Our Church and the Coronavirus (Updated 24 March 2020)
As you will know the government has included places of worship in its current lockdown, and the Archdiocese has asked us to follow all the recommendations. I'm sorry to say that this means the the Church will now not be open, even for private prayer, on this coming Sunday, or on any other day until further notice.
The options of livestreaming of services which I mentioned in my first message of last week are, currently, still likely to be available at the weekend, but no churches will be open for services. Let us pray that this trial will soon pass, and that we all may be kept well and able to meet together in the future.
I'd like too to remind people that Fr Nephon Tsimalis is giving a course of Lenten lectures every Tuesday which can be accessed via Zoom. The talks begin at 7:00 p.m. and are free to join. Tonight's topic is "Holy Confession". If you have the Zoom App or log in via the web the meeting ID is 469 835 551. If you don't have the app, or prefer to join via phone you can dial one of the following numbers, and use the meeting ID when prompted to do so.
0 330 088 5830
0 131 460 1196
0 203 481 5237
0 203 481 5240
0 208 080 6591
0 208 080 6592
May the risen Lord strengthen us in his Church through this Lent and Easter season.
With my love to you all,
PREVIOUS UPDATE (19 March 2020)
Some of you will already have heard that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has required all Churches within its jurisdiction to suspend liturgical services until at least the end of March. Our Archdiocese has asked us to comply with this ruling, and so I will no longer be able to serve the Holy Liturgy on the next two Sundays. There will therefore be NO services in the Church until at least April 1st.
Our Archdiocese has asked that Churches be kept open as far as possible in order for the faithful people to come to them to pray and light candles. As you know it is not usually possible for us to open the Church, as we lack the staff to keep watch there. But since I shall not be serving the Liturgy on Sunday I am free to open the Church and be there during the time that we would normally be open. So for the next two Sundays, God willing, I shall open the Church at 10:30 and close it at 12:30. Anyone who wants to come for private prayer will be welcome. However you should please remember the requests in my previous message. Please do not come to the Church if you are in one of the high risk groups, think you may have come into contact with the virus and/or do not have your own supply of sanitiser. Do not kiss the icons, cross or Gospel Book, and please observe the recommendations concerning social distancing.
Please see the previous message for other ways in which you can join in with the ongoing worship of the Orthodox Church from home.
May God grant healing to his world, and peace to our souls.
With my love to you all,
PREVIOUS UPDATE (18 March 2020):
It is with great sadness that I have to inform you that, bearing in mind the latest advice from the government and from the Archdiocese, and after having consulted with various members, clergy and lay, of the Orthodox communities in Oxford I have come to the decision that we should cancel all weekday services at the Church. This will take effect after the Presanctified Liturgy tonight (Wednesday, March 18th) and will continue until we are advised that it is safe to resume our services. There will therefore be no celebration of the Salutations to the Mother of God (Akathist Hymn) on this coming Friday.
Until further notice, therefore, the only service at the church will be the Holy Liturgy at 10:30 on Sunday, but I would ask you to observe the following:
1. If you are in a group designated by the authorities as especially vulnerable (over 70s; pregnant; or with an underlying health condition which renders you more susceptible to infection) please do not come to the service.
2. If you think that there is a risk that you may have been in contact with the coronavirus, although you are not showing any symptoms, please do not come to the service.
3. The Archdiocese has asked us to ensure the provision of antiseptic cleansers to those entering the Church. At the moment I am unable to source anything suitable, so I would ask that those who do come to the Liturgy bring their own sanitisers, and use them appropriately. If you do not have any sanitiser available please do not come to the service. (If anyone can help with the supply of cleanser so that we can provide it in the narthex please contact me.)
4. Those who do come to the service should avoid kissing icons, the Gospel Book, the Cross, the priest’s hand and each other, and should observe the advice on social distancing.
5. At the end of the Liturgy the priest will not distribute the Antidoron. Those present will take it for themselves from the dish as they leave. There will be no social time in St Gregory’s House.
I appreciate that this will cause distress to many, and that some people will feel sad at their inability to share in the worship of our community. For those who cannot come to the Church the Archdiocese has arranged that services will be broadcast via London Greek Radio (http://www.lgr.co.uk/) and Hellenic TV (https://www.hellenictv.net/) and the Parish of St Nicholas in Oxford will be livestreaming its services (http://www.stnicholas-oxford.
Let us pray that this terrible pandemic may soon pass, and let us resolve to do all we can for our brothers and sisters, both of the Church and beyond, to serve them in love and support them in danger.
With my love to you all,