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A pastoral letter from Fr Andrew

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Along with this letter you will find a copy of my homily for 26 July, which I do ask you to read carefully and hopefully respond to. I write also to bring you up to date with ‘where we are’ as a Christian family at this point in the pandemic. It is a great joy that we are once again able to gather for worship, albeit with some pretty strict limitations. As I write we still cannot sing and our liturgy is quite restricted – though we do our best, having re-introduced some of our familiar ceremonial. Our numbers in church at any one time are limited to 30 to maintain proper social distancing. This is the same number as permitted for funerals (wherever they take place) Baptisms and weddings. At the moment this is no problem for our Sunday 9.00am or 6pm services but is a little trickier for 10.30. Unless we risk being locked down (as an individual building – the local authority has the power to do this) we must be strict. We also need to take simple contact details so that others can be informed if someone subsequently falls ill with COVID-19 infection. This is happening (or should be) in every church. This is the reason we have the ‘booking in’ system in place. I know that this is a pain and that some people object to it. (I must say that it is pretty poor excuse for not worshipping Almighty God mind!) We have tried to make it as simple as possible, online or a simple phone call or email. Please try to see it as simply a way of you letting us know that you are coming so we can be sure you can be safely accommodated. We would hate to have to turn anyone away at the door. One of our congregation, Keith McLennan, a medical doctor, puts it like this: We are all relieved to have our Church open for Mass again after so long but still with essential restrictions. At a time when relaxation of the lockdown measures have begun we must all remember that this virus is still with us, and as we know, a potential surge is always a real possibility. Although it can be frustrating having to book to attend a Mass and numbers must be limited at each service, there can be no other way at the moment to minimise the risks to all of us. We have little alternative to continue with safe practice in order to make sure that we keep our Church open - we don’t want to have to shut down for weeks again if we loosen these measures too early. We must also be grateful for those who are helping clean and sanitise between services. Lets all continue to try and adapt for a few more weeks and support each other as always. There will of course still be people unable to attend mass. It has been a source of enormous pain and sadness to me not to be able to take Holy Communion to the sick and elderly at home. Hopefully this will be possible again in the coming weeks and days. I will be in touch just as soon as the go-ahead is given. Likewise, it has not been possible for me to visit in hospital. As I write, there is little sign of that restriction being lifted just yet. I have tried to keep in touch, particularly with those who live alone, and I have been delighted to hear about the mutual support groups that have developed over these past few weeks. I have also been so delighted at the number of you who have taken the trouble to ring me to ask how I am following my illness in December and early part of this year. Well, it has been confirmed that I was indeed suffering Covid-19 infection. Several days in hospital with oxygen therapy, feeling very ill indeed, and still all this time later not feeling 100% proves to me how bad this virus can be and how important it is to protect as many people as possible, particularly those for whom the infection could be very serious indeed. Like others, along with very careful hygiene procedures, I will be following the recommendation around wearing a face-covering when in church. During liturgy I will mask when distributing Holy Communion, though not during the other parts of the mass. I will instead be following the official alternative guidance for clergy to completely cover the hosts for Holy Communion until distribution and maintain a safe distance in excess of 2m when greeting / saying farewell, and the maximum possible distance at other times. Our Eastward facing altar helps! Please note that with the recommendation to mask, there will be absolutely no challenge or demand to do so. It is a strong recommendation, not a rule or law. Let us together pray that a cure / vaccine will soon be found to keep us safe. In the meantime, keep praying, and remember, God is good. I do hope to see you all again soon. Please don’t forget, come to Mass if you safely can. Weekdays are less busy than Sundays – so come then if you find that safer and / or easier. If necessary, I will put on more masses. With the assurance of my love and prayers, Fr Andrew

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