It is hard to believe that it is all of nine months now since the last issue of Taney News was distributed to your household! And wow, how our whole world has changed since then, almost in the twinkling of an eye!
The first case of the Corona virus COVID-19 was identified in Ireland on March 1st this year and within three weeks our country was in “Lockdown”. Churches and schools, along with the majority of shops, offices and commercial premises were closed down. Travel and social interactions other than for essential workers and services were prohibited. Strict regulations were imposed on the number of people who may be present in a church building to provide on-line worship (6). Numbers attending a funeral were limited to ten persons. Churches did not open again until 29th June and even then with restrictions governing the conduct of worship with those attending being required to be physically distanced by two metres from each other. Schools are only now re-opening after a period of almost six months.
Those three months and indeed the days and weeks since, have been very difficult for us all, young and old alike. Who could have thought nine months ago that 2020 would develop as it has? Some things will stick in my mind. I think of the surreal experience of entering our Parish Centre the day after it closed – usually a hive of activity from morning till night with its usual cacophony of sound – to find it empty and eerily silent!
I think of celebrating the Eucharist on Easter Day, looking down from the Altar in Christ Church into a dim and empty church, proclaiming that “Christ is Risen!”. It just didn’t seem right.
I think of the (mercifully few) funerals that we officiated at with, on occasion, just four or five people present, and ever only with a maximum of ten people allowed. Heart-breaking – for all concerned.
But throughout it all, the heart of the parish kept beating. My colleague Nigel and I quickly learned the art of broadcasting Services twice weekly on social media platforms – well Nigel did anyway! And we know from your many kind comments that these were much appreciated by you. All of a sudden we were reaching out to in excess of over 800 people on a Sunday morning! Multiples of what we would normally see in our churches! The quality of these “broadcasts” was noted by producers at RTE who carried one of these Services. And may I say, on occasion we had great fun putting these together – sometimes doing re-take after re-take until composure returned! We will share some of these “cut-outs” with you on our big screen some Sunday morning!
Now that the restrictions on church attendance have been eased, the Select Vestry invested in equipment to enable us to “Livestream” our Services, so that those who are present as well as those who join us via the Internet are able to share in the same Service at the same time. We are particularly grateful to Richard O’Donnell and Pat O’Doherty for managing this particular technology – and after a few teething issues early on, now have mastered the live broadcasting of our Services Sunday by Sunday.
We are still restricted in the number of people who can attend worship in person in both Christ Church and St. Nahi’s and also there are issues surrounding the holding of multiple Services in the same building within 72 hours. However, with the co-operation of the Church Wardens, we are hoping to be able to restore the usual schedule of Sunday Morning Services from Sunday October 11th. This of course is always subject to the health guidelines and government restrictions that may be in force at any given time.
Pastoral care also had to be delivered remotely and we are very grateful to a small band of parishioners who joined the clergy in reaching out by telephone to those considered the most isolated and vulnerable and who were required to “cocoon” for a considerable length of time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also hugely impacted on the running and operation of our Parish Centre which was totally closed from mid-March until July. Needless to say, this has had a huge impact on our income stream. However, behind every cloud is a silver lining. The shut-down period enabled us to undertake a deep clean of the whole facility and to re-paint almost the whole of the interior, a necessary task required from time to time and which is made very difficult when the Centre is running at full tilt from early morning to late at night. This work was undertaken by Ian Geoffroy (on a voluntary basis) and Ray Hamilton who continued to work throughout the “Lockdown” to have the facility in wonderful condition for a partial re-opening on 20th July. We thank them for their sterling service.
We must also express our gratitude to our Parish Administrator, Tara O’Rourke, who again worked tirelessly throughout the “Lockdown” – initially from home and later back in the office. This enabled the day-to-day and week-to-week administration of the Parish to continue, ensuring that phones were answered, accounting was kept up to date and the clergy kept abreast of any pastoral concerns or issues. Thank you Tara.
