St. John's is expected to reopen on Sunday 23rd, all being well.  We are awaiting the repair of the boiler as there is no heating in Church at the moment, but this is scheduled for Wednesday 19th.  Currently there are 188 cases of Covid reported across the Parish.  This is a significant drop against last week's statistics.  

St. John's needs to be open and we need to regain our momentum as a congregation.  Unfortunately the Omicron variant was such an unknown quantity that we erred on the side of caution and closed after the service on Boxing Day.  It looks now that Omicron is not as dangeous for most people as Delta is, although it is more transmissable.  Covid is now officially endemic and so commonplace to be almost unavoidable.  We must assume that Omicron, like earlier variants, is "in the building".  That said we will continue with our Covid prevention measures previously in place, namely face masks, hand sanitising, and the One-metre plus rule for social distancing.  I appreciate that people do need that social time after the service, but we have a bad track recod of not distancing in the Coffee Lounge, so we will postpone refreshments for a short time yet until we feel confident these can take place safely.

The Churchwardens and I worked out a ventilation protocol earlier that relies on opening the high-level windows in both entrances and opening one set of doors, either the exterior or interior.  According to the guidance endorsed by the Church of England from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, the judicious use of multiple smaller openings in a draughty building such as ours does not require exterior doors to be open to sufficently disperse air.  People should come to Church dressed warmly, but also expect to be comfortable. 

No one is expected to attend Church either because of a rota, etc. and the School Register is suspended for the time being as no one should feel compelled to attend.  As the 9:45am service is well-attended, those concerned about possible exposure to Covid may wish to consider the 8:00am or mid-week Communion service on Wednesdays at 11:00am, both of which allow plenty of distancing.  You can also catch the service on our Youtube channel and watch us at home.

Lambeth Palace has made it clear that decisions regarding opening or closing and other aspects of the response to Covid rest with the Incumbent.  This acknowledges that every church situation will be different due to size of buildings and congregations as well as types of services.  It shifts the onus of responsibility (and liability!) from the central Church authorities to the Vicar.  It is a difficult balancing act, especially in our own situation where we have lost touch with almost half of our congregation before the pandemic.  The future of St. John's as an active, viable parish relies on getting back to "normal" in all our activities and ministries.  This is countered by the challenges Covid still presents, especially to members of the community who are seriously ill or otherwise vulnerable.  We must proceed cautiously in the light of the scientific evidence as we find our way forward.  But I remain confident that we will get there, so please be patient and keep one another safe.  Thank you, Michael.

Fr Michael

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