Private/Individual Prayer only
Wednesday: 10 am –
Friday: 10 am – 12 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 12 pm
Sunday: 3 pm – 5 pm
11 am - livestream only
5th January 2021
Decision on our church during the new lockdown
Warmest greetings to you all – as always my hope and prayer is that this finds you and your family safe, well and in good spirits. We are living through dramatic and for so many people very traumatic times, as the Prime Minister made clear yesterday evening in his announcement of a third national lockdown. Given the alarming rise in new cases and daily build-up of pressure on the NHS and other emergency services, there was surely no other choice for him to make.
Watching the Prime Minister’s broadcast with his insistence that once again as a nation we work together and do everything possible to “Stay at home to save lives and protect the NHS”, I thought that this would automatically mean the immediate closure of churches and other places of worship, as in the first lockdown, or the suspension of public services with churches only allowed to remain open for private individual prayer as in the November lockdown. I was therefore surprised later in the evening to discover that the Government is allowing places of worship to remain open, including for communal services such as the public celebration of Mass. The diocese sent out an email later in the evening to confirm this, but to let parish priests know that, in this case the decision to remain open or close rests with each parish as the situation will differ in each community (for example, St Aidan’s at East Acton and Our Lady of Lourdes on Acton High Street have been closed for some days as one of their priests is in hospital with Covid (Fr Fintan – please, please keep this wonderful priest now in his 80’s in your prayers) and so the other priests there are in quarantine).
This is a much more challenging situation in many ways than when we receive a clear order “from above” about what we can and cannot do. Each parish (and ultimately that means each parish priest) has to make its/their own decision at this time as to what is the right course of action to take for their circumstances.
I have been talking to Fr Ephrem about this, and have been in email and phone contact with a wide variety of parishioners over the last 24 hours, so as to have a sense of how people in the parish themselves see this. I have, first and foremost, been bringing this to God in my prayers, asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
It is not an easy decision. I am very aware of how much receiving the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, is a spiritual lifeline for so many people especially at a time of such test and trial as this. For some the parish community is almost their one source of human contact at this time, as they are unable to be united with family members. However, I am also keenly aware, and indeed I have been increasingly aware of this for some time, that every time we open the doors of the church to bring people together for the celebration of Mass, we create a situation which inevitably carries risk. We have done so much since reopening after the first lockdown to ensure the safety of all who have come to the church, and I would once again like to wholeheartedly thank all of you who have worked so hard week after week to make this possible. But no matter how much we do, there will always be a risk when people come together, as well as the risk involved in the journey to and from the church.
It is for this reason that I have taken the decision that after tomorrow morning’s 9.15am Mass and time of adoration, we will stop the public celebration of Mass in our church, at least until the end of January after which I will review the situation. My guiding principle in this decision is the physical safety of our parishioners. The daily rates of new infection and hospitalisations are on an alarmingly upward spiral and I believe that we need to do everything to stop the spread of the virus at this time. This must be our priority. If a single parishioner were to contract the virus as a result of coming to Mass in our church at this time, this is a responsibility I would personally have to carry for the rest of my life. I feel I cannot risk the lives of our elderly and clinically most vulnerable parishioners, many of whom continue to come to Mass despite the clear advice given to them to stay at home. It is only in closing the church for the public celebration of Mass that I can show them the severity of this moment and the reality of the risk they face by continuing to come out. I believe that we need to follow the advice given yesterday to schools to once again avoid physical contact and as much as possible work online. The risks of bringing together people in still large numbers simply outweigh the benefits at this time. I can also see that the number of stewards who are still able to help at Masses is reducing week by week and I am concerned that if this trend continues, we might soon not be able to ensure the safe conditions necessary for the public celebration of Mass in our church.
What I therefore propose is that we initially return to the pattern we had in the November lockdown – the church will be open at certain times of the week for private, individual prayer before the Blessed Sacrament: Wednesdays 10am – 12noon; Fridays 10am – 12noon; Saturdays 10am – 12noon and Sundays 3pm – 5pm. During this time I and/or Fr Ephrem will be available in the church, although we ask you to respect all the usual requirements of hand-sanitising, social distancing and mask-wearing. You MUST NOT come to the church if you have any Covid symptoms at all or if you are in a vulnerable category. Fr Ephrem and I will continue to celebrate Mass in private in the church every day for the intentions of the parish. We will also continue to livestream our 11am Sunday Mass. See our new parish website: for details of the livestream links.
As the Prime Minister argued last night, the roll-out of the vaccine will hopefully really change the landscape on all this within the next 6 weeks and so my prayer is that after a relatively short time of sacrifice and pain, we will be able to get back to where we would want to be as a community, with the public celebration of the Eucharist once again at the heart of our community life, and crucially in much safer circumstances once again.
Many thanks for reading to the end of another long email from me. I appreciate that for many of you this will be very difficult news. But I hope you can appreciate the reasons for the decision I have made. We can hold our heads high for how we have responded as a parish community to all the challenges of the pandemic, and Fr Ephrem and I will continue to be here for you in every way currently possible. Please keep in contact (remember our parish landline number is 0208 743 8334) if we can support you in any particular way or indeed any others in the community you are aware of at this time. I would be very grateful if you could help me by spreading the word of the main points of this email to others within the community who are perhaps not currently on this parish email list.
Thank you for all your continued support and prayers. PLEASE do everything you can to follow the Government advice and stay at home unless absolutely necessary. One last communal effort and hopefully we will be able to get to the other side of this together. In particular, can I ask you to keep each other in prayer at this time, especially those suffering from the virus and those caring for them.
With blessings & prayers from Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem & the parish team
“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
St. Maximillian Kolbe