We are greatly blessed in this team by the gifts of time, wisdom and pastoral care.
These gifts are so generously given by our retired clergy and lay ministers. But as we start gathering in church for public worship, those who are often seen leading worship will be unable to take up where they left off. For our retired colleagues over 70, lockdown, and now the trickier task of emerging from it, has presented many challenges. In following the guidelines and advice from the Church of England, they have had to stand back. And as we move forward they will inevitably have to do less – something they find very hard. In a letter to clergy last week Bishop Karen said this: “We are aware that for those over 70 in ministry there has been for some of you a sense of frustration at not being able to engage in some face to face pastoral ministry alongside a recognition of the importance of this in protecting not just yourselves but others also. “The advice to those aged over 70 is to continue to take particular care to minimise contact and my advice therefore has to be that you should not be undertaking pastoral visiting or active ministry.”
This means that some of our retired clergy may not be active for a while. Some, who have assessed the risk to themselves and to others, may take on some limited ministry. But we can’t expect them to, and certainly they can’t do everything they were doing in the past. We have to remember that everything they give to us is a gift. And the power of their prayer, wisdom, experience and good humour are still keeping us going! So I want to say a huge thank you to all of the wonderful clergy and lay ministers in this team. For those over 70 there should be no expectations to minister if they do not feel safe. And that message extends to all in our congregations who are worried about returning to public worship. We are all of us working out what church is now in the ‘new normal’. I pray we can do so with generosity, grace and gratitude. Deb Smith