As everybody will know we are now in the third national lockdown as we try to stay safe and to minimise the impact of Covid-19 on our community and our NHS.
I fully expected that with the announcement of the lockdown we would be asked to suspend public worship in our churches as happened in the first lockdown. You will probably be aware that in England this hasn't happened in what the government has asked.
This left me feeling more than a little worried about people gathering at Our Lady's and, in particular, our stewards and eucharistic ministers who are in the front line in terms of contact with people coming to Mass.
No priest likes to close a church or to suspend public worship but I have been increasingly concerned that just carrying on is potentially dangerous; not just to the people who might attend but to their families and communities when they return home.
Yesterday, then, I consulted the members of our Parish Pastoral Council and our local Dean. All but 1 member of the PPC expressed an opinion, all did so in favour of suspending public worship at Our Lady's. The Dean also felt that this was a wise decision which he supports given our local circumstances.
I have, therefore, decided that starting from today there will be no public worship at Our Lady's at least until the end of January and we will review the situation then. This will apply to all communities who worship here.
The only exception to this will be in the case of funerals when a service in church is requested.
I know that this means we are ceasing worship when the government allows it to continue but, as one member of the PPC wisely said "The current protocol for public worship was set up to deal with the initial virus and has not been altered to take into account the more virulent strain."
I hope that you understand that this hasn't been the easiest decision but I believe it to be the right one to help us all, and to help the people we live amongst, to stay safe and to help the NHS.
We will, of course, continue to live-stream Sunday Mass and other prayer times.
I am not going on holiday for the duration. I am still here and available if there is any way in which I can help. The church building may be temporarily closed but the parish is still here.
I know that very many members of the parish are helping in so many ways especially to care for the vulnerable and lonely. Let's continue to pray for each other.