Public Worship to Resume

It brings me great joy to tell you that public services at Saint Michael’s resume this Sunday 5th July, following national guidelines. The last few months have been very difficult for all of us, in different ways, for some more so than others, and the future is still very uncertain. Nevertheless, coming together to worship is an important step and a sign of hope, and I want to encourage as many of you as possible to feel confident about coming back to church. With a variety of services there is something for everyone:

8am Low Mass – this is a smaller service and it might be more appropriate for those who feel they are vulnerable.

10.00am Parish Mass – this service will also be live streamed on social media and accessible through the website for those who are unable to come to church.

11.30am Children’s Mass – families with children are encouraged to attend this service (at present there is no Sunday School at the 10am Parish Mass).

6.00pm Evening Prayer with reflective music and address. Each Sunday in July I am inviting someone from St Michael’s to share how the pandemic and lockdown has affected them and we begin with Mother Judith Roberts, Assistant Priest. The aim of this service is to provide silence, music and words to help us reflect on our ongoing experience.

Mid-week Services also resume with Morning Prayer at 9.00am every day (except Friday) and Mass at Noon on Wednesday and 9.30am on Saturday. These services may be especially appropriate for those who would prefer smaller gatherings than on Sunday.

Remember that the church is open every day (except Friday) from 8.45am until dusk for personal prayer.

Safety Measures

Below, I describe some of the measures in place for everyone’s safety so that you know what to expect and what we are doing to keep you safe:

  • Entry to the church is by the main entrance on Charles Street only. We would ask that you don’t use the Priest’s Door on Elm Bank Gardens.
  • Please aim to arrive early. A good few minutes before the service will help us regulate arrivals.
  • It’s particularly important to use the hand sanitiser on arrival.
  • Most services will be in the Nave to facilitate social distancing.
  • There will be stickers on the backs of the pews indicating suitably distanced ‘seating areas’. Please only sit in these places. Each of these can be for one person, a couple or for a family of up to five people.
  • Orders of service will be on the pews – extra ones will be laid out individually on a table at the back of church. The orders of service will be ‘quarantined’ afterwards, so that they are safe to use the following week. You are also welcome to keep your order of service and bring it back with you, or print off your own personal copy. Download a copy here.
  • Sadly, current guidelines mean we are unable to have singing except for a solo cantor with all responses being spoken. However, we have an opportunity to enjoy our wonderful organ even more!
  • At Communion, please follow the directions of the Stewards. Communion will be distributed in one form – the Body of Christ – in a standing station in the Nave. I realise that there are particular anxieties around receiving the Sacrament. I want to reassure you that every effort is made to ensure hygiene. Obviously, the moment of receiving Communion is one of the very few moments when social distancing isn’t possible. However, the moment of proximity is so brief that risk of transmission is considered almost negligible. Even so, some people may choose not to receive the Sacrament at this time and that is understandable.
  • After larger services both of the north and south doors will be open to aid departure. Unfortunately, we must ask you not to stay and socialise in church after the service is over so that we can clean the building and prepare for any services that follow.
  • You are invited to make a donation to the collection at the end of the service rather than at the offertory.
  • With these precautions in place a facemask isn’t necessary but, of course, you are welcome to wear one if you wish to.

This is just a summary of the temporary safety measures we are putting in place. We have tried to keep them subtle, common-sense and proportionate while also taking risk seriously. If you are uncertain or anxious please feel free to talk to me and I am happy to explain in greater detail. I realise it all sounds rather daunting but I’m sure we will get used to it. It’s true that worship will be rather different for a time, but by also keeping our worship as familiar as possible, I hope it will feel like a joyful homecoming.

Life after lockdown

Many of you have shared stories of life under lockdown; the positives, the negatives, how it has affected your spiritual life and a vision for a different future as a result. It is with these mixed feelings and difficult experiences that we re-enter the House of God to lay them before the Lord in prayer. At this time, I am mindful that the word ‘church’ means ‘those who are called together’ and so it is the very nature of our Christian faith that we should come together to worship if we possibly can. Nevertheless, there will be people who are still shielding and if that is your situation then you remain very much in our prayers. Please do let me know so that we can keep in touch and support you. Thank you for bearing with this lengthy letter, but let me finish with the beautiful words from this Sunday’s Gospel, as both encouragement and comfort:

‘Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
(Matthew 11.28-30)

May the Lord who brings rest to the weary, and strength in time of need, grant you his blessing.

With love and prayers,

Father Stephen