The UK is experiencing a public health emergency as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Places of worship play an important role in providing spiritual leadership and in bringing communities together. However, their communal nature also makes them places that are vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus. Also, many of our members are elderly or in the ‘at risk’ category.
As the UK emerged from the first lockdown a very difficult decision was made with regard to the pattern of worship in our group of four churches. This decision was based on the Welsh Government Guidelines, the statement from the House of Bishops and conversations with other leaders in the Valle Crucis Mission Area. This situation has been reviewed in line with the updates from the Welsh Government and Church in Wales.
Sadly, not all of our four churches have been able to resume worship since the end of the first lockdown. The reasons for this have been sent out to you via email and written correspondence during the course of this pandemic.
All services continue to be livestreamed via our Facebook page. For non Facebook users, this can still be viewed once the livestream has finished by visiting: https://www.facebook.com/LlanGroupChurches/
Every church building is different in terms of its size, configuration, available volunteers and vulnerability of its members. Limits for communal worship are decided on the basis of the capacity of the place of worship following a detailed risk assessment. For example, some of the controlled measures include: staffing arrangements (the designation of a ‘venue manager’), airing and cleaning, PPE, entry and exit points, one-way system, taped/barriered routes and restricted areas. In addition to this, each church has to consider how this guidance can be communicated to visitors, including before they visit, in a way that is ‘accessible and appropriate for the cultures, languages and reading levels of communities served by the place of worship.’
St John’s, St Tysilio’s and Trevor Church have not been able to re-open or resume worship because they do not meet these requirments.
Furthermore, for the reasons already set out here, we have not been in a position to resume the Sunday 8am service or the Wednesday 10.30am service at St Collen’s Church.
The office and work of a priest requires coming in to contact with many different people throughout the course of the week. These priestly duties make Fr Lee, and other clergy, extremely vulnerable to contracting and passing on the coronavirus. This would especially be the case if the regular pattern of Sunday worship within the four churches resumed as normal. This has been an important consideration through the pandemic. The First Minister of Wales has repeatedly said that we should all keep contact with others to an absolute minimum during this pandemic.
The coronavirus has affected weddings throughout the world. Many of the weddings planned for this year have been cancelled or postponed until 2021. Only two weddings this year did go ahead. However, following the Welsh Government guidelines and tough restrictions on ‘capacity’ and ‘venue’, it was necessary to transfer them from Trevor Church to St Collen’s which is the larger church within our group and the only church which is able to be covid-secure.
A meeting between the Mission Area and the Officers and Church Committee was convened in November to discuss the future viability of Trevor Chapelry. The impact of closure during 2020 has exacerbated on-going financial concerns that have been highlighted by increasing annual deficits since 2013. Prior to the formation of the Mission Area in 2017, the Diocese made up annual shortfalls in Trevor’s Annual Share payment. For the last 3 years, the other churches in the Mission Area have made this up by paying more than their own allocated shares. The Church Committee held a second meeting this month to discuss this further and explore the options that include closure, applying to become a Pilgrim Church or developing a Recovery Plan to assure the future. A further meeting is planned for January to work on the latter option, and progress will be considered at next month’s meeting of the Mission Area Council.
St John’s Church
At the Church Committee meeting on September 15th after very careful consideration it was decided to submit a request to the Mission Area to close St John’s as an active church. Although a momentous and sad decision it had become clear that the future viability of the church was of great concern, and it was thought that it was important that members make a positive decision now while the building was in good condition and finances intact. The October meeting of the Mission Area supported the resolution when it was presented so eloquently by Gethin Davies. The Diocese has been informed, and will be meeting with the Mission Area to discuss the future options for the building. In the meantime, interim arrangements are being discussed by Wardens of St John’s, St Collen’s and the Mission Area.
The mission and ministy of the Church has still continued even amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The Church is still, and always has been, ‘open.’ Christians worldwide have all been urged to renew their understanding of the nature of the Church which is ultimately about people who bring light and joy (the bricks and mortar) to those around us and who have as their foundation, Jesus Christ.
Fr Lee Taylor, Priest-in-Charge of the Llangollen Group of Churches
The Wardens, St Collen’s Church
The Mission Area Wardens