Usually, Christmas is a busy time at St Mary’s. Our footfall in the building in a normal year is about 1000 people over the 24 hours from noon on Christmas Eve until noon on Christmas Day. There tends to be people there from all over the world and all over the country, joining with those who worship here week by week.
It was always the case that this year was going to be different but it was still our expectation that over a number of services over the next week that several hundred people would be able to engage in worship within the cathedral building.
This evening the First Minister gave a clear announcement indicating the very strong concern that the Scottish Government is feeling about the Corona Virus situation. Most of the country is to enter Level Four restrictions by the end of the week. The First Minister has asked people not to gather in large groups and to remain at home.
Immediately following the First Minister’s Press Conference the Leadership Group of St Mary’s requested that opinions be sought from the Medical Panel that has been giving advice about the Corona situation throughout the year. Most of them could be contacted and all felt that in-person worship should be suspended with immediate effect. Having received that advice, the Leadership Group have taken the decision that there will be no worship in the Cathedral building from now until such time as the corona threat level is lower.
If we were a small local congregation comprised of people who live very locally a different decision might have been taken to the decision that has been made. However, we are a larger congregation made up from a very mobile group of people. It the case that some of those who had booked in for the service on 20 December 2020 do not normally live in Glasgow and the numbers of people from outside the city wanting to book for services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day would have been higher even than for services on 20 December 2020. This has been one of the factors that has been considered when deciding what to do at St Mary’s over the next few days.
St Mary’s is not closed and Christmas is not cancelled. We will continue to worship online as we have done for much of the year. We will continue to express our care for one another and use whatever means are at our disposal to communicate that care near and far.
This year many of us will be feeling bruised and hurt by all that has happened. The love of God is for just such as us and we will go on proclaiming that same love to all the world. Once more, we find that the best way to proclaim that love is by taking our own local steps to reduce opportunities for the virus to spread.
The essence of the Christmas message is that God came into the world to tells us all that we are loved. That message remains utterly unchanged.