As I wander down to the bridge to go and pick up my car from the garage in England where it is failing its MOT, I am accosted by a stalwart of our local Church here in the last village in Wales. “We’re going back,” he says. I stare blankly. “Back to Church, services start in a few weeks.” The devil is in the detail.
In the Church of England or, in this case, Church of Wales, there will be no problem with social distancing given the somewhat limited congregations we tend to enjoy. But there are other measures being taken. There will be no hymn books as they may spread the virus, just printed hymn sheets which presumably don’t. There is no communion or exchanging of a sign of peace. And, this is the crunch issue for Joshua, no tea and chocolate biscuits at the end. That might be a deal-breaker for the boy so maybe we can bring our own digestives.
For me, it is the lack of communion that rips the heart out of the service but it is the tea at the end I find most perplexing. Assuming that the paper hymn sheet is not an angel of death, are parishioners really going to catch the virus from a mug as is suggested? Where and what is the scientific data that suggests this is remotely possible? And while we are at it, can the Church of Wales show us the data on how many folks have so far contracted Covid from a hymn book?
This is reminiscent of the AIDS hysteria of the 1980s when some Parishioners refused to take communion lest they catch the virus from someone in the congregation or, more probably given the way the CofE swung, from the vicar. Back in the eighties, there were folks warning us that millions of Brits would perish from HIV just as today the average Brit thinks 7% of us have already died of Covid – the real number is less than 1/100th of 7%.
The government and the media class have stoked up a climate of fear not seen since the days of “Don’t Die of Ignorance” but, as was the case then, it is so much or an irrational fear and alarmism which results in some of these ludicrous acts like the banning of after church tea. At some stage, we will look back on such silliness and laugh. But pro tem, I look forward to taking Joshua back to church and offering him a post-service biscuit or three on the bench past the blackberry bush looking over to our fields and the river beyond.