On 19th July the legal obligations related to churches have changed. There will be no requirement for social distancing and mask wearing nor guidance for churches that has effectively prohibited singing. There will also be freedom to celebrate communion and baptisms in the normal way.
We highly value meeting together to hear God’s word, worship him and meet with each other as a whole church, seeing each other and being able to freely communicate, and to sing praises to the Lord and to one other. Not being able to sing indoors, social distancing and mask wearing has been a hindrance to worship and to being able to communicate well with one another.
We recognise that in our church family there is a range of feelings about returning to a more normal church experience. Some are eager to cast aside all restraints and others more fearful and cautious. As Elders we are concerned that during this time we lead in a way that helps us learn to love and bear with each other. We believe that judgments about what restrictions should be in place and whether we should return to meeting in person are not a simple moral issue, where there is an obvious right or wrong, but is a matter of wisdom. This will be informed by our theology (for example, about worship and love), but also be influenced by our understanding of the science, different temperaments and personalities and our experiences of illness. This is a good thing as we are a body made up of different parts – something to be celebrated and as such we want to continue to work hard at our unity in our diversity. Paul writes to the Philippians
“…in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: (Phil 2:3-5).
We trust that these verses framed our thinking as Elders as we discussed the new regulations and how best to proceed as we encourage each of us to love and value each in our church family particularly during this time.
We also want to emphasise that as we relax some of the restrictions, as Elders, we have taken our responsibilities to meet in a relatively safe way very seriously, and we have carefully considered the risks. We fully appreciate that some of you will be concerned about safety of yourself and others as we meet and we want you to be assured that we will try and accommodate you in a way that makes you feel welcome and safe. There are others who will wish to remain at home for medical reasons and we will make sure we keep connected with you through the livestream and look forward to welcoming you soon. In particular, if you consider yourself to be clinically vulnerable, please do bear in mind mind that in-person gatherings always come with inherent risks.
In all this we will trust God’s providential care – that he will honour our plans and in his mercy that he will bless us.
Sunday meetings – what will be different?
You will not need to book to attend a service
We will no longer require mask wearing at our meetings (but you are most welcome to continue wearing them if you prefer).
We will have congregational singing, indoors as part of the service.
We will remove the obligation for social distancing when standing and sitting. For sitting, we started with the previous seating layout with the 1.5m gap between rows but will be moving the rows closer, probably to 1.25m, to accommodate the extra people, with the option of sitting next to other people. However, if you would like a gap between yourself and the next household we will arrange this – either by asking a steward, or we will have some reserved seat markers that you can use.
The children’s groups will continue to run at same time as the service but the children will attend the first part of the service, and once per month be in for the whole time for the All Age services
Sunday meetings – what will be the same?
We will retain the pre-meeting and pre-entry questions – checking that anyone attending should not be isolating for whatever reason.
We will ensure the room is well ventilated whatever the weather conditions.
We will continue good hygiene practice of hand sanitiser on entry and cleaning the main surfaces we touch and the toilets, both before and after meeting.
We will continue to offer high quality livestream.
We have developed a risk assessment based on the latest government guidance which you can read in full here.