Newsletter 119 – February 2021
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO …?
The more observant of our Friends will notice this latest Newsletter is dated “February 2021” and the previous one was dated “July 2020”. Those of you who keep records of this sort of thing might be wondering: whatever happened to the Autumn Newsletter. Indeed, we are all looking back and wondering: whatever happened to the Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter of 2020? Each time the Committee made plans for the return of our regular Thursday lunchtime services at the Chapel, each time we set provisional dates for Open Days, the Annual General Meeting, London Open House and our Christmas Bazaar – each time we were thwarted. Our hopes of fixing a timetable for a team of workmen to take over the Chapel and install our long-anticipated new central heating system – each time we were thwarted. To paraphrase the proverb: Man proposes, Covid 19 pandemic disposes.
LONDON (not at all!) OPEN HOUSE
Although we were unable to hold our usual guided tours of the Chapel as part of the Open House Weekend, we did create an online offering which was included in the London Open House listings. We were very grateful to Redbridge Museum and Heritage for creating a 360 degree film of the Chapel which we were able to put online, together with a YouTube descriptive walk around the Chapel. These did receive a number of viewings.
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2020
Our inability to hold the June 2020 Annual General Meeting (and the conclusion that a “zoom” online meeting would be inquorate) caused a delay in getting formal approval of the Annual Accounts for 2019-2020. This has now been achieved, and a summary is upon request for your records.
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2021
Hopefully we are not being over-optimistic in planning for the 2021 AGM to take place in June this year? Taking place inside the Chapel! With real people, not flickering images on a computer screen! With some form of social-distancing, and the ever-increasing vaccination progress, surely this will be possible? We’re not going to stick out our necks and fix a date at this precise moment, but hope springs eternal. We’ll be in touch.
Special thanks to Fr Martin for his continued regular inspections of our locked-down precious building – he is the only person with authority to enter the premises and check that everything remains safe.
Newsletter 118 – July 2020 – With Updates
THE BEST LAID PLANS. . .
At the end of February we sent you our most recent Newsletter with dates and plans for the remainder of 2020, giving details of our Thursday services, Open Days, the Annual General Meeting, London Open House and – even! – a date and time for our Christmas Bazaar. To be on the safe side, we did add a note of caution: once we’d achieved final approval for the Chapel’s new central heating installation, one or two of those dates might have to be changed dependent on building works. Well, as Scotland’s national poet once warned, the “best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley” – and because of the Covid 19 pandemic, our best laid schemes have all ganged agley with a vengeance! Just two weeks after our last Newsletter everything changed.
FOUR MONTHS ON – WHAT NEXT?
On March 16th the Government announced self-isolation, lockdowns, and the closure of practically everything. And so, all our plans had to be abandoned. With effect from the beginning of this month there has been some easing of these restrictions, but they seem unlikely to be of immediate change as far as we are concerned. So, what next?
ACCESS TO THE CHAPEL
Under present instructions (imposed by Government and by the Abbess Adelicia Trust) the Chapel may only be used for an act of worship and no other purpose. This means such events as Open Days, Open House and the AGM are not permitted. And although the Chapel would be permitted to resume the Thursday services, current guidelines require additional precautions. These include taking a record of the names and contact details of those attending; strict social distancing of two metres, or one metre “plus” if there are mitigating factors, such as the wearing of masks. There is also a strict limit on the number of people allowed inside the building at any one time – in our case, a maximum of 20. (Father Martin provides more information on this further on)
FURTHER EASING OF THE RULES?
It seems there is a pragmatic approach to all these rules, and there are frequent changes. There is a suggestion that by September the Chapel might be able to open for certain purposes other than acts of worship. This raises the possibility of resuming our Open Days, tours of the building, the Christmas Bazaar and so on. However, at present this will require a clearly marked or controlled way of moving through the building – following the arrows, keeping social distance, and requires separate ways in and out of the building (just about possible, but not desirable as far as the Chapel is concerned!). And, all the time, we are warned that in the event of a resurgence of the problem, all restrictions could be imposed at any time. It really is a question of planning no further ahead than week to week.
LONDON OPEN HOUSE- NOW ONLY HAPPENING FOR US IN THE VIRTUAL WORLD
So, it’s beginning to look as if the London Open House Weekend is unlikely to involve the Chapel this year (and unlikely to involve many other special buildings throughout London). Our tour-guide team – Martin, Joanna and Peter – is standing by in case things change, and, if so, we’ll post the information on our website and Facebook page.
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING –STILL NOT POSSIBLE
The AGM should have been held before the end of this month and, officially, your committee and officers should have resigned and been replaced or re-elected for the forthcoming year. In the present circumstances it is not possible to hold such a public meeting, and the nature of our membership suggests that to hold an online meeting and election would be inappropriate. Accordingly, the officers and committee will remain in post for the time being.
THURSDAY SERVICES – NOW POSSIBLY RESTARTING IN APRIL, MAY, JUNE OR JULY 2021? DEPENDING ON THE ‘R’ NUMBER
We are all especially keen to see the Chapel re-open as soon as possible. The regular Thursday Eucharist Service is a midweek-highlight for a significant number of our members, and its return will not only see the Chapel fulfilling its traditional, centuries-old main purpose, but will also restore a sense of the normal pattern of our lives – a pattern wildly disturbed by the events of recent months. Be assured, we will be ready to welcome you as soon as we sensibly can.
THE BOOK OF COVID-19 – (Definitely not a Good Book)
Father Martin writes😉 (In fact it’s not a book at all, but a big ring binder containing all the Government documents and also the Church of England documents relating to what a Church or Chapel can (or more often) cannot do! )
When it was announced that the Churches, etc. could resume services a whole lot of paper was used up by the regulations, guidelines and best practice advice. Here is some of the reasoning (taking into account all the regulations, etc.) behind the decisions.
As you stand at the entrance to the Chancel and look towards the back of the chapel you see to your right, 4 rows of 4 chairs, each row with one end against the wall. Now you must be 2 metres apart OR 1 metre plus with mitigation (face masks). Each person must have unrestricted access and not encroach on another’s space if at all possible. Thus, that block of 16 seats (4 rows of 4) can only hold 2 people. On the same side but behind the doors there are 5 rows of 4 chairs, this equals 3 people. A total of 5 on your right side.
To the left the situation is a bit better, in the forward block and because you can enter from each side, you can have 4 people and in the rear block 6 people, a total of ten on the left. Since we are not allowed to have food or drink, if the tables at the back are removed and a walk-through put in place, we can add an extra 4 chairs! So now we have 19 seated and the Vicar at the Altar, a total of 20 people. Each person must have their name and address entered into a log book for 21 days (Track and Trace protocol). The Trustees have brought a hand sanitizer unit along with some gloves, face mask and other cleaning products. Everything that might have been touched has to be wiped down and sanitised after the service or left for at least three days. Hence after a Thursday service it becomes a massive and time consuming task to even contemplate an Open Day or Open House. Likewise after the event everything must be sanitised again or left untouched.
Now, if you are still with me, let me just add that where possible all doors and windows are to be open in order to keep the air moving and to prevent a build-up of potentially virus-ridden air. Also there must be a separate entrance and exit route – in at the front and out via Reade Close. Need the bathroom, walk round the block, but only after you have sanitized it or asked the duty attendant to do it (at least that’s the theory).
In all of this, as the Chaplain or in Government-speak the Centre Manager, the responsibility for applying the rules lies with me and I am certainly not about to be fined for failure to comply… (The maximum fine is currently £3,000). And Yes, it seems that every time a Government minister opens their mouth something changes. The latest info goes on the Web-Site.