An update from Revd Robert Gooding

Dear friends

For those on you visiting our website, I wanted to keep you informed of our latest recommendations following the removal by the UK Government of most legal restrictions concerning Covid-19 on 19th July 2021. 

On 17th July we received 12 pages of guidance from the Church of England regarding the way forward following the announcement from the Government of their plan to remove virtually all legal restrictions from Monday July 19th. 

I have been reviewing this guidance together with a very helpful email that I received on Tuesday 2oth July from the Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft. 

As I have been talking to different members of the congregation and leadership team, it is clear that opinions vary regarding the necessity for ongoing restrictions surrounding Covid-19.  Some are keen that we return to “normal” (i.e. life before Covid) as soon as possible, while others are extremely anxious about the current situation with rapidly rising infection rates and (thankfully more slowly) rising hospitalisations and fatalities resulting from Covid.  It is of paramount importance that we respect each other’s opinions in this matter and that we remain united as a church, even if we do not agree on all the details.

The Prime Minister has made it very clear that the Pandemic has not gone away and despite the removal of many of the legal requirements from Monday 19th July, we have to proceed with extreme caution. This is in order to protect one another, especially those who are clinically vulnerable.  He stressed that this was particularly important in indoor conditions.  The importance of extreme caution has also been stressed in the official guidance received from the Church authorities.

We have worked very hard to ensure that our church has been a safe environment against Covid over the last 16 months, but we need to work together to ensure that it continues to be as safe as possible over the coming months, now that the legal requirement for social distancing has been removed.

One of the things that concerns many people is the apparently sudden move from “Many restrictions” to “No restrictions”, so I have decided that we need to adopt a more gradual, stepped approach.

In his email, Bishop Steven helpfully states: –

“Please remember that the advice sets out what is possible and not what has to be done. Changes do not need to be introduced all at once, and certainly not by this coming Sunday.”

The Guidance from the Church of England states: –

“Although social distancing measures and face coverings are no longer required by law, the incumbent may still make decisions to retain some or all of these measures if they believe doing so is important for safety in their building, or if they judge that it will help people to feel more secure in returning to worship and other uses of the building.” 

Therefore, here are my recommendations

  1. Although social distancing is no longer a legal requirement, we still need to “space ourselves out” as much as possible.  Although all pews at St Peter’s will be “open” , we will be putting “crosses” within every pew to encourage people to sit 1m (not 2m) apart from anyone not in their “household”. At St Leonards, we will place chairs 1m apart.
  2. Congregational singing will be reintroduced from Sunday 25th July.
  3. Everybody attending services in either church (unless they have a medical exemption) should wear a mask over their nose and mouth at all times while in the building, and especially while singing
  4. Everybody should use the Hand Sanitiser provided on entry into and exit from the building.  
  5. Everybody with a Smartphone should continue to “check-in” to the venue using the NHS Covid-19 App and QR codes on display, and we will continue, at least until 16th August, to collect names of those attending services, and phone numbers for any visitors
  6. We will continue to ensure that several doors are left open during services to maintain good ventilation.
  7. Regarding refreshments, I know some people are keen that we return to this, as it is an aspect of our fellowship which people are missing.  However, we are dependent on the availability of people to serve these. When there are people available and whenever the weather is suitable, we will serve refreshments outside after the service.  Whether outside or inside, refreshments will need to be served on a “table service” basis, rather than people congregating at a counter.  We are therefore hoping to slowly reintroduce refreshments over the coming weeks, but occasionally this may not be possible
  8. With regard to the reintroduction of Bellringing, we hope to make a decision in the next couple of weeks
  9. We continue indefinitely with the streaming of at least one Sunday service per week, so that we are still ministering to those who still do not feel comfortable to return. 

Finally, we come to the emotive subject of Holy Communion.  I am aware that some people are unhappy with the current situation where the congregation only receives the sacraments in “one-kind” i.e. without the wine, while the priest receives the wine on behalf of the whole congregation.  As from 19th July we are able, once more, to receive the wine via “the Common Cup”, i.e.sharing from the same chalice.  Some people will welcome this but many, while keen to receive the wine again, are very uncomfortable about sharing the chalice.  We also need to consider the wellbeing of the person conducting the service who is required to drink any remaining consecrated wine at the end of the service.  In the Church of England, we are not allowed to use individual cups as is common in some non-conformist churches, and intinction (dipping) by individual members of the congregation is strongly discouraged on health grounds.

  1. My recommendation for Holy Communion is that we move to a system of “Simultaneous Administration” as detailed in the link below, where the person presiding dips the wafer in the wine for each communicant.

With regard to the Peace during Holy Communion, I would recommend that we only share the peace with those either side of us, and only with bodily contact when both people have indicated that they are happy with this.  We will continue to use the BSL gesture for peace.

Obviously, the above are not mandatory, and every person needs to make their own decisions in these matters but I do hope and pray that everybody will feel able to comply with these recommendations in order that everyone is not only kept safe but also feels safe.  We will continue to keep these recommendations regularly under review over the coming weeks and months.

Finally, as there has been some speculation in the media about the ongoing need for self-isolation, can I please just state the obvious that the following people should not attend church services or events.

  • Anybody who has tested positive for Covid in the 10 days prior to the service / event.
  • Anybody who has been advised by NHS Track and Trace to self-isolate at the time of the service / event.

Many thanks
God bless

Revd Robert Gooding
Vicar of Iver Parish
Tel: 01753 652078
Mob: 07943 612205