Statement from the The Vicar of Colehill regarding the Coronavirus – COVID-19

Issued Sunday 15th March 2020

Beloved in Christ

Covid-19 is a new virus from which we have no immunity. We cannot know with any certainty how many people may end up contracting the virus and there is much speculation, which may be making many of us feel anxious.  What is certain is that the government and Public Health England are taking the situation very seriously.  Current public policy is to delay the rate at which it spreads. The Prime Minister has stated plainly that sadly, for a small proportion of the general population, it will prove fatal. The reality now is that it is almost certain that some of us, and many known to us in our wider family, networks and community will contract COVID-19. So the practical question is how we delay the spread of the virus and reduce the overall number of people who contract the virus - especially the elderly and more medically vulnerable.

I am particularly conscious of the age demographic of our worshipping community, with the overwhelming majority who attend church being well over 60 (which is the threshold of being considered more ‘at risk’).  As part of the injunction to love our neighbours we need to be especially mindful of the health and wellbeing of others. The Vicar is constantly monitoring the latest advice received from the Church of England, based on that published by the government, which gives particular guidance for the modification of church practice as we face the challenges presented by the coronavirus.

Specifically:

  • Please before you come to church wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, repeating when you get home.  For extra reassurance, on arrival antiseptic hand-gel is available.
  • We are instructed to prevent close social contact.  This means no hand shaking and hugging in church, and we have already modified how we share the Peace.  Of course we want to express our affection for one another, but we can find creative ways of doing this.
  • The Common Cup is suspended with immediate effect.  This means that the presiding priest will consecrate both bread and wine, but only the bread will be distributed, and the priest will receive the wine on behalf of all.  It is perfectly acceptable Anglican practice to receive in one kind. 
  • The collection plate will not be passed around but left at the door for your offering.  (Alternatively, you can give by using the tap to give contactless device which reduces the amount of cash handling which carries a transmission risk.  Thank you that so many of you are signed up to the Parish Giving Scheme)
  • We have to take care with surfaces that may become contaminated.  At the 8am service Communion will now be received standing to prevent people from kneeling and touching the altar rails.  We are considering ways of providing liturgy on a screen to avoid transmission of the virus through the handling of service sheets and hymn books.
  • Shared surfaces such as door handles etc in the church and church centre will be disinfected before church and will be again afterwards.

Events involving the provision of food and drink

I recognise this will be an unpopular move for some, but in line with the practice of many other churches in the area, and following the lead of the Rural Dean, we will be suspending the provision of coffee after church services.

In addition Centre Rendezvous will be suspended until further notice. The reason behind this is to avoid all possible routes for transmission.  Those who attend these gatherings, as well as those who volunteer form part of a vulnerable group.  Of course people can make their own mind up as to how much they wish to mix, and meet with others in their own homes and in other places.

CRUCIALLY, WE CONTINUE TO WORSHIP TOGETHER

At the present time there is no ban on church services and events, but the time may come when that becomes necessary.  I would encourage people not to be fearful of attending church – in fact at a time of crisis it is more important that we are able to gather and to pray and be reminded of the faithfulness of God, and reassure one another.  But there are some precautions we should be taking. The Government has now asked all persons with any form of cough/cold/fever to isolate themselves at home for seven days. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of the Coronavirus, please seek medical advice through NHS 111 or the NHS website. Please observe this request and let the Vicar know. Equally, if you have reason to believe you have been exposed to anyone carrying the virus in this country or have recently travelled from an affected area, then please do follow advice and self-isolate. 

It is quite possible that those who fall into the most vulnerable groups will be advised to limit social contact and as such some of our number may be making the decision not to worship with us for the time being.This number may increase as the epidemic reaches its expected peak.In recognition of this, can I encourage ALL of us to keep in touch with one another. We will have to devise a means of supporting our elderly and frail during this time.Our LPAs oversee sections of our electoral roll, but in addition I would like to encourage everyone who has not yet done so to fill in an Emergency Contact Form, including their mobile phone number if they have one, so that we can use this as means of keeping in touch with you.I will be devising a system with the Ministry Team in the coming week.This will be especially important for those who will be missing the social contact afforded by Centre Rendezvous and after service coffee. We will prepare a list of vulnerable persons who live alone and might lack support during any confinement.The church has the opportunity to share its love and concern by offering care.

Care in the wider community
We all form part of other networks through family, friends, neighbours and other groups we belong to. As part of our service to others, think about how you may be a blessing and support in these uncertain times. I am especially mindful of those who are users of the Foodbank, and for this reason we shall continue operating the Foodbank Hub unless directed otherwise.

What if….
Should the worst happen, and we are directed to stop meeting for worship I will make other means available to enable us to maintain our spiritual life as a community.Resources will be placed on the website, on our Facebook page, and a leaflet prepared for people to use at home.At present most of our plans for Holy Week and Easter remain in place, but of course we will adapt if it becomes necessary to do so.
 
Above all, please do continue to care for each other, to pray for each other and maintain contact as much as you can.  Do pray for our frontline health professionals, for our local GPs, hospitals and health care settings, as well as for local and national government.  Pray for those affected elsewhere in the world with less resilient health care systems.  Pray for the anxious and the bereaved.  To quote my colleague Mike Tufnell at The Lantern: “we are seeking to encourage people that we are taking it seriously, but also, we stay calm, remain careful and we care for one another and our community. We respond not in panic, but prayer, not out of fear, but love.

Psalm 27: The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear; the Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid.

With much love and many prayers for us all

Suzanne

Useful links:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51857856 – Interview with chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance

Here is the link to the government’s latest official updates, and lots of detail for those that want it:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-people-with-confirmed-or-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection

www.nhs.uk

www.churchofengland.org   Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for churches