The Church cannot indefinitely sidestep its self-inflicted Covid damage

Jan 6, 2022 by

by Archbishop Cranmer:

There was an excellent letter to the Church Times just before Christmas from the Archdeacon of Hastings, the Rev’d Dr Edward Dowler. It was subtitled ‘Deeper questions that Covid measures raise‘, and merits a far wider reading, not least because it touches on the sheer thoughtlessness of church incumbents and parochial church councils deciding to close their services in order to ‘protect the public’ and ‘Save the NHS’.

When a parish church determines not only to cancel its traditional service of Nine Lessons and Carols on the last Sunday of Advent, but hastily follows this with the cancellation of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve – for the first time in its history – you have to wonder what they believe the Church to be for. We are not talking about the cancellation of services because the priest is sick, or because the whole choir, organist and vergers have contracted Covid, but the cancellation of what are usually the best attended services of the year out of fear that somebody might catch something from someone.

When government guidelines are over-zealously interpreted and enforced as articles of Church law, as the Archbishop of Canterbury decreed in the Great Coronavirus Lockdown of 2019 when all of England’s churches were ordered to be closed for the first time since 1208, even to their own priests, there are undoubted pastoral consequences, not to mention profoundly spiritual and missiological detriments. When no Eucharist is celebrated at the altar, no liturgy enacted in the nave, and no prayers uttered in the cloisters, what is this ‘recovery’ from the pandemic?

At Christmastime, perhaps most especially, a parish church ought to pull out all the stops (quite literally) to sound its merry organ and sweet singing choir to the whole neighbourhood. A Church of England priest should tend his or her flock with holly and ivy, even mince pies and mulled wine, and serve in the care – the cure – of all parish souls, not just those who attend week by week. Should the Church really be going along blithely with Covid passes, ‘What would Jesus do?‘ medical interventions, and the government’s ever-increasing data collection and tracking?

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