Before I go any further I must state that this blog post is my response to the news today that there will be an easing of many restrictions at this point in the Covid-19 pandemic in England, and not an official response from either the Methodist Church UK, nor the District or Circuit I currently serve.
When news broke today that pubs, restaurants and other venues will be allowed to re-open, and that churches are also on that list from the 4th July I must confess that my heart sank! In my opinion it is too early! The number of deaths per day is still too high, and with an end to the daily briefings will we really know what the true picture in the country is ( though I question if we ever really did)?
I will admit that I am nervous, I am nervous for all sorts of reasons, for I know how easy it is to catch this virus despite taking as many precautions as possible, and I believe that this easing of restrictions is giving people false hope! And certainly hearing this all celebrated on the BBC’s One Show this evening made my toes curl! Add to that a number of friends now happily posting news about hair appointments on facebook, and yes I accept that it is their choice to take the risk, but it leaves me feeling deeply uneasy.
I will say it again, I believe that this is too early and will put a lot of people under a huge amount of pressure. I confess again that I feel it myself. Again I see people celebrating, the chance to go to the pub, to take children to play in the park, to come into church to worship….
I have no say over the pubs, restaurants or hairdressers, thought I have no intention of going to the pub, to the park or out for a meal and my lockdown hair has survived so far, but I can and will speak to the last one, the opening of church buildings. I understand that many people are longing to see one another, that worship, or simply getting together is something they have missed, and yes I have too, but rushing back is not an option. Risk assessments will need to be carried out, how many people is it safe to have in the building at any one time, how will entrances and exits be managed, how will cleaning be carried out etc etc.Of course some thinking about this has already been done, and it must be done on a one at a time case by case basis.
The pressure this will put onto the responsible trustees is immense, the advice from the Government is unclear, 2 metre distancing is preferable, but 1 metre plus (whatever plus is) is acceptable! Some people will feel safe and others will not, how do we make sure that all are heard. Some ministers will feel that they want to gather people together again, and others will equally feel very wary and like me have deep misgivings.
My misgivings surround our actual ability to do all that needs to be done to make our buildings safe, the deep burden that I feel I would be placing onto others, a burden I currently feel very keenly myself, and a knowledge that there are many people for whom the current advice remains to shield if possible. Shield if possible, great advice when some shielding people are being challenged by their employers to return to work! My daughter in law is one of those people and she says this;
“It’s assumed that those shielding are either retired or so ill that they don’t work when there’s 2.5 million of us of all ages (I am in my 40s my niece too has to shield aged 16) and look perfectly ‘normal’ as we have unseen health conditions yet hold down full-time jobs as well as parent and take full part in our communities. I am expecting to be told it is suddenly “safe” and we must go back to work when the R rate is still high around 1 and the only reason the death rate has dropped is because all the most at risk folk have been shielding! It’s no safer now than it was in march yet I have vulnerable colleagues being told to be ready to go back to work. Employers are insisting social distancing plus masks and handwashing is enough when yes it is if you are healthy but not even mentioning vulnerable staff. If you don’t need to work and are shielding speak out to support those that do. We actually don’t want to go out if out means using public transport and being in open-plan offices or other workplaces all day when so much more at risk than everyone around us.”
My middle son is also currently shielding and he was trying to find clarity from his cardiology team:
I have to say that it does feel like people who are shielding have been forgotten about. Apart from the occasional segment on the news people with disabilities or underlying health conditions are rarely mentioned. It feels like we have been forgotten about by society as a whole and aren’t important enough for the government to spend much time thinking about us. This became particularly apparent to me when I contacted my cardiology team only to be told that they had received no further advice from the government for their patients who are shielding since March which is when they sent out the shielding letters. I only found out about the review taking place this week because I contacted my MP.
Now we are suddenly being told that things have changed, restrictions eased, but do all you can to stay safe…
You are responsible…
You are responsible for looking after your health, you are responsible if you somehow inadvertently come into touch with the virus, and if you are particularly vulnerable that is your problem, unless of course you contract it in a pub, restaurant, hairdressers or church, at which point you may be able to claim that as hard as they tried they were not able to keep you safe… the owners/ trustees will become liable and we all enter the blame game, where it appears that it is everyone’s fault but the governments, why because they told us to try to be safe, to shield if we can, to stay 2 meters apart unless it is not possible.
I suspect that as usual this is all about getting the economy going… let’s be honest we know it is! Will it work? The get out statement that all of this is reversible is not sufficient. We are not following the science, we are not even following common sense, and that makes me uneasy, and makes me feel unsafe…
Yes this is my opinion… and you may well disagree with me, but I will not be celebrating on the 4th July, I will be praying and turning to the one who invites me to come to him when I feel weary and burdened and seek his rest. Not only for myself, but for the many who like me feel uneasy and burdened at this time.
“Come to me, all you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls. 3 Serving me is easy, and my load is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Edited to add: Yes I know there are those who are unable to access online worship and services, but those I have spoken to are watching the TV, listening to the radio and keeping in touch by phone, no it is not the same, but I also reflect that many have said they prefer being safe over risking their lives and the lives of others by acting too quickly!