So, here is the brave (strange) new world of face-covered worship. Last Sunday, every person attending church in our 3 parishes wore a mask of some description (in my case, slightly piratical, I like to think).
I think most of us put up with it, and I hope most understood the reasoning behind the advice from the Church of England: that, although we are not legally obliged to wear face coverings in church, if we take seriously our Christian calling to love our neighbour, we will wear them in order to protect those around us. Face coverings don't protect the wearer, they protect others from the wearer; and though the risk is slight, it is real.
Much of the push-back against this new norm has focused on the need for those who lead services to be properly seen and heard. "Surely if you stand well back, there's no real danger, is there?" Well, the science is not definitive (yet), but I stand with a colleague who has a background in epidemiology, and who was quite clear that the risk from aerosols (as opposed to droplets) is present whether you are 2 or 20 metres from the speaker. So I will be masking up for the foreseeable...
Having said that, we need to be honest about our feelings of deprivation as we accept all the constraints on our worship. We can't sing, we can't touch, we can't chat over coffee - and now we can't see each other's faces. Some of the joy and freedom has been squeezed out of worship - what are we left with?
Well ... we still have the comfort of being together; and, more important, we can still seek and find God. Whether we are at home, or out on the beach or on the coast path, or even in the supermarket with all the other masked shoppers, we can know God's presence with us. Perhaps, rather than bemoaning the ways in which we are hobbled by all these restrictions, we need to learn from those stalwart souls we have all known - the housebound, the disabled, the chronically ill - who have both shamed and encouraged us by their refusal to give up and their thankfulness for the life they have. Accept these limitations, be honest about what we're missing, and carry on praising, caring and laughing.