Updated advice for church services – face coverings will be compulsory from 8th August

Wear a face mask

We have been preparing to restart public services to a limited extent in our churches. Following the government’s advice, we had made the wearing of face coverings a matter of personal choice, although it has always been strongly recommended when you are indoors with people you don’t usually meet.

However, following today’s announcement from the Prime Minister, it will no longer be optional – you must wear a face covering unless you are exempt.

While this new rule only comes into effect next Sunday, may I strongly advise you to wear a mask this week already if you are planning to attend church. We will be keeping the services short – approximately 30 minutes – to minimise the risk and to reduce the inconvenience some experience when wearing a mask.

Churches (not yet) reopening for services (update 3rd July 2020)

As many of you know, we are allowed to reopen our churches for public services from this Sunday, 5th July.

We have decided, however, that we feel it is better to wait until 2nd August, both because the risk is still moderately high, but also because a number of our regular visitors and members of our communities are still shielding until 1st August, and we want to restart together.

Each church is doing a risk assessment, and the result of that will determine how many each church can safely accommodate at this time; which will not be a large number. It may be that even when services recommence, they will not do so in every church in the benefice on the same date, because we do not want to put people at risk.

Please do keep checking this website, as well as facebook, for more current information.

We look forward to welcoming you back to one of our services soon, and in the mean time, don’t forget that St Mary’s Calstone, All Saints Yatesbury and St James Cherhill are already open for private prayer (the last from Sunday to Wednesday each week).

Church opening times for private prayer (from 20th June)

As I wrote last week, we spent this week considering whether we felt it would be possible to open our churches for private prayer without putting people at risk. The following decisions have been made:

Calstone and Yatebury will be open at the times they were open before Lockdown.
Cherhill will be open at normal times, but from Sunday to Wednesday each week (starting tomorrow, Monday 15th).
Heddington and Compton Bassett do not feel they can open safely yet so will remain closed for private prayer.

All the decisions were taken using the Church of England’s risk assessments, and will all be reviewed on a regular basis. This is for private prayer only. Any other use is still prohibited by the government.

The churches which are open have posters with guidelines on how to use the church safely. Could you please follow those guidelines – nothing in them should be a surprise given what we hear in the news all the time, and since our churches do not have running water, could I recommend that you wash your hands thoroughly before and after coming to the church.

We hope that this small improvement proves a comfort to some, and doesn’t put anyone at risk. Please revisit this page for future updates.

Online services will continue for the foreseeable future.

With blessings

Matt (for the various PCCs)

Churches to partially re-open (update 7th June 2020)

You are probably aware that the government has given permission for places of worship to reopen for private prayer from Monday 15th June. This is great news for all of us,

It is now up to individual PCCs and clergy to decide when and how it is safe to do that in each church. Some churches will feel that they cannot meet the necessary requirements to keep people safe, and will continue to remain shut. Others will open, but with limitations on how or when the churches can be used in this way.

Next Sunday, I will post an update with the decisions of each PCC, and (if the decision is to open the church) some general guidelines on how we can use the buildings safely.

Please bear with us as we try to find a balance between opening up your buildings for you to use, and not wanting to put anyone at unnecessary risk.

With blessings
Matt

Ascension Day service – updated 21st May

***UPDATE***

Apologies to anyone who tried to watch this live. My computer claimed it was streaming, but I have since discovered that nothing was uploaded. I recorded the service, so will make an unedited version of it available as soon as possible.

***UPDATE***

This Thursday (21st May) is Ascension Day. Traditionally in Oldbury Benefice we have a service in St Mary’s, Calstone at 7.30am, followed by breakfast. Obviously that is not possible this year, so instead I will (attempt to) live-stream a short service from St Mary’s churchyard at that time. If you want to follow, you will need to go to YouTube and look for “Oldbury Benefice”. You should find an Ascension Day service set to go live on Thursday at 7.30am. Do watch if you can. If you want to click on a direct link, I think it might be here.

This is the countryside, so it is possible that the internet fails us – in which case I apologise in advance! Also, I haven’t got the means of showing you the words on the screen, just what the camera sees, so you might want to download this to join in.

I regret that public gatherings (and therefore public services) are still not permitted, so this is not an invitation to you to come and join me in person, just virtually.

Blessings

Matt

Update on church closures (15th May 2020)

On Thursday last week (7th May), clergy were allowed back into their churches for prayer and to record services. As yet, this applies only to clergy, and I cannot yet make the churches available for private prayer—let alone services—but the opening has begun. I will let you know as soon as we are allowed to open them up for more people.

I am trying to get into each church at least once a week to pray, so you may see me around, or hear the bell rung (this is not possible in all the churches because some of the bells were left “up” and need to be checked by a proper bell-ringer before they are used).

We do not need churches to pray or meet with God, but I hope you are encouraged that the buildings are once again at least partially being used for the purpose for which they were built.

Blessings

Matt

17th May Services

The services for this Sunday should be online shortly. This week I have recorded a slightly informal communion service, and a said matins (traditional language service). The sermon is the same in each.

You can download them directly from the links below, as well as paper copies of the texts if you want them (all the world you need will be on the screen).

Matins: video, service sheet

Communion: video, service sheet

Readings and sermon

They are also available on youtube again. Just look for Oldbury Benefice, and hopefully they will appear shortly.

Blessings

Matt