It’s been another interesting week in the parish! On Monday, for the first time since March, we opened the doors of the church building to the public. With scrupulous arrangements in place to ensure that this does not pose a risk to the health of our community, we were glad to provide a place for prayer, for human contact, and to begin to see the possibility emerging faintly on the horizon that we may at some point be able to gather more freely for worship.
A great sadness in all this, however, is that we are aware of so many people who still cannot enter the church that they love, the church that they support and in which they worship. Government advice remains in place recommending that those with symptoms or in at high risk groups should continue to stay at home.
It’s been an interesting week in the Diocese, too, as the clergy of Lincoln experimented with their annual ‘Gathering’ on the internet. Technology that allows lots of people in lots of locations to see each other and hear each other has leapt to the fore during the lockdown. Meetings, daily prayer, and just social chats have been facilitated by programmes like Zoom and Google Meet.
This has been forced upon us, and there is a cost, a serious one. Not everybody has access to this technology, and some who do have access find it difficult to use. It would be too easy to be glib about how brilliant it is – my experience of lockdown is that many have felt painfully isolated not just by the social restrictions imposed on them, but by the feeling that they are excluded from a conversation that everyone else is enjoying.
In both of these instances, it’s clear that the impact of the pandemic has been particularly severe on the old, the poor, and the isolated. While I rejoice that we are reaching so many people with our online church offerings, and I’m grateful to hear what a lifeline these have been for so many, some have been left out and left behind.
We continue to do everything we can to support these folk. Our pastoral support team is tireless in ringing people up, and both formally and informally St Nicholas regulars have been helping each other and their community with ‘Acts of Random Kindness’ – the ARK that raises human existence above the chaos of selfishness and greed.
As restrictions are gradually eased, we are also now able to offer home visits in some limited circumstances. We can’t come inside, and we need to keep our distance outside, as well as limiting numbers, but it’s a start, and it’s already underway.
Meanwhile, we’re starting to plan more actively for the return to public worship. It’s impossible to say what form this will take, and when it may be permitted, but I’ll try to keep you up to speed with developments. One thing that is becoming clear is that we will need to limit the numbers in the church building at any one time. There will be no immediate return to a full and buzzing church.
I’m going to need to ask for your patience and your help with all of this. I don’t yet know every detail of how we’re going to manage it, but I do know that whatever we put in place will work much better with your active co-operation. Please watch this space!
Even as you do so, thought, please also spare a thought and a prayer for those who will be among the last to make it back into the church building. My prayer is that we will be held together with them as the body of Christ in this place, however long it takes for us to be reunited in the same space.
May God bless you all,