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Current Restrictions and our Ministry at St Mary’s

A letter from The Vicar, Revd Will Gibbs

The latest Government restrictions and a third national lockdown bring with them many challenges and elicit a whole range of emotions, I’m sure.

For my part, I am relieved in three particular ways. I am relieved because the current numbers of Covid cases and infection rates are incredibly high, especially locally, and something needed to be done before things spiralled out of control.

I am also relieved because it means that the schools are closed until at least February Half Term. I had real concerns for Claire and for all teachers working in close proximity to lots of children from many
households with this new more infectious variant. (But I know this will be hard for parents working from home and juggling busy work pressures and home schooling and childcare.)

And, thirdly, I am relieved that this current lockdown still permits churches to be open – both for private prayer and for individuals to come and visit and pray, but also that public worship can continue to be offered.

This is a notable difference compared to the restrictions in the first national lockdown and bears testimony to the efforts and protocols that we and many churches have put in place to ensure that coming to a service is as safe as we can possibly make it.

It does mean that St Mary’s will continue to be open each day from 9.30 am until 5.30 pm Monday to Saturday, and from 7.30 am until 5 pm on Sundays. Permission for churches to stay open means that each of us has a choice about whether to come to St Mary’s or not, rather than that choice being taken from us.

I realise that there will be a considerable number who won’t feel able to attend services at the moment and that is fully understood and appreciated. Please know that you are missed and are being thought of and prayed for.

We will be continuing to offer our online services each Sunday morning and from the kind messages we have received I know that many people have taken great comfort from these. The fact that these are broadcast at 9.30 am with almost identical words and music to our service in church also at 9.30 am gives us an added sense that we are very much together, even if apart for now.

For those who don’t feel able to attend services in church at the
moment, do consider calling in to St Mary’s quietly under your own steam, so that you can sit and pray for a while during the week. I know that many have found great peace and solace by being able to still come in and enjoy the sense of God’s presence and peace in this place. And it is warm!

You can also light a candle on the votive candle stand if you wish, and that is being used and appreciated by many since we acquired it. It is lovely to come in to church and see a number of candles burning as a
sign that others have been there before us and have been praying also.

And for those who do feel able to come to services, we continue to offer 9.30 am Morning Prayer and 5 pm Evening Prayer each weekday, our 7.30 pm Wednesday Eucharist and weekend communion services at 5 pm on Saturdays and 8 am and 9.30 am on Sundays.

Last weekend, we had almost identical numbers attending at each
of these so our desire ‘to spread the load’ is working well and it means that we can space out more than the required 2 metres and feel very secure and comforted by that.

We will wait to see what the next Government review brings and what this means for us but, in the meantime, if you are aware of anyone who is struggling or who needs support or pastoral care then please do let me know so that we can respond appropriately.

Whatever life throws at us at the moment, I am determined that we stay together as a church, even if apart to an extent, and that our prayer, worship and pastoral care of each other continues and is extended, as we make our way at the start of 2021.

Will

Travelling on, but on a different path

A letter from Will for the Redbourn Common Round


I wonder what your favourite Christmas present was this year?  I was hoping for a jab which, in my mind, would have been the best present any of us could receive at the moment.  But I’m way down the list so perhaps that will be an Easter present for me instead.

But my favourite present this year was actually an ice cream machine.  The fact that the weather is cold and miserable and we’re in December makes it seem such a frivolous choice.  But after all we’ve been going through in the pandemic, somehow the incongruity has made it all the more fun.  Another gift to go with it, wrapped separately but from the same people, provided an ice cream recipe book from a famous ice cream duo in Vermont, USA (you may know who I’m talking about).

It will be really fun to try the recipes and different combinations but it is also, somehow, such a hopeful present.  It is a gift that looks forward to warmer weather and better times – which, quite frankly, is all we can do at the moment.  We long for life to become less restricted, scary and stressful and for us to be able to enjoy things with fun and laughter and other people.  It will happen but it feels a long way off at the moment.

And as I think about gifts and of things that are a long way off, I’m reminded of the Epiphany story and the magi and their long journey bearing gifts to bring to Jesus.  Theirs was not an easy path either, but a long and dangerous trek experiencing vulnerability in the face of power, and insecurity and thinly veiled threat, which, in this story, is represented in the person of Herod.  And yet the magi, these mystical Kingly astronomers and seekers, persisted and were rewarded with great joy as they finally reached what they had been searching for and came to an encounter with the infant Jesus.  They brought with them odd gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh that each said something about who Jesus was and what his life will come to be about.  And then the magi depart, and head for home but in a different direction and on another path, symbolising the way their lives have changed course through this encounter.

Like everybody, I long achingly for the end of the pandemic and for the risks to subside and for us to be able to hug and laugh and enjoy the company of others without having to count to see if the group is too big.  And my new ice cream maker symbolises something of that joy and longing.  But like the magi, I also don’t want us to settle back into the old, well worn pathways of our lives.  We can’t go back to where we were, we must travel on, yes, but on a changed tack with a renewed sense of what matters most in life, and with changed horizons and perspectives.

The pandemic has painfully taught us and starkly reminded us of the things that matter most in life – health, family and friends, human contact, prayer, truth, trust, peace and kindness towards others.  These are true gifts to cherish now and everyday as we seek to take our lives and I hope, the life of our whole nation, in a different direction.

May 2021 be for you, and your loved ones, a year of blessing, health and more freedom as we journey on a different path together.

Yours

Will

The Re-Opening of St Mary’s

Following the Government announcement last weekend, we are delighted to announce that St Mary’s will re-open from tomorrow – Monday 15 June – for individual prayer.

In order for us to be able to do this safely and well, there will need to be some strictly adhered guidance to keep you and others as safe as possible:

  1. The church will be open from 10.00am to 5.00pm each and every day.
  2. The nave will be open for people to stand or sit but please do not enter the aisles and chancel which will be out of bounds to limit the areas which need cleaning. To assist in this, all hassocks, pew runners and books have been removed for the time being.
  3. Cleaning will take place regularly to minimise the risk of passing infection but please use the hand sanitiser available and please avoid unnecessary touching of surfaces wherever possible.
  4. Please do not congregate there in groups or the church will have to be closed again.
  5. Please maintain social distancing at all times.
  6. The memorial book will be opened and turned each day but please do not touch the glass case.
  7. There will be the opportunity to light a candle if you wish but please only touch the candle you are lighting.
  8. You may like to make a donation for the candle at the votive stand or using the contactless donation terminal in the church.
  9. Please keep a reverent quiet in the church so that those who wish to pray can do so without interruption.
  10. This is a small first step which I hope you, like me, will welcome and cherish. Public acts of worship are not permitted for the time being and our services will continue to be broadcast for the foreseeable future until we receive further guidance and recommendations from the Government and the Diocese of St Albans.

Will