From the Rectory 7th January 2021
As you may be aware our Diocesan Bishop has written to all clergy and wardens following the announcement from Downing Street of a second nation lockdown. In the email Bishop Martin writes, ‘ I have decided to grant a blanket suspension of the obligations under Canon B14 to hold a service of Holy Communion in at least one church in each benefice on all Sundays and principal Feast Days, for the duration of the national lockdown. Therefore if the incumbent and PCC together decide to suspend public worship for a while they do not need to seek my permission.’
After consulting with the PCC’, there is majority agreement that public worship be suspended in Framlingham and Saxtead. We do not take this decision lightly and I wanted to try and explain this decision by setting it back into its factual context.
v We stand in the third wave of a global Covid-19 pandemic.
v The mutation of a new variant of the virus is 70% more transmissible.
v Over 60,000 new infection were reported on the 5th of January and a daily death rate of over 1000 souls.
v Over 30,000 hospital beds in England are caring for those with Covid-19.
v The Prime Minister and his Chief scientific and medical advisors are clear that unless our behaviour changes our health service risks being overwhelmed.
v In coastal Suffolk infection rates are on the rise, and in the last ten days the infection rate has more than doubled to over 1000 cases and there is news that our local hospitals at Ipswich and Colchester are reaching capacity particularly when it comes to intensive care beds.
v The governments clear advice is stay at home.
‘The government are not insisting on the closure of churches in this lockdown but are clear that we must make sure our buildings are safe if they are to remain open. As the Church of England has no prior knowledge of government announcements, those with responsibility to update national church guidance must then read through all the government information and begin to formulate our own guidance, this takes time. Our scientific and medical advisors are not paid but give of their time voluntarily on top of their day Jobs. We are blessed that the Bishop of London is a former Chief nurse and as such has a good knowledge base on medical matters. In her holding statement published on January 5th she writes:
The Government has chosen not to suspend public worship in England at this time and we will continue to follow the guidance and ensure that churches remain as safe as possible. The Government guidance on the safe use of places of worship makes clear that those attending a place of worship must not mingle with anyone outside their household or support bubble.
“However, some may feel that it is currently better not to attend in person, and there will be parishes which decide to offer only digital services for the time-being. Clergy who have concerns, and others who are shielding, should take particular care and stay at home.’
Guidance is being worked on and updated at this time. There is concern that the nature of the variant will mean we need to introduce new stringent cleaning regimes to keep our buildings open but as I write that guidance has not been published and so we are unable to make an informed decision about keeping st Michael’s Covid secure at this time. Until we have that guidance the church will remain closed. Once guidance becomes available we will re-access that decision and if we are confident that we can make things safe we will look to reopen for private prayer.
I have heard from some who feel disappointed in this decision and while I understand that disappointment my priority has been, is and will continue to be keeping people safe, not only those who seek to use the church for prayer but those who open and lock each day, who expose themselves to risk as they clean furniture and surfaces and do everything else our previous risk assessment required. My thanks to the small band that have been doing that.
Please be assured the Church can be used for weddings of up to 6 people and funerals of no more than 30 mourners. Also be assured that we are constantly checking for updated guidance and have all our decisions under constant review as well as working on new ways to support our church family.
Please continue to pray for each other and our community at this time,