Temporary Closure of St. Peter’s for Sunday Worship from 3rd January, 2021
Following discussions with staff team, church wardens and PCC and other local incumbents, this week, a decision has been reluctantly made by the PCC to continue with online worship only for the month of January and not to offer ‘in person worship’ on Sundays or mid week opening for private prayer. This decision was not taken lightly, has sought to be objective and not respond emotionally to our current local situation. The decision will be reviewed again later this month.
As one of the very first local churches to re-open for public worship following the first lock-down, this decision was made with a very heavy heart. There are some general but specific local concerns, which have led to this decision.
The last week has seen our local hospital (St. Peter’s, Chertsey) diverting ambulances to Guildford as it is overrun with Covid19 cases. Members of our congregations working within the NHS are reporting unprecedented pressures owing to Covid19 locally. The church is mourning the loss of three worshippers who have died from Covid19 including a recent ordinand. Other worshippers are infected with the virus.
The clergy team is conducting nine funerals in the next three weeks, five of which are likely to be taking place in church. This is posing considerable pressure with regards to cleaning and disinfecting surfaces between services and, of course, before and after Sunday worship. Funerals will continue. We are expecting further funerals later this month. With the building in such heavy use the risk of infection is inevitably going to be much higher for those worshipping on Sundays or indeed at any time. This is critical.
Until now, the church wardens and I have been confident that we are as Covid19 secure as possible through rigorous social distancing, mask wearing and disinfecting. We have a large building and have kept to the 2 metre rule. However, with a heavy rise in infections locally since the highly transmissible (50-70% more transmissible) new variant of Covid19 has taken hold we are less confident that the measures set under the original variant, are secure enough especially with such heavy use of the building through funerals.
There is a sense that remaining open for worship, whilst legal, is perhaps not a good witness to the wider community which is effectively locked down (‘it’s OK for them’). We are also conscious of many NHS staff within our church who are up against it and believe we should make a socially responsible decision not to potentially increase their pressure, and that of their colleagues. It would be all too easy to stand up for our
rights to worship in person in these circumstances.
St. Peter’s has a very strong online presence, which is valued by the gathered and wider community. Throughout January, the existing online ministry will continue via Facebook Live and YouTube.
- 10.30am – Worship Livestream (weekly)
- 6.30pm – Holy Communion (every two weeks)
- Wednesdays 9.00pm – Mid Week Refreshment (weekly)
- Fridays 10.00pm – Compline/Night Prayer (weekly)
- Monday-Wednesday 9.15am – Morning Prayer via Zoom (Codes available)
Most Home Groups will continue to meet via Zoom
The latest Alpha Course will begin at the end of January via Zoom
‘Sceptic Space’ will continue to be offered on a regular basis
For those who are not online the team will ensure that contact via phone continues throughout January.
With every blessing and Happy New Year
Tim Hillier, Jan Alexander, Dave Phillips (Vicar and Church Wardens)