Introduction – Meeting and worshipping together physically in church form an important part of our life as Christians and yet for good reason this has not been possible since Spring. Like many churches, we have been able to include a good number of our folk with internet access in a form of corporate worship through our regular Zoom services but this form is not for everyone. The recent relaxation of the official virus restrictions to allow some limited services to start in churches under carefully controlled conditions is very welcome but poses real problems for us at St Luke’s.
We are blessed with a lovely church building in which Christians have freely worshipped together for almost 600 years. However, the very age, layout, and small size of our building limit the number of worshippers who can safely attend a service whilst keeping to the necessary social distancing and safety measures.
To guide the discussion at the July meeting of the Church Council about how and when to resume the limited church services at St Luke’s permitted, we consulted our congregations through a short questionnaire.
Questionnaire – There are about 240 people listed with a connection to St Luke’s and we did our best to get a representative sample by contacting everyone with an email address (143) and telephoning as many as possible of the others with the help of our Prayer Networkers.
The questions and summary statistics are shown below.
1. When did you join St Luke’s? Last 3 years / 3-10 years ago / over 10 years ago
2. Are you able to join Zoom church on Sunday mornings?Yes / No
3. How many times have you come to Zoom church?Most weeks / occasionally / never
4. Would you like someone to phone to help you join Zoom church?Yes/ No
5. Would you come to restricted communion: at 10.30am?Most weeks / occasionally / never / uncertain
6. Would you come to restricted Sunday communion at 9am?Most weeks / occasionally / never / uncertain
7. Have you tried Zoom Morning Prayer on Mon/Tues/Wednesdays? Most times / occasionally / never
8. Would you come to Zoom Thursday prayer meeting? Most times / occasionally / never / uncertain
9. What would the best time be for our weekly prayer meeting?Weekday evening / at the weekend / weekday morning
• 104 from the 240 people listed with St Luke’s (43% overall response)
• 86 of the 144 who received it by email (59% response)
• 18 of the 62 on our postal-only list contacted by phone (29%)
• 67 respondents provided individual thoughts and comments (64%)
1. The 43% overall response to the questionnaire is excellent for which many thanks! It reached 59% of those with email/internet and 29% of those without it, providing a clear picture of views across the parish for the Church Council to act on.
2. Unsurprisingly, Q1 confirms that the majority (82%) of our congregations have been with St Luke’s church for more than 10 years.
3. An encouragingly high number (63; 60%) of respondents can participate in Zoom services (Q2) – internet connectivity with a smartphone or another video device. From individual comments, the reasons for non-participation included poor or no internet and lack of technology, as well as discomfort with video as a medium for worship. However, the offer of telephone help with Zoom (Q4) had only a few takers (5; 4.8%).
4. The responses to Q3 about the Sunday morning Zoom service bear out the actual situation in which an important new ‘congregation’ has been established during lock-down. Thus, the majority (56; 89%) of those responding, and able to join, said they did so most weeks or occasionally. Note: in practice, between 45-55 homes are connected in the Sunday Zoom service involving 60-70 worshippers, many in family groups. We can only safely accommodate 30 worshippers in St Luke’s under the current restrictions and so the Sunday Zoom service needs to continue into the Autumn, albeit at a new later time of 10.30am.
5. There is a good level of support (68%) for a restricted service of Holy Communion on Sunday at the new time of 9am (Q6: 31 stating they would come most weeks and 40 occasionally, with 6 uncertain and 27 who would never attend until restrictions are removed). Note: 9am was chosen as the time for the restricted Communion service to be accessible to both our former Sunday 8.30 and 10am congregations.
6. There is also reasonable support (39%) for a restricted service of Holy Communion on Wednesday at 10.30am (Q5: 15 stating they would come most weeks, 26 occasionally, with 8 uncertain, and 55 who would never attend either because of work commitments or until restrictions are removed.) Note: before the lock-down, attendance at the Wednesday 10.30am service was 15-20.
