Dear Friends, This week we have been reviewing the service pattern we have been offering during this third Lockdown. We are acutely aware of the growing pressures on local health services from the UK variant of the coronavirus, and also of the importance of not relaxing Covid-safe disciplines in any way at this stage. The vaccination programme well under way; there is light at the end of the tunnel; and we all need to be very patient and very resolved.
However, we are also very aware that this is a time for the Church to be offering a vital ministry of hope, encouragement and spiritual comfort. Ministering to the wellbeing of people is very much the Church’s mission in a time of national crisis. Moreover, the government has come to recognise the value of this spiritual ministry for people’s fundamental sense of wellbeing, and has framed its regulations accordingly. The Government has done this also, because churches have been among the most reliable organisations in operating Covid-safe venues.
So firstly, attending worship in person locally remains a proper exemption from the Stay at Home directive, though vulnerable people are strongly advised not to take this up but to wait for their vaccinations. And secondly, those who are essential to broadcasting worship in a church’s normal style, are properly permitted to gather in church to do so, though numbers must be kept very much to a minimum.
These two are now separate areas of regulation and, as it happens, this is a distinction that we have already been following at St Mary-le-Tower since Christmas. It has also been confirmed by Bishop Martin in an email to clergy and churchwardens yesterday. There can be no choir singing at services with in-person public attendance, but a small SATB choir can still take part in services that are live streamed only, provided strict social distancing is carefully observed and where such choral ministry is an important part of a church’s usual style of worship.
So the Churchwardens and I have decided to continue with the current pattern of Sunday services at St Mary-le-Tower, with an in-person Holy Communion (BCP) at 8am, and a live-streamed-only Choral Eucharist at 10.30am. Both services will continue to be lived streamed. We will of course be keeping our pattern of services under close review, and will be ready to change in response to new circumstances.
We are also making our Covid-safe protocols at the Choral Eucharist even stronger. Singers gathering in church are already only those who are neither vulnerable nor under 18. They already well understand the Covid-safe disciplines that are absolutely required for this activity, but they now have the specific support of their families to continue to take part in this choral ministry.
In addition from Sunday 17th January, a small SATB choir will be singing from the south aisle of the nave where there is rather more room than in the chancel, and each singer will now be spaced 3.0m rather than 2.0m apart. The church is of course a large and well ventilated space, and singing has been shown in a number of scientific studies to project aerosols no more than speaking does, (unless you happen to be a very highly trained opera singer!)
We have concluded therefore that continuing the present pattern of services in this way is the right thing to do for the Christian mission of St Mary-leTower at this time. And we have concluded that the risk of transmitting the coronavirus at SMLT with all the Covid-safe protocols we now have in place remains very low. It is of course possible to take a different view on these things, but after considerable discussion we have reached this settled view.
If anyone wishes to discuss these matters with myself or the churchwardens, you are more than welcome to get in touch. We remain deeply grateful to all those who are continuing the ministry of St Mary-leTower in various ways at this time in difficult circumstances.
With my prayers and best wishes, Charles
The Revd Canon Charles Jenkin
Vicar, St Mary-le-Tower Church Ipswich
My normal rest day is a Friday.
The Parish Office is not open for the time being.
My office hours for normal church business are 9.30am – 5pm, Monday to Thursday.
In an emergency please feel free to contact me outside office hours.