Some of you may be wondering about going back to church at St Michael’s, or even trying out a service there for the first time to see what it’s like. You may, like me, have felt a certain reluctance about taking the risk of venturing into any enclosed space with people gathered for worship. That’s why I thought I would let you know my impressions of the two services I’ve now attended – one, holy communion; the other, morning prayer.
The church doors are kept open for you to walk through without touching and for ventilation throughout the service; there is hand-sanitiser available; and there are no pew cushions, hymn books or service sheets in sight.
The congregation at the moment seems sparse, around 15 to 20 people, and scattered. Each row keeps an empty pew between, and people sit on their own or each end of a pew.
Hymns are pre-recorded and sadly we cannot join in as singing, shouting and presumably uproarious laughter are not yet allowed.
So many rules, but like the commandments they really boil down to loving our neighbour as ourselves, keeping each other safe.
The liturgy appears on the screen, so that we can join in the responses; and the prayers, reading and sermon are pre-recorded with different church members taking part, and with St Michael’s Choir often providing one of the hymns. Communion is conducted very simply, using wafers but not sharing the cup, and we process easily around a ‘one-way system’ back to our seats.
There is a gentle atmosphere, rather quiet but deep and peaceful. I appreciated in a fresh way the value of being together; of sharing in the body of Christ as the body of Christ; of meeting people and keeping in touch however brief our conversation after the service. I felt the strength of our shared commitment to Christ, sensing the faith, the prayers and the spirit of those about me and also those who appeared on the screen.
We live with the uncertainty of changing regulations and new challenges on a weekly basis. It is bound to impact the way we meet as a church on Sunday mornings. But I have been surprisingly glad to be able to gather for worship in a place where God continues to meet with his people and bless them with his spirit.