That’s right. You are; so am I. Regular church goers have been missing from our churches since the beginning of Lockdown; not willingly but by command of our bishops, who chose to lock our churches against us, despite government advice that they could stay open with safeguarding measures in place. Thank God the supermarkets were more efficient or we would all have starved.
I will leave out all the stuff about the Church not being a building but its people; that is repeated so often it is becoming trite. Church communities have been doing sterling work individually to keep the “show” — if not on the road — at least on line, but it’s not enough.
Front page headlines in The Times (L) and Daily Telegraph (R)
Of churches and spiritual life — not a word!
Beginning yesterday, Monday 22nd June, churches may now open for private prayer. Last week our local Vicar sent out a 14-page downloadable booklet from the bishop. This we were to read and discuss, on a Forum, on how we can do this safely. In our church, this means how to keep 2 or 3 very old ladies safe in a building that can seat 200.
In the many weeks of lockdown one might have thought the bishops, the diocesan office, the people who wrote the booklet and the individual vicars could have put plans in place in plenty of time for this day. After all, the local clergy are the ones who know the size of their churches, the odd nooks and crannies that could be safely used for private prayer and, most importantly, the people in their congregations who would be likely to respond to this opportunity.
I would love to be able to go into the church I have been at home in for 30 years but I won’t. I don’t want to cause so much trouble and bother to all the able bodied members of the congregation who will have to get the 14 pages of the safety measures put in place.
Also, I have taken the words of Bishop Gregory, of the Diocese of St Asaph in North Wales, very much to heart.
“It is very important that we do not make the re-opening of churches a free for all…”
A “free for all”? What planet is this man on? What church is he Bishop in?
Jesus says “knock and the door will be opened to you …” (Luke 11.9) unless the bishop has locked it.
Jesus also says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11.28)
I can’t think of a time since the end of the Second War when people have been more weary and burdened, and grieving and fearful or more in need of spiritual peace. To paraphrase George Herbert, “Love bade me welcome, but the bishops drew back.”