Each month, Bishop Paul Colton writes a short one page letter as a foreword to the Cork, Cloyne and Ross Diocesan Magazine.
As the letter for the July edition of the Magazine relates to the reopening of church buildings for worship as and from 29th June, the Bishop is publishing that letter online in advance.
Here is his letter in the July edition of the magazine:
I broke a tooth yesterday. I was really glad it didn’t happen during the strict ‘lockdown’ period. So I phoned my dentist. His dental nurse chatted me through it and then it came to making an appointment. Some things had changed. We made the appointment for Monday coming (I’m writing on Saturday, 13th June don’t forget). Then she went through a long checklist with me: a health check, signs and symptoms of CoronaVirus. All was well. Then I got my instructions – ‘Do not come in. Wait in the car outside until I phone you. That’ll be a while after the last person has left. And wear a mask. See you Monday!’
We are all adjusting, and, for the foreseeable future, this CoronaVirus will affect the way we live and go about our business. Church too! The HSE has produced lots of resources for this time. They are all available online. Google ‘HSE Covid-19 resources’. The headline on ‘Stay Safe Protect’ – the first of the posters – is twofold. First, it says ‘Stay Safe’ (this has become the common parting greeting for many people). The second part of that is ‘Protect Each Other’ I wonder if this part of the message has really taken root with everyone?
‘Protect each other’ – this should come as first nature to us as Christians for whom ‘Love God – Love your neighbour’ is our core principle. Jesus told us that everything we are and do hangs on these. This was his answer to the question ‘which is the greatest commandment in the law?’ (Matthew 22.36-40) Many of the things we are being asked or required to do now are for the sake of other people.
We are looking forward to the reopening over time of our church buildings. As we do so there are regulations and protocols that we must keep. But we should want to keep them, not only because they are about staying safe, but because, perhaps even more than ourselves, other people in our community may need our protection. Your clergy and select vestries are busy getting ready. Because some people are at risk, we may not have the same team of lay volunteers or clergy to keep things going. We need to understand this and to be patient. We need to understand that church-going will not be the way it always was, for a time.
Most of all, may I make one strong plea? Please do not come to church (not something you usually hear a bishop saying) – if you or anyone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19 or has been in contact with someone who has in the previous 14 days.
Stay Safe. Protect Each Other.
✞ Paul Cork: