As we come to the end of 2020 we are undoubtedly glad to see the back of a year that has, for many people, been a difficult one. Yet we enter the New Year in seemingly no better a situation. I write this as a vast swathe of the country enters Tier 4, virtual lockdown, for the next few weeks. The good news is, though, that the vaccine is being rolled out and I know that many of our more vulnerable and older friends have begun the process of being inoculated against Covid-19. We move forward in hope, knowing that we are closer to the end of this difficult time than we are to its beginning.
You will know that I had begun to make plans for our churches to begin to reopen in the New Year and we were all looking forward to that. You will not be surprised to read my suggestion that we need to again hold back on that particular plan and keep on doing what we have been doing since March. I am as frustrated to have to write that sentence as you are in reading it. It is especially frustrating as we were, for a couple of weeks, moving in the right direction. The emergence of a more-easily transmitted variant of the virus does make it particularly more dangerous for us to continue with our plans to get back together.
So, please recognise that the provisional preaching plan published just before Christmas is now suspended and we shall keep on with online worship for the time being.
As soon as it is safe to do so, we shall begin to open our churches and, provided the equipment has been installed, we shall be able to offer the option of watching livestreamed worship alongside the option of being physically present.
I would suggest that the trigger for us to next consider making the transition from online-only worship into this mixed economy should be the time when we enter Tier 2. Until then, let is keep on keeping on in the manner that we have been doing.
The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler, The Secretary of the Conference, offers us this prayer for the moment:
Loving God, in our fear, in our grief, in our disappointment, may we know that you are with us,
And as we heed the call to remain in our homes, help us there to serve you faithfully,
That others might know of Immanuel, God with us. Amen.
Keep the faith, stay safe and know that blessings abound.
The Revd Dr Adrian Burdon
Shaw & Royton Circuit of the Methodist Church