giving plate so that we can resume a collection. The details of all the safety provisions we have made for both Astbury and Smallwood can be found further later in this issue.
I do hope that our worship will not be prorogued again!
With every blessing,