Dear Friends, 

I expect that many of us were eager to hear what Boris Johnson had to say on Monday in terms of his roadmap for easing us out of lockdown. Some of us might feel that he has been too cautious; others might feel that he is moving too quickly; perhaps some of us might feel that he has struck the right note. Whatever our views on this, life will of course (data permitting) begin to change for us all over the next few months.

I mentioned in my last congregational letter that the PCC were meeting last night to consider, amongst other things, the appropriateness of our looking to re-open church for public worship again. Assuming that the data continues in the right direction, we have decided to re-open St.Mary’s from Thursday 1st April (Maundy Thursday) in time for our key Holy Week and Easter services, and for normal weekly services thereafter. I will let have you further details of these special services next month, but we will be looking to operate a booking system to safely accommodate people in a Covid-secure manner.

The PCC also spent some time discussing our finances. In 2020 we experienced a £20,000 drop in our income, mainly due to coronavirus. This significantly affected our cash collections at services, our envelope collections and our fee income from weddings and funerals. Fortunately, we received a generous legacy to offset that drop, however we expect the effects of the virus to continue into this year and anticipate at least a further £10,000 reduction in income due to this. Therefore we agreed a package of measures to try to address that shortfall. Firstly, we are designating the Easter weekend as a time for prayer and giving. Perhaps, like me, your disposable income has increased this past year? You have not been able to go on holiday, go shopping, go to the theatre or eat out as you would have liked. If so, I would like to invite you to prayerfully reflect on giving some of what you may have saved to the church. I realise that this will not be true for everyone. Some people may have lost their jobs or be supporting those who have lost their jobs. But perhaps for many of us, the financial impact of the lockdown has been beneficial. I will write next month with further details of the opportunity to contribute in this way. Secondly, we are hoping that we will be able run a Summer Fair to which we invite many people from our community to come and enjoy themselves and to raise funds for St.Mary’s in the process. If you would like to be involved with helping with this, do let me know. Thirdly, we are hoping that we may be able to apply once again to a charity such as the Co-op for further funding for a specific project which reduces our annual expenditure. If you have thoughts around this, again do let me know.

We also invited Bill Schafer, our church architect, to talk to us about the revised plans for the extension and car park. It was good for the PCC to meet Bill in person (or at least online!), to share thoughts, and we will be continuing these discussions at our March PCC meeting. I also reported that unfortunately Terry Finnegan has had to step back for health reasons from the treasurer designate role. I am very grateful to Terry for having stepped forward last summer and for working with Nigel Cordon, our treasurer, to enable him to begin to handover his role. I am also very pleased to say that Julie Shaw, our assistant treasurer, has agreed to fill Terry’s role and she will continue the handover process with Nigel.

Finally, I would like to thank all those of you who prayed about our broadband connection to church following my last letter. The next day I received a call from VirginMedia confirming that the installation would be due to take place on 3 March! Please keep praying that this goes ahead as planned. Thankyou! Take care and stay safe.

Best wishes

Jeremy Tear

Pioneer Team Vicar