Dear Congregation and Friends of St Mary,
Please find attached the Benefice Newsletter for Sunday and associated documents from Lucy.
As I explained in my e-mail last week, I produced a draft risk assessment for St Mary Longcot as a result of the Vale of White Horse moving into Tier 4. Since then the Government has imposed a national lockdown. The Diocesan advice regarding communal worship (dated 31 December) is still as follows:
“Whilst it remains permissible for churches to continue to be open for their usual worship provision, we are encouraging parishes/benefices in the Diocese of Oxford to take a very cautious approach in the weeks ahead. (….) It is entirely acceptable (and may be preferable in some cases, following a careful risk assessment by clergy and church officers) to move to online provision only at this time.”
Both this advice and the subsequent Government guidance on Tier 5 were considered by the Parochial Church Council (PCC) and a revised risk assessment was agreed today. The arguments both for continuing and for suspending communal worship were finally balanced. The bottom line, however, is that we have agreed to a temporary but immediate suspension of communal worship and private prayer in St Mary. The decision on private prayer may well be revisited once we have received further clarification on the Diocesan guidance from the Archdeacon. I will send out an e-mail once I have that clarification. These decisions will then be reviewed every month by the PCC once the path and transmission of the pandemic become clearer.
Some churches in the Benefice have taken a different decision and, for now, are remaining opening for public worship. This is a decision for them to make taking into account the individual characteristics of both their churches and their congregations, and the views of their congregations. Ultimately, the views of our congregation and the PCC were that we wanted to ensure that nobody was exposed to any unnecessary risk of infection by the virus, be they congregation or clergy.
We are therefore moving completely to the online provision of services. Please find a link to the Benefice Facebook page where you can find these services: https://www.facebook.com/shrivenhamandashbury/.
As and when the Government, CofE, and Diocesan guidance on worship changes, then I will let you know by e-mail.
Church Warden St Mary The Virgin, Longcot