In the light of the new English lockdown, our church has decided to suspend services at the church for the next few weeks. We will review this decision in the light of national developments and certainly by the time we start heading towards the February half term (after which schools might begin normal operations again). For now, we know the vaccine is being rolled out (several of our congregation get their first jabs this week – hurrah!) but we are also aware of the threat for yet-more virulent strains of COVID-19 and don’t want to cause harm.
There is a theological dimension too. What is church? What is a church service for? At our end of the Anglican spectrum, a key value for us is that the congregation should be able to congregate and express their care and support for one another. In my role as worship pastor, I’m fully aware of the value of the performance of aspects of liturgy — from written forms of service, Bible readings, worship songs and more — but all that lives in the context of us being the body of Christ.
Public services of worship are permitted under the national lockdown rules but we can’t interact with each other. Even our Tier 3 response of ushering people quickly out of the building (after sitting, masked, in their distanced seats) but letting them to cluster in spread out groups of up to 6 outside isn’t allowed at present. In other words, we can invite a congregation into the building but we can’t allow them to congregate.
So, for a few more weeks, it is back to online-only provision – weekly services, our toddlers’ church and also a number of Zoom based interactions, which cover prayer and home groups as well as allowing us to socialise. God willing, this might be the last lockdown we experience for a good, long time, so may we find ways to creatively make the most of it!