7. Support is more limited for 9am Zoom Morning Prayer on Monday-Wednesday (Q7: 18 of the 63 possible attending at some time) and the Thursday 9.30am Zoom Prayer Meeting (Q8: 23 of the 63 possible attending at some time). In practice, both Zoom Morning Prayer and the Zoom Prayer Meeting continue to be attended by 10-12 people, significantly more than was the case before the lock-down.
The Church Council considered the questionnaire responses carefully at its meeting on Monday 20th July. It decided to provide restricted services of Holy Communion in St Luke’s on Wednesdays at 10.30am and Sundays at 9am (new time) during August to assess the level of attendance and evaluate safety provisions. The church building will be open for individual private prayer until midday after the Sunday and Wednesday services. The Zoom Sunday service will continue but at the later time of 10.30am.
Please see our website at https://www.stlukesholmeschapel.uk and FaceBook page for updates on service arrangements.
Steve Smith Secretary, Church Hulme Parochial Church Council
Norma and Kevin Cannon moved to Holmes Chapel after marrying in 1953. They lived in a small cottage on Middlewich Road opposite the George and Dragon, and another property further along the road, before moving to Chester Road.
Chester Road was home for Norma and Kevin. It’s where they had 2 children, Jill and Paul, from where Jill left to be married at St Luke’s, where grandchildren were brought and showered with love, where Kevin passed away in 2000 and Norma stayed until she passed away there in May. There are many happy memories for us all: learning to make cakes with Norma first with her children and then her grandchildren, warm bread from Mandeville’s on a Saturday, playing in the garden. There was always a welcome smile and a ‘would you like a cup of tea?’ for any friends we brought there and for visitors generally.
Norma worked part time in Ivor Williams’ shop and subsequently in Cambrian Stores, she enjoyed seeing all the people who came in to shop. To go into the village with her to ‘quickly pick something up’ always took a while because she knew so many people who would stop to say hello. She missed this contact when she was less able to visit the village but there were regular visitors to the house and friends of many years still popped in even recently.
It seems particularly cruel that Norma should pass away at a time of lockdown, during which the usual busy village centre is quiet and St Luke’s is closed; a funeral like Kevin had isn’t possible and people aren’t able to attend the service in the crematorium, which is out of the village. The parish magazine, which had been a presence in her home for so many years, now carries the news of her passing and hopefully reaches many of the people she knew.
We were so overwhelmed by people being concerned for our safe return from holiday this March that we decided we ought to let you know the story. It isn’t a short one, and I have omitted many twists and turns.
We booked the holiday of a lifetime nearly 2 years ago – a 34-day cruise on the South Pacific Ocean from New Zealand to San Diego. Imagine all those beautiful islands you have seen in the brochures – blue seas, white sands, coral and colourful fish. Well, those images are still in my imagination!
It all started in New Zealand on March 1st when we joined the Holland America Maasdam cruise ship for the South Pacific crossing voyage including ports Waitangi; Fiji (Suva, Savusavu, Dravuni); Tonga (Nuku, Vava u); Cross International dateline; Cook Island Rarotonga; French Polynesia (Moorea, Papeete, Maroe Bay, Bora Bora); Crossing the Equator; Kiritimati Christmas Island; Hawaii (Lahaina, Hilo, Kona, Honolulu, Nawiliwili) and ending in San Diego on the 3rd April where we planned to stay a few days and then fly home.
We said goodbye to a warm and sunny Auckland. Next morning, we arrived at Waitangi, Bay of islands where we had a great day sightseeing. The next two days were at sea before we reached Fiji. The Fijians were lovely people, and very welcoming, and Dravuni gave us an insight into what we were to expect – Then along came Coronavirus. The Captain announced that the King of Tonga had closed the ports to all cruise ships, the first of many changes to come. So, 4 days later, bypassing Tonga in the distance, we arrived one day early at Cook Island Rarotonga. Fortunately the swell was just about suitable for us to tender to the island, as there were doubts at one point. Rarotonga was lovely and our first point of call was to go and buy WiFi!!!! We had been out of contact for 4 days and no-one knew where we were. Family and friends were ringing each other to find out any information on our whereabouts.
