As our country begins the process of re-opening—and as opinions and passions swirl about the best way to do that—I want to share a few words about our process of resuming services and activities in St Margaret’s in light of the Government’s announcement yesterday.
Let me start off by saying that no one is more excited about that day than I am! I truly miss seeing you and while I’m so thankful for the ways we’ve stayed connected through this crisis, I’m so excited about being together in person as soon as possible. What makes it more exciting is that I can’t wait to show you our new lighting system – without spoiling the surprise; it is truly stunning!
So, here’s where we stand today. The Diocese and Church of England have been in constant prayer and dialogue about how and when we can resume services in the church. We remain committed to honouring the guidelines and restrictions given by government and health officials with advice being updated on a weekly basis.
As of today, I cannot give you an exact date for when we will be back ‘in’ church, although it looks like it will be open for private prayer before services.
When we are back, I cannot tell you exactly what it will look like but I can tell you the four core values that will inform our process as we move forward.
First, the church has never actually been closed. We’ve been doing more ministry and reaching more people than ever before. So regardless of how long this season lasts, we are not just still open—God is still moving. I’m so proud of the faith and generosity you have already shown in this season, St Margaret’s. Thank you!
Second, we want to resume ministry only when we can do so effectively for those who are growing in faith and for those who might be exploring faith. If you call St Margaret’s home or have ever attended one of our services, then you know that the building isn’t conducive to social distancing. Depending on how big the social distance has to be, really does depend on how many people we can accommodate. At present with a two-metre distance this would mean only thirty people could enter the building. While we can make certain adjustments, we don’t want to invite people into church until the majority of our community feels safe and excited to do so. The building isn’t the easiest to ‘deep clean’ either.
Third, we want to improve, not damage, our relationship with our neighbours, and our witness to the surrounding community. One of our core values is that we are here for those who are not here. To resume too soon could send a message to our unchurched neighbours that we don’t care about the needs or safety of our community. We also risk creating a bad experience for first-time guests if we restart too soon and are unable to provide great hospitality that makes our coming to St Margaret’s feel like ‘home’. We know we can’t make everyone happy, but we want to consider our witness to the community and not just our right to come together.
Fourth and finally, regardless of how and when we resume services in church, we want to come back together in a spirit of grace and unity. As we take steps to restart ministry, it will be tempting to critique the timing or the process. I certainly can’t promise that we will proceed perfectly, but I can promise that we will do so prayerfully. I ask now for your patience and grace along the way. And remember, regardless of what you believe our country should or shouldn’t be doing, here at St Margaret’s, we are committed to keeping Jesus at the centre of all we say and do. And Jesus is not calling us to be divided or speak divisively about how to move forward. He calls us to be one body, under one Lord, expressing one hope in the one true gospel. Let’s make sure our world keeps hearing that message as we strive to navigate these complicated days together.
Some of you may know that I used to be a prison governor. One thing I know from my experience of managing critical incidents is that in a prolonged crisis, things change almost every day – if not hour. Going forward, we will be nimble and flexible in our planning, ready to change the plan if the plan needs to change. And we will keep you informed as we determine our next steps and how you can help.
If you have any questions or concerns, we’d love to hear from you, just send us an email or give the church office a call.
St Margaret’s, I am honoured and humbled to be part of this church and privileged to be your Vicar. Your prayers, your support, your generosity, your compassion, your love for your neighbours, your heart for those in need has been a light in a dark time and a testimony that God is still in the life-changing business. Let’s keep it up.
I love you, I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you soon!
All the best,
Revd Nathan Ward
Vicar – St Margaret’s Church
P.S: when we go back we will still be online so don’t worry!