Suspension of services in church
Due to the current COVID crisis Alex the Churchwardens and PCCs have reluctantly come to the view that we should suspend services in church and that we move all our services online. We will do this up to the end of January, and will sadly include my (Alex's) last Sunday. From February, the Benefice will be in interregnum and there will be visiting clergy covering services, and the situation may change, both because of the needs of the visiting clergy and the general COVID situation. Please be assured we will be reviewing the situation on a weekly basis.
Details for the online Sunday service this Sunday broadcast from the Cabin will be sent shortly.
Background to our decision
As you may know, despite the many restrictions that are now in place across the country, the government is allowing communal worship to continue. The Church of England, in a statement immediately after the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday, acknowledged that ‘some may feel that it is currently better not to attend in person, and there will be parishes which decide to offer only digital services for the time-being’. The Bishop of Dover that same evening stated that she was ‘aware of the feelings of anxiety which exist within our diocese due to the high infection rates in our communities. If along with your PCC, you feel it unwise or unsafe to remain open for public worship then please be assured of my support during the lockdown.’
Why have we made this decision?
In deciding whether or not to have services in person, we need to take into account various factors. The health and safety of all those involved and attending is, of course, of paramount importance but there are also other logistical and practical considerations. In summary, the reasons we took into account for not holding services in church, or to offer live services broadcast from church include the following:
In reaching this decision, we are very aware that there are those who value either attending church in person or at least seeing the inside of the church. We are also conscious that there are some who feel the risks of attending church are minimal and think that we should be holding services in church because we are allowed to do so. Everyone has a personal view and, as we have seen throughout this pandemic, there is often no right or wrong but, as a PCC, we need to do what we feel is in the best interests of our communities at this time.
- Attendance is expected to be very low, as demonstrated by our Christmas services and the single figure attendance in Biddenden last Sunday.
- There is increasing discomfort and concern from those needed to be in church to support services about being in church with others.
- There is an inherent contradiction with the stay at home message; if there is a service in church, there is the potential for people to feel reassured or obligated to attend when the reality of the message is ‘stay at home’.
- We have demonstrated successfully over the last 9 months that it is not ‘essential’ to be in church to worship together.
- There are technical challenges with streaming from church that are worth overcoming when there are sufficient numbers of people in church and when the service is focussed on those present but the experience is not as good when the focus is on those on Zoom – put simply, it works better for Alex in the cabin and feedback suggests it is better for most others as well.
Alex, Ann, Tom and Edward.
Rev'd Alexander Bienfait, Priest-in-Charge of Smarden and Biddenden
Tom Hay, Smarden Churchwarden
01233 770286 or 07768 616809
Edward Demery, Smarden Churchwarden
01233 770579 or 07515 770102
Ann Courtness, Biddenden Churchwarden
01622 891190 or 07753 673787
A PRAYER FOR ALL THOSE AFFECTED BY CORONAVIRUS
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy.
Sustain and support the anxious,
be with those who care for the sick,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may find comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.