My main focus in this letter is on the timing of opening the church for worship again. After the Prime Minister laid down the road map for easing lockdown it seemed the right time for us to consider when it would be right for us to open. The statistics for Lewisham are much better now and schools are planning for their reopening, so while we still need to proceed with great caution and be responsible, it feels like the right time to make a plan. I have consulted with our church wardens and we all feel the same, that Sunday the 21st March should be our first Sunday back. While some churches in the area are looking to open a week earlier on Mothering Sunday most others feel that with all the restrictions that need to be in place, we could not meet expectations on that day. We would not be able to have children coming forward to receive flowers or cards, and therefore it would have a very strange feel to it. Perhaps not the ideal start. The following week, the 21st is a more normal service before Palm Sunday and Holy Week and feels like the best time to begin. So that will be our aim. Obviously, all the restrictions that were in place when we were last able to worship together in church will still apply. We will not be able to sing, we need to wear face masks, be socially distanced, and be very disciplined about leaving church and going straight home afterwards. It is always very tempting when we have not met with people for a while to use it as a social occasion, but we must keep within the government guidelines and not mingle in church or in the car park. A church in Nottingham recently received a hefty fine for socialising in a pub car park!
While I am excited about the prospect of us worshipping together again, I have to admit to also being a little apprehensive about it, as I am sure many of you will be also. Keeping everyone safe is a priority; many still have not had their first vaccine and even those who have are not made 100% safe, so it is important that we do not let our guard down and become complacent.
Having said that, I think it will be the right time to begin and we will be preparing for that to happen. It is my aim to ease us in by opening firstly for the Eucharist on the Wednesday before, 17th March at 10am. More details will be given nearer the time and also about our plans for Holy Week and Easter. As with Christmas it will be by ticket only for Easter Day, because traditionally we have always had high numbers. While I do not envisage high numbers this year, I do want to ensure we can fit in safely. So please do begin to book now for Easter Morning, preferably by email to me, or if that is not possible by a phone call or in person. Once we reach capacity with numbers, we will have to stop taking bookings so please book in good time if you intend to come. There will be an on-line Eucharist for Easter as well.
On another issue, I sadly heard the news this week that Jessie Daniels recently died. She had moved to a nursing home in Canterbury, nearer to her niece. Her funeral will take place in that area but we hope later in the year to be able to hold a memorial service for her at St Augustine’s. For many years she travelled to her old church in Biggin Hill, but in latter years she found a home at St Augustine’s and was very happy here. We give thanks for all we have shared with Jessie and that she is now at peace with God.
Lenten reflections continue daily from our Lenten booklet and also on our Lenten Blog: www.staugustinesblog.wordpress.com which includes additional material for each day, including scripture verses, reflections and poems. Bits of the blog are included in the new mini-mag which is published this week. There will be another on-line reading and reflection this Wednesday, which you can access on the website or YouTube, along with our Sunday worship.
My love and prayers continue to be with you all.