The Archbishops have now issued a letter to all clergy in which the main points, as they affect our common life are as follows:
- Our church buildings must now be closed not only for public worship, but for private prayer as well and this includes the priest or lay person offering prayer in church on their own. For the priest this means celebrating the Mass at home. I have pre-empted this by setting up at altar in the Rectory and tried to make it as much like a chapel as I can. I hope to start live streaming, which is permitted, as soon as I have mastered the technology.
- Emergency baptisms can take place in hospital or at home, though subject to strict hygienic precautions and physical distancing as far as possible.
- There can be no weddings in church buildings until further notice.
- Funerals can only happen at the Crematorium or at the graveside. Only immediate family members can attend (if the crematorium allows – Milton Keynes Crematorium appears to be allowing up to ten mourners only) – that is, spouse or partner, parents and children, keeping their distance in the prescribed way.
- Foodbanks should continue where possible, under strict guidelines, and may have to move to be delivery points not places where people gather.
The diocesan bishop has added:
- That Pastoral Care of the clergy will be mainly left to the Area Deans
- That the priest should restrict most of his pastoral care of his people to using the telephone and internet. There is no guidance yet on the Anointing of the Sick and Dying. In the absence of that, which is worrying at best, I shall seek to administer that Sacrament with the guidance of the medical profession sought by the patient and/or their family.
- On Parish finances: he writes: “We recognise that for some their parish finances are significantly dependent on Sunday collections, lettings and fundraising events and will be issuing advice to help following a consultation with deanery treasurers. Please support the need to sustain parish and diocesan income at this time when the Church’s ministry is needed as never before.”
To all of the above, as your Parish Priest, I would add that sometimes that which we value most can become taken for granted and we can so easily become distracted by things that not of God, and sometimes by things that frankly are the work of the enemy. This period in the desert where we are unable to worship together in our Parish Churches may well, if we embrace the spiritual opportunity, become a period of real growth as disciples of Jesus, from which renewal can flow. All of us are experiencing a great sorrow and a time of great uncertainty, and yet this is a time to have faith, for this problem will end and when it does, as Christ’s Disciples we shall commit ourselves, as our first priority, more fully to the worship of Almighty God and to making our second priority sharing in the continuing mission of Christ the Redeemer. We cannot think that Parish Life will just resume as it was, for God is going to change us through this time and draw us back to himself.
And rend your heart and not your garments ” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil.
but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’