First – Happy New Year
Second – what a New Year it has turned out to be! I don’t suppose any of you were remotely surprised when the PM announced Lockdown 3 on Monday. I have to say what did surprise me was that places of worship were allowed to remain open, not just for private prayer – which is completely understandable – but also for public worship.This has, as you can imagine, caused some confusion in the Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury once confided in a reporter – not always the best people to confide in – that trying to get the Church of England to tow the line was like herding cats! I sympathise, also, and this is a peculiarity of the Church of England, bishops have no power to close churches, that power resides absolutely with the Incumbent and PCC. So each church will approach this problem individually. At the moment, and I stress this is at the moment, St Nicholas will remain open for private prayer every day. Our Thursday Mass will be online only as will our Sunday 8.00am Mass. We will be open for those who wish to attend in person on Sunday at 9.30am. We have been advised by the Bishop of London to review our Risk Assessment. The Standing Committee will meet this afternoon to look at our Risk Assessment for public worship and decide in the light of the current situation what additional steps we need to take to keep you all safe. However, I completely understand if you decide, as some already have, to remain at home. I would urge anybody 80 years old and over not to attend church for the time being until we get the ‘all clear’.
Like previous lockdowns I will be online on Friday at 12noon just for a general chat. I will talk to my clergy colleagues to see if there are any additional things we might be able to do to help.
I will not pretend that the future is rosy, we have some dark and difficult months ahead. The PCC, my clergy colleagues and I are going to need some extensive conversations about our future, how we reconnect and how, pray God, we might emerge from this situation in good health. I will of course keep you informed.
On a more positive note I was sent this wonderful picture earlier this week (thank you to Georgina Style), if you look carefully you can see not one, but two rainbows arcing over the church tower. In the Old Testament a rainbow was a sign of God’s commitment, his covenant with the children of Israel, so it is with us. God will not abandon us, God remains faithful to his promise. We just need ears to hear and eyes open enough to see what he is saying.
Please take care and stay safe.
Some of you will no doubt be familiar with a poem by Minnie Louise Haskins. She gave it the title ‘God Knows’, but it’s much better known now as ‘The Gate of the Year’. This poem became well known when the then Princess Elizabeth handed a copy to her father King George VI which he then quoted in his famous 1939 Christmas broadcast to the British Empire. The words of this poem were said to have been a comfort to the Queen and the whole nation during the horror of the war when no one knew whether they would survive. The poem was read again at the funeral of the Queen Mother in 2002. It seems particularly relevant for us again this year as we reflect on all the challenges we have experienced in 2020 and pray for a better 2021.
This is how the poem begins:
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night!
With every blessing to you all for 2021.