When the plague swept through this part of the world, the doors of the church in this village stayed open at all times. Folks sought comfort and the pews were packed. Three vicars died of that plague, for it was one where the survival rate was not anywhere near 99%, but the church stood by its flock. Wind forward to 2021.
The church doors are locked. I do not blame the vicar for he is simply a good German. It is the diocese here in Wales that is showing cowardice. Given that nearly all of the flock here are so old that we have had the jab, why not open up the doors? If only for the social groups which provide interaction for the old and lonely, if not for a service. By next week, even I will have had the jab, having already been vaccinated by God last Autumn.
The pathetic Church of England and wretched Church of Wales cite elf n’safey as the reasons why we have had just the odd service over the past year and even then it was one with no singing, social distancing, masks and no tea afterwards. It was sterile. Even on Christmas Eve it failed to bring joy to the world as the celebration of the arrival of Jesus has done every year on this spot for 700 years. Until now.
If one reads Defoe’s account of the Great Plague, as I did last spring, it shows how the folks of London needed the Church and how many in the Church responded. This time around, the Church has forsaken us and for many of us, who used to have faith, this does present a challenge. Yes, I still believe but the Church has offered no succour or comfort to anyone. Indeed, as my father was lowered into the ground in October, I found myself rowing with officious mask zealots as to who might be allowed to stand by his grave and raise a glass to celebrate his life.
The Mrs is now going to a small church over the border among the infidels of England, a place where they still celebrate and sing. I am not wild about churches with drums and guitars and so sulk at home. If the church in this village does ever reopen, I am sure that, even with a 100% vaccinated congregation, it will still insist on masks and social distancing and that the ban on singing or tea and a chocolate biscuit for Joshua will stay in place for a while. It will be sterile. Will I rush back? I need to remind myself hard that God has not forsaken me even if his, spineless, ministers on Earth have done so.
I may return at some point. Perhaps when the blackberry bushes in the churchyard are dripping with berries. But others will not. It is not as if our churches were packed before this lockdown but I fear that when lockdown ends, the congregation sizes of even two years ago will look like a golden period of mass participation. In almost empty churches there will be no need at all to enforce any social distancing.