From the Rector

Dear Friends,

So, September begins amidst continued uncertainty for all of us, which is acute for many. Schools are now re-opening causing a mixture of relief and anxiety for families and extra stress for school leaders and teachers in spite of their dedication to the young people and to their work. A similar situation applies to colleges and universities. Meanwhile, some anticipate a return to the workplace with a mixture of feelings, others continue to work from home and, for some, jobs have either gone or there is uncertainty whether this is the likely outcome after the furlough scheme ends. I know this all affects many in our church community and you are all in my thoughts and prayers.
As a church, we face uncertainty too. We are not immune to the pressures faced by all businesses. Your generosity and careful financial management mean that we are in a better financial situation than some, but what the ‘hit’ is from Coronavirus so far remains uncertain. We also experienced Lockdown and the period everything was online and face the uncertainty of what the colder months hold in this regard. As I wrote in August, we have been gradually and carefully re-opening, following both the government’s requirements and the excellent and prompt guidance from the Church of England’s Recovery Team – though this has meant piling through some detailed and full documents, I can’t speak too highly of their work, led by our own bishop here in London, Sarah Mullally. I’m also hugely grateful to members of the congregation as well as our clergy and lay leaders for helping with their expertise. I am massively indebted too to those who have got stuck in with the practical help needed to get services on the go again at St Mary’s and I must mention in particular Margaret Butler, Stewart Dugaid, Madline Osbourne and Stephen Robins.
We restart our traditional 8am Sunday Holy Communion service this month; whilst the midweek Thursday Communion moves to the normal and more intimate setting of the side chapel. We haven’t yet worked out the restart at All Saints and we have still work to get going again with Junior Church and Youth Group – our families have a lot on their plate just as I write with the return to school. Some hall hirers are slowly returning and we are also hosting Crown Street Surgery’s flu vaccination sessions as we pull together to mitigate excess deaths this winter and the consequent pressures on the NHS – the target is for everyone over 50 as well as those with particular vulnerabilities to be offered a flu vaccine. Janet, our administrator, makes a partial return to work this month. She will be available by phone and email (please note the new email address) but there will be a booking system for appointments as it won’t be possible to call into the office without prior arrangement for the foreseeable future. Please have in mind too there is a backlog of work and bear with us if it takes longer to respond than usual.
Finally, pastoral visits, a core part of our work, also resume this month but with great care. We will be making the hospital visits and home visits that we judge essential. I will carry the burden of this and have started a regime of regular coronavirus testing as a keyworker. Where possible, we will continue with pastoral support via phone, video, email and in person for those who can get to church. Please do get in touch on your own behalf or anyone else’s if you would like pastoral support.
I know some of you will continue to be circumspect about returning to the church building for services. For this reason, we continue to offer as much as we can online. One of the successes of Lockdown has been the engagement we have had with our mid-week thoughts for the day and midday prayers in particular. Until then, it was hard with such busy lives to run midweek activities, but the online resources have suited quite a few within our church community and beyond it. Some church meetings will also continue online as this has proved popular and convenient. If you are thinking of coming back to the church for the first time this month and are feeling anxious about it, I suggest the Thursday 11am service and the Sunday 8am service might be worth considering as the services are shorter and fewer people are present. This is especially the case if you are in the clinically more vulnerable category. However, we have worked over the summer to ensure that all services are “Covid-safe” and have adapted the 10.30am service in the light of this to be shorter and sweeter! You will need to wear a mask (unless you are exempt), provide your name and phone number for Test and Trace and, of course, stay at home if you have any concern that you may have Coronavirus symptoms.
Finally, simply a huge thank you for your prayers, support and messages of appreciation over this period. On behalf of the clergy team, I can say we are hugely grateful and it has been our privilege to rise to the challenge all of this has posed.
On a personal note, I have been hugely touched with the support you have given me in my successful attempt to run 100 kilometres in August for Alzheimer’s Research UK’s ‘Running Down Dementia’ initiative. I am grateful to those who enabled me to raise over £300 – three times my initial target – but equally for the personal encouragement and I was very touched by the lovely response in church at the end of last month. Running has been important for me in staying mentally and physically healthy during this period and I shall keep going!
With very best wishes,

Nick

 


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