What have we learned from the last 2 months?
After being shut for nearly 4 months, our church building has been open for worship since 12 July, albeit in a restricted way with an experimental pattern of services – just one service each Sunday in St Luke's (and one in St Mary’s Riddlesden), and one midweek activity - the church building open for private prayer on Wednesday afternoons form 2.00-4.00pm.
‘Social distancing’ has become almost second nature; sadly there has been no congregational or choir singing; and any socialising has had to take place outside the church building. That’s been OK while the weather has been reasonable, but won’t be so good as it gets colder and wetter during the autumn!
On average I reckon about half the congregation have come back to worship in the church buildings. The Sunday service has been pre-recorded and made available online every week from 9.00am (online views have ranged between 39-82); the Wednesday service has been recorded and made available by mid-afternoon (online views have ranged between 15-50). The alternative Sunday ‘Tonic’ has been made available most Sundays (online views have ranged between 15-44).
Very few children/young people have attended worship in the church building, though many have watched the online Collective Worship that Gareth and I have recorded for primary schools. And some children from both St Luke’s and St Mary’s came to the Picnic we organised on East Morton Rec in July.
As we move into the Autumn, what might be our priorities?
We simply don’t know what will happen over the next few months and whether or not the pandemic will get worse. So whatever we plan will need to be flexible.
We must continue to care for and support those who don’t feel able to come into the church buildings – continuing the provision of online services, service sheets, and audio recordings of the services on CDs. If we’re doing that it makes sense that the main Sunday service in church is the same as the online service.
The Parochial Church Council will meet on 15th September to consider questions such as the time of future services and the frequency of Holy Communion and All Age Worship
on Sundays. They will also discuss whether or not it is feasible or appropriate to try to resume the early morning Holy Communion service at 8.00am and/or the monthly evening service at 6.30pm.
Perhaps more importantly the PCC will look at the feasibility of re-starting some of the activities of the church that take place during the week, not just on Sundays. For example Bible Study/Prayer Groups, social events, and activities for children and young people. One possibility we have been looking at is to run an Alpha Course online, using Zoom technology.
Clearly safety is the paramount concern at the moment. But within that we want to do all that we can to make use of our facilities (in the church building and online) to support, encourage and bless the whole community of Morton and especially to serve the needs of those who are most vulnerable or needy. If you have suggestions please pass them on to me or to other members of the Parochial Church Council.
We know the dates for the Harvest Festival (Sunday 4th October), Remembrance Sunday (8th November) and Advent Sunday (29th November). But we have no idea yet as to what we will be able to do on those occasions!
Meanwhile you can still join in our online worship at Facebook and on the YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpkQlLNK1zq-bQ_6VC6Ut6A
And we must remember that the Church is much more than what happens in a church building. I am very grateful to so many people who have carried on the work of visiting and caring not just for those who come to church but for all who live in our wider community. I’m confident that will continue whether or not there are further serious outbreaks of the virus. God has promised that he will be with us, and he is faithful and can be trusted.
I finish with this prayer that I found in a magazine from the Church Mission Society.
Lord, when our success and comfort make us forget those who suffer:
Show us your hands and your side.
Lord, when we are confused, lost and bewildered:
Grant us your peace, and send us out in confidence to do your will in the world.