We are also extremely grateful to Helen Geoffroy for taking on the role of “Responsible Person” or Covid Officer for our parish, who ensures that in re-opening our parish facilities, we are in compliance with Government and Health Authority regulations and guidelines.
However, we must be aware and cognisent that just because the strict restrictions have been eased, it doesn’t mean the virus has gone away. It is still alive and as virulent as ever and we all have a responsibility to ensure that it is mitigated in society and the community. This means that we have to ensure that anything we do personally or as a Parish is in accordance with best practice and public health guidelines and regulations.
Each year at this time we would normally be welcoming back all our parish organisations after the summer recess. While we hope that such activities – especially those geared towards our younger members – can resume before too long, current restrictions on gatherings and association, mean that these can’t start-up for the moment. With our Parish School just re-opening now, we are anxious to support the Principal and staff in ensuring that the strict adherence to child “bubbles” enforced in the school are not diluted or negated in out-of-school activity in the parish. We do not want to encourage any activity in the wider parish which would endanger the ability of the school to remain open. We extend our best wishes to all involved in our school community as they get back to teaching and learning after a six-month break.
We look forward to the ordination to the Priesthood of The Rev’d Chris West on Sunday, 27th September in Christ Church Cathedral when he will join the Ministry Team of our Parish as Curate-Assistant. Please remember Chris in your prayers as he prepared for this important occasion in his life and ministry. A letter from Chris is published in this edition of Taney News.
This too is “Harvest Time”. Despite the difficulties presented by the spread of COVID-19, we must still be most grateful for the various and bountiful gifts of “harvest”. Again, our expression of this gratitude will be muted and restrained in our church services this year. To accommodate the expected increase in numbers wishing to attend on that Sunday there will be two “Harvest” Services in Christ Church that morning – one at 10.15am (Morning Prayer) and one at 11.45am (Holy Eucharist). The church will of course be sanitised between these Services using our dry-mist sanitiser. The 11.45am Service will be the Service at which The Rev. Chris West will celebrate the Holy Communion for the first time following his Ordination as a Priest. Further details and information about this will be published in “Taney News Extra”.
I am delighted that we were able to hold our Annual (Easter) General Vestry Meeting on 24th August following its enforced deferral from April. I am so grateful to those who have once again volunteered for the various roles and positions within our wonderful parish as well as acknowledging the service of those who have now stood down from their terms of service. Those now appointed are noted elsewhere in this edition of “Taney News”.
In particular, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Darren Bowling, who stood down as Parish Treasurer at the General Meeting. Darren has acted as Honorary Treasurer for over five years and has brought a huge amount of expertise to the role. We thank him for all he has contributed as Treasurer, not least in the streamlining and simplification of our accounting system and reporting. We welcome Mr. Joe Wright as his successor, whose appointment has been endorsed by the Select Vestry.
Needless to say the viral pandemic has had an impact on our parish finances – largely due to the enforced closure of the Parish Centre. We are extremely grateful to those of you who have continued your financial contribution to the parish in these difficult times, either by standing order, cheque or envelope contributions. Should you still have a donation to make to the parish, please contact the Parish Office to enquire the best and most appropriate way of making your contribution.
In relation to the “tax-back” scheme, this year requires us to re-submit the CHY3 Forms. These were recently posted to parishioners and we are grateful to those who have returned these to the Treasurer and would encourage those who have still to do so, to attend to this with urgency to enable the parish put in the claim for 2019. This income is even more important to us in these financially constrained times.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the situation we find ourselves in, is the inability to plan ahead. The spread of the virus alters from day to day; the guidelines and regulations by which we are asked to regulate our lives and activities change from week to week. This leads to a degree of uncertainty and even fear. In relation to parish life, please remember that we communicate updates to you via “Taney News Extra” each week. This is distributed by e-mail and is also available on our Parish Website, www.taneyparish.ie Should you experience difficulty in accessing this, please contact the Parish Office during office hours – 9.30am-1pm Monday-Friday.
If there is anything we can do for you or your family during these difficult times, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Please keep well and safe.