Whilst the government guidance on Covid-19 restrictions allows controlled reopening of places of worship our monks have taken the difficult decision to continue to close the temple for general visitors. The monks are taking this cautious approach following the news that three monks in the US have contacted the virus. A small number of supporters are visiting each day to offer lunch to the monks, and we continue to apply all necessary virus control measures.
It therefore looks increasingly unlikely that we will be fully open for our Kathina ceremony which will be held on Sunday 11 October this year. We will of course keep this under review and carry out all necessary risk assessments for however we are able to hold the event.
Than Thirasak and Than Gai remain in Thailand, and there has been no further word from the Sangha Office on allowing missionary monks to travel overseas. Our expectation is that this is only likely to be after Phansa, the three month Buddhist Lent, which will end in early October.
The UK immigration rules are changing on 1 Jan 21 when the Home Office are introducing the new Points Based System. As registered users of the UKVI system we receive any updates available, though at this stage it still remains unclear how we can obtain visas for Ministers of Religion or Religious Workers under the new system. We are part of a working group set up by the Council of Thai Buddhist Monks in the UK, and have approached the government seeking clarification, and a better understanding by the UKVI of the particular circumstances of Thai Buddhist monks who cannot take a salary, and therefore cannot obtain the requisite number of points under the new system. We are engaging legal advice on how to apply for visas going forward.
The new kitchen floor has now been completed, and we offer our humble thanks to everyone who contributed. There was some funds left over from the money raised for the kitchen floor so we have purchased and installed a stainless steel double sink in the courtyard that we can use for larger events which will help alleviate the congestion in the kitchen.
The new lease for the section of Top Locks Car Park has now been signed and completed, this will allow us to erect the ceremonial gateway with improved disability access.
Halton Borough Council have asked for further detail on the drainage for the Peace Garden which we are currently working on, and we are also providing greater clarity around the proposed elevations – of course everything is taking much longer than usual as the effects of lockdown are still being addressed.
On the advice of Halton Borough Council External Funding Team we made an application under the Covid-19 Discretionary Grants scheme. Unfortunately, we were advised that HBC have determined that we are not eligible for a grant under this scheme as we do not “buy or sell services”. In fact the essence of a Buddhist Temple is that it relies on the voluntary generosity of the supporters who offer to maintain the monks and the temple, and the reciprocal generosity of the monks in supporting the community. So it may be true that we do not “sell services” but rather choose to offer these free of charge. It does seem therefore to be a rather harsh interpretation of eligibility, and we have written to The Chancellor of the Exchequer to ensure that he is aware of this apparent anomaly.
Mae Chee continues to stay with her mother in Liverpool, but visits Runcorn every other week to hold her meditation walks, and continues to lead meditation guidance on Facebook every Saturday. For details please visit the temple Facebook Page … search for Wat Phra Singh UK.
As always please let us know of you have any comments or suggestions.