© St Ninians Episcopal Church, Glasgow which is a charity registered under no.SC010966
Rector writes I think this pastoral letter should be sub titled – “The Challenge of Change”. For all of us, Covid has produced a variety of responses. Some have taken the whole thing pretty much in their stride and others have struggled physically and mentally. I suspect the vast majority have been challenged and have been left with a chronic underlying sense of anxiety as to what the future might bring. The future, at least for some time, for organised religion, will be changed in challenging ways. I write this letter as our application to re-open St Ninian’s awaits approval from the Bishop. Our re-opening will be on a limited basis. The Thursday service and the 8.30 on a Sunday are both suspended to be replaced with one service on a Sunday at 10.15am. It may very well be that by the time you read my letter it will have been granted. Also, by the time you read this you may have received a letter detailing the changes required to re-open together with an overview of our financial situation. The Vestry has decided that every member of the congregation is to receive a letter discussing these matters, whether or not you subscribe to the electronic newsletter. Leaving financial matters to one side (other than to observe that Covid has turned the surplus we were about to declare at the AGM into a shortfall of £10,000), I want to give you a flavour of the changes to worship to illustrate our need to adapt to these new times and to, perhaps for some, confront the real pain of our new reality. The trick will be shifting our mental frame of reference to rejoice in what we will be able to do rather than what we cannot do. I cannot deny the new rules contain many prohibitions and you need to know that I am just as affected as you are given the particular rich tradition of liturgical worship that has been the foundation to my life in ministry. All of this has forced me to re-evaluate what is really crucial to the worship of God and what is merely “baggage”. The challenge is that one person can view the issue and readily accept the stripping away of things and another can regard it as a fundamental attack on everything they have held as precious. To give a concrete example: using the two-metre distancing rule means that only 16 rows of pews are available for use with three people per row (assuming they do not share the same household). It means there is a good chance you will no longer be able to sit in your “favourite” pew. This is exactly what I mean by the challenge of change. Here is another example – singing is now banned. How is that going to make us feel? How is going to make David S. and members of the choir feel? We have worked long and hard over the years to produce a remarkably high standard of music in our liturgy and it has all been snuffed out in an instant. Once again, here is the challenge of change. Are we going to stick our heads under the duvet and abandon church-going because we cannot have precisely what we used to expect? God has never changed and will never change, Covid or no Covid. The challenge is ours and not one for God. Can we change and adapt, and can we be spiritually astute to realise that all worship traditions possess their core values and their non-necessary “frilly bits”. The core elements of our worship remain the same – we will still hear the Word of God and will still receive communion. We will still enjoy the community of each other even if that must be at a distance. I admit there is a bitter irony in the fact that with the people of our church family that we love, we must keep physically distant - yet another challenge. So, as we move forward into our first service, we all need to re-focus our attitudes and our expectations. If you come expecting change then you will not be disappointed. Come with an open mind and not with a disposition ready to complain that you must do new things or forgo things that you took for granted. As a parting thought I want to stress that not for one moment do I expect people to re-appear when it is not safe for them to do so if they have been asked to remain in isolation. It is an imperative born out of love that you protect yourself and by extension the other members of the congregation. God has noted your faithful loyalty to St Ninian’s over these many years and that is all that needs to be said. The Rector