Some churches open

The major change for churches since last month is that the Government has permitted church buildings to open for individual private prayer, subject to significant safety restrictions and cleaning obligations. At the date of writing, some PCCs in the benefice will be opening their churches; others have decided to remain closed for the time being. You can find the opening times highlighted on the back of this newsletter.

These were difficult decisions for PCCs: in Swalcliffe’s case there has always been a bias towards 24-hour opening after a nearby helicopter crash in the 1980s, when Swalcliffe was the only church that was open for rescuers, bystanders and relatives of the victims to pray. They were effusive in their thanks to us. Please feel free to use any of those churches which are open if you want to pray in a church. It is clear, however, that the process of opening up churches in the recovery period from Covid -19 will be much slower than the journey into lock down. A list of readings for July is included in this edition but not yet a list of services.

We are all challenged as to how we should respond to the Covid-19 virus. We see how very uneven the impact on different sectors of the population has been, both in physical and economic terms. I have recently read a short book by Professor Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham – God and the Pandemic – which challenges us as to what the Christian response should be. The message of the book seems to me to be summed up in a quotation that he gives from a German pastor writing about 1930s Nazi Germany:

First, they came for the Jews, but I did nothing because I am not a Jew.
Then they came for the socialists, but I did nothing because I am not a socialist.
Then they came for the Catholics, but I did nothing because I am not a Catholic.
Finally, they came for me, but by then there was no-one left to help me.

Tom Wright argues that we should not ponder on why the pandemic has come: we should ponder on how we and the Church more generally should respond, on how we should learn from Jesus Christ in our responses. There is no doubt that the Church will need to change and so will we, perhaps both in our worship and our support for those who are suffering more than we have.

Our Zoom services at 10.00am each Sunday morning have brought back several members who have not managed to get to church recently but who are prepared to risk using Zoom on their computers, iPads, tablets or smart phones to join in. We can worship God from our homes as well as from our wonderful medieval buildings. If you have not tried the Zoom services, please give them a go. Across our Diocese, some 90% of benefices are offering some sort of worship on-line, and many are attracting worshippers who were not attending church buildings. We as a benefice may need to consider what we offer on-line once worship in our buildings is permitted again, particularly if some sections of the community continue to ‘shelter’. Perhaps something on-line would help us to reach out to the children and young people of the benefice too, particularly those who have lost out on a term of schooling.

Progress has been made towards the recruitment of a new Rector. Representatives of each parish and our Joint Patrons (Lord Saye & Sele, New College Oxford and Worcester College Oxford) met on 9 June with the Archdeacon of Dorchester and our Area Dean to agree the Benefice Profile and the drafting of an advertisement to go in the Church Times as well as on the Church of England jobs website. Both have now been completed. If the advertisement goes out in July, we may be able to interview and appoint in September. Please pray that plenty of candidates will be inspired to apply.

I look forward to seeing as many as possible of you on Sundays and in the meantime, please keep safe.

revjohn's picture

John Tattersall