From the Vicarage
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I hope and pray that everyone remains safe and well.
As you will know, with the move to step 4 of the Government’s ‘road-map’, churches now have the freedom to agree guidance appropriate for their own buildings and practice. As a Benefice we have done so, and I write to update you about this.
The approach taken by the Government is to promote guidance that emphasises the personal and corporate responsibility of individuals and organisations to protect others and themselves. For some people and in some parts of Devon, the Government’s restrictions have seemed unnecessary or overly prescriptive. For others, the easing of restrictions has been met with considerable anxiety because it seems to bring additional risk to themselves or to others vulnerable to the virus. Whatever our view of the wisdom of the approach being adopted by the Government, what is clear is that this virus is not going away. Sadly, cases of Covid are, once again, rising. Thankfully, and largely due to the success of the vaccination programme, hospitalisations and deaths are much lower. As a country we are embarking upon the slow journey of learning to co-exist with this virus and how best to manage risk.
The legal limits on the numbers of people allowed to meet indoors and outdoors have been removed. Whilst it is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering, the government has stated that it “expects and recommends” that people wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed settings. To protect yourself and others our guidance is:
· If you have symptoms, please do not enter the Church.
· Please wear a face covering or mask in our churches.
· Use the sanitizer provided to clean hands at entrances and at key points within the building, and before receiving Communion.
· Use the socially distanced zoned seating for the time being.
· Use NHS Test and Trace (or QR code scanning).
Communion will continue “in one kind” until further guidance is received from the House of Bishop’s COVID Recovery Group. Congregational singing is now permitted. When and where possible we hope to continue with our online worship provision, in addition to “in person” services. These can be followed on our Facebook pages and websites. For those without internet access the Church of England’s free national phone line continues to offer music, prayers and reflections, as well as full worship services, each day. The phone line, which is available 24 hours a day, is: 0800 804 8044.
The lifting of legislation means that the restrictions placed on the numbers permitted at baptisms, weddings and funerals have been removed. However, there is an expectation by Government that people act responsibly in indoor spaces, particularly where large numbers of people are involved and, therefore, it may be necessary to limit numbers for the safety of all those attending. The numbers permitted to attend will be determined by the usual health and safety and fire safety capacity of our buildings, and our COVID risk assessment.
We wish to retain these measures until the impact of the current wave of the pandemic can be fully assessed.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On Sunday, 15th August, the Church celebrates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Feast of the Assumption sets before us the final act of Mary, the young Jewish girl from Nazareth, who gave Jesus to the world, and was spared death. A messenger from the Lord announced that she was to be the bearer of the Son of God to the world, and her response was: “Let it be according to your word.” We are inclined to forget that Mary had little idea of what faced her when she responded to God’s call. It was with faith and trust, but with little knowledge, that she kept going, seeking to discover the hand of God in what was happening around her. Mary’s natural obedience to God and reverence for his word showed her worthy to be the bearer of “the word made flesh.” As a woman with a human heart and human personality, she experienced all aspects of everyday life – its joys and its pains. We know of Mary’s journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was expecting a baby, and we know of her presence at the Cross. From Jesus’s birth to his death, Mary is present. In Mary we see the fullness of response we are asked to make to God in our lives. She recognized the greatness of God working through her: “The Almighty has done great things for me…” Her Assumption into heaven should inspire us to see the worth of making every effort to live life as fully as we can in obedience to God’s word, for Mary is a living symbol of what God calls us to be. As we journey on our own pilgrimage, Mary’s ministry of “presence” has much to teach us, as she points us forward to where we hope to be.
Almighty God, who looked upon the lowliness of the Blessed Virgin Mary
and chose her to be the mother of your only Son:
grant that we who are redeemed by his blood
may share with her in the glory of your eternal Kingdom:
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen
With God’s blessing