6 January 2021
Dear sisters and brothers
Following the announcement of our third national lockdown, I have been consulting this week with churchwardens and clergy colleagues about the provision of worship across the team. As a result of those conversations we have decided unanimously to move to online teamwide worship for the next few weeks.
As you will know our nation is being urged to stay at home, in order to stop our NHS being overwhelmed and to save lives. Only this morning the BBC were reporting that the new virus strain is 70% more contagious, notably by aerosol transmission in indoor contexts where it seems that masks are only providing partial protection. This has meant that in recent days there have been over 50,000 new reported cases each day. As a result, hospital admissions have jumped by 30% and tragically 4,200 individuals have died from this virus in the UK in the last week alone. As you may know, in Cheltenham the figures are relatively low with 272 cases in the last week of December, however, this is a rise of 91 cases on the week before and is part of a disturbing pattern across the county which is putting severe strain on our local hospitals.
Surprisingly perhaps, the draft lockdown legislation which is being voted on in Parliament this week does still allow people to gather for corporate worship. As St Paul said, however, whilst all things may be lawful not everything is beneficial! In South Cheltenham, we have a good track record of providing high quality online worship involving members from across the team and this has enabled us to continue to worship and to share in fellowship, if not in the sacraments. Indeed, there are many who have not been able to receive Communion for many months and have felt that sense of brokenness. It is a place where Christ is present and it is a place of suffering in which many in our nation find themselves in these difficult times.
We have decided, therefore, to suspend public worship across the team and instead promote the online worship being offered by the team and by our friends at CNC. At the same time, however, we will continue to keep our Churches open for private prayer (as each is able) and will encourage our PCCs and congregations to do all that they can to continue to provide pastoral support to their congregations and wider communities through telephone, online and via email. We will be circulating a service rota later this week along with details of how you can join those services.
In this way, we hope that we can continue to provide for the spiritual welfare of our communities, can protect our NHS and enable them to focus as much of their energies as possible on rolling out the new vaccine programme. This is, we believe, our contribution to our nations wellbeing in these difficult times.
Please do continue to hold in your prayers all those personally affected, our national health service as they continue to combat this latest wave and all those living with the uncertainty of this time.
Peace and every Blessing
Revd Nick Davies