We got back on board to be told that all ports were closing and we weren’t allowed to go into any of the Polynesian Islands. This was a bit of a problem as we had many Polynesians on board, others were leaving the cruise at Papeete to fly back to New Zealand or Australia; entertainers and marine biologists were changing over, as were crew members, as well as taking on more stock and fuel. So, off we set, not knowing where we were heading for next – seems the Captain didn’t either. You can imagine our surprise the next morning when we looked out of the window and there was Cook Island again! The Captain, who was on his final sailing after 40 years, said he had never had to turn a ship around before. He had been sailing round the island that night, and we were told that anyone who was due to disembark at Papeete could disembark at Cook Island, but they had to have a flight organised otherwise they could not leave. They had two days to do it in, because that night we sailed around the island again to arrive back again the next morning! Apparently, the port had closed down just as we had left 2 days before, so no-one was allowed off unless they had a flight home. If you couldn’t get a flight then you were going to stay on until Hawaii, 6 days away.
So onward to Hawaii, where we were told we could stay 2 nights in Hilo, 2 nights in Honolulu and 2 nights in Lahaina – so that would be fine as we had trips booked on those islands- the most important of which was Martin’s life-long dream to go to Pearl Harbour.
Wind the clocks forward (well we did cross the International Dateline, and the Equator) and we discovered we couldn’t actually go to those islands after all, but we had to head for Hilo where we must disembark and fly home. As luck would have it, we couldn’t manage to book a flight, as the next day we discovered the protesters were out in Hilo and they didn’t want us in. So, off we head to Honolulu, where we were assured we would disembark, the ship would refuel and restock for the crew. So, flights were definitely booked this time. Immigration was all set up and we were given our instructions. Nothing happened, and we waited, and waited. By now we were used to the Captain coming over the ship’s system with that little sigh that meant all was not well. The Governor of Honolulu did not want us in, even though we would get on a bus and get taken straight to the airport. Negotiations went on, and it was even escalated to the White House, but the Hawaiians did not want us off the ship onto their island. There were 6 Hawaiians on board and they were sneaked off without being seen. Well, there were 450 Americans, and they couldn’t understand why they weren’t allowed to disembark as they were on home territory.
So, on we sailed for another 6 days to San Diego, with assurances we would be allowed to disembark (as long as we had flights). We were safe, no viruses, hadn’t been on land for 17 days, had food, drink, a social life and toilet rolls!!! We could go to the gym, the spa, the library, the cinema, the theatre, and even the hairdresser! Why would we want to get off and into the big wide world out there? It was at this point that our family back home were getting very anxious. The USA had closed its borders, Canada had closed its borders, Europe was closing down. How were we going to get back home, where were we going to end up, would we have to quarantine in USA? So many stories going around. Our daughters lobbied the foreign office, the British Consulate in San Diego and the government, including local MPs, but we were told we were low on their priority list. The Canadians (250 of them) the Dutch and other Europeans had letters from their governments to reassure them that they knew where they were. The Canadian government even arranged for a flight to change its schedule so all the Canadians could get home. We booked a flight for the Saturday, (we were 8 days early so lost our home flight as well), it was cancelled and rescheduled to the Sunday. It was cancelled and rescheduled to a later flight. Finally, we got a flight from San Diego to JFK (not ideal but no choice) and then on to Heathrow (no flights to Manchester). There were 11 of us on the plane to JFK! But the flight from JFK was an amalgamation of 3 cancelled flights, so was pretty full, and was in fact the last Virgin flight out of JFK to Heathrow. Fortunately, Claire, our daughter, had been able to organise a hire car for us to get home – more added stress, I am sure!
So, we arrived into this strange world of ‘Lockdown’, and as a result of transiting through New York we had to self-isolate for 14 days on our return.
It was only when we got home that we understood people’s concern. Time was running out for safe exit from USA, flights were terminating, the virus was spreading fast. It was so nice to be welcomed home by everyone we spoke to, at a distance, or on the phone. Our family (including my Mum) have told us they won’t let us out of the country again!!!
Now, about that holiday to New Zealand we were talking about doing in 2 years’ time, will they let us go, or shall we just sneak out without telling them?