We want to make plans to get back in church, with wholesome hymn-singing and warmth of fellowship, but it is still not clear when.
The relaxation of social distancing has been delayed until later in July. Even so, there seems to be a lack of clear guidance for indoor singing for non-professional choirs and church congregations. We could make a habit of singing our last hymn outside in the churchyard, but we have tended to save that for special occasions like Christmas and Easter. In the mean time, we are exercising the spiritual fruit called ‘patience’ and trying to wait a little longer.
Church congregations in Scotland and Wales seem to be able to sing hymns indoors already, although frustrations have been voiced regarding the need to wear masks. Maybe in England we are waiting for the go-ahead for proper wholehearted singing without masks. It is hard for many of us to do hymns of praise to God when holding back. At the same time it has been lovely to have members of an ad hoc choir singing on Sundays at the 9am service.
There is a particular complication for St Luke’s, regarding imminent plans to remove the present aged pipe organ and replace it with a recently-purchased newly-refurbished shiny 50-year-old pipe organ. We understand the installation work is planned to begin in the second half of July. And we have made provisional plans to close the church building towards the end of July because of the necessary scaffolding in the church building.
During the church closure of about a fortnight, we will hold Wednesday 10.30 Communion Services and Sunday 9am Communion Services in the church hall. These are temporary arrangements and we hope to be back in church with a good new pipe organ sometime early in August.
The Organ & Lighting Appeal is making good progress, having continued to receive donations up to about £68,500 when writing. We are full of thanks to have reached an amount which enables us to press on with the organ part of the project. The Appeal remains open, and we may need a further push in the Autumn, when our Lighting Project details become clear. In the mean time, we are also considering how to address the shortfall in our general account of about £10,000 over these 18 months of Covid-19 disruption.
From later in August, we hope to reinstate in church our second service on Sunday morning (after 18 months on Zoom) in time for the new school year (and Genesis Group programme) in September. However, as we have learnt, all plans come with a health warning. Despite the amazing effort with vaccines, the authorities may feel obliged to delay things again. We will ask the Holy Spirit to grow in us great perseverance. But we’re praying that we shall be open for our usual church activities soon enough.
Whatever happens, we will endeavour to keep you informed. And to do what we can in the meantime to grow the work and witness of St Luke’s at the heart of our local community.
With my prayerful best wishes
Canon Rob McLaren, Vicar