Post lockdown gatherings
I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’
Under new government guidelines, we are now permitted to meet together as a church subject to adopting “COVID secure” measures and so we have been meeting on Sunday mornings and evenings since 12th July 2020.
We depend on the full cooperation of the congregation for these new practices as we meet together again.
We have permission to meet, but it could be asked, why do we want to take this opportunity when there are limitations (e.g limited numbers, social distancing and no singing); and there are of course risks. These are some of the reasons:
- Fellowship: there will be the opportunity to be physically present with our brothers and sisters as we queue, walk in, sit together and listen to God’s word together in the presence of each other.
- Engagement: the full experience of seeing each other and the service leaders and preacher rather than the 2-dimensional experience of watching on a screen – where there are more opportunities for distraction and loss of concentration.
- Witness: by being known and seen as giving a priority of meeting, we are testifying to the importance of the gathering of the church. This is a privilege in God’s grace that we have this freedom and we want to use it.
- Encouragement: Our meetings provide an anticipation of what we will experience when lockdown restrictions are fully lifted which is an encouragement to those in the meeting and to those who for the time being cannot meet but can at least witness the congregation meeting as they watch the livestream.
If you are not able to meet with us for health reasons or your own assessment of risk we will greatly miss you being with us but want to assure you that you are still very much part of the church family here. We are still brothers and sisters in unity and the Lord Jesus Christ is present in his church. We will still be sharing fellowship in listening to his word, praying and praising him and encouraging one another. As the Queen said in her Coronavirus broadcast, ‘we will meet again’ – but not just yet. In the meantime, we don’t need to be in our building to meet with our King. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.” (Acts 17v24). We will do our best to maintain the high quality of livestream experience that we have been able to deliver up to now so that we can all continue to feel included. We want everyone to feel safe, for no one to feel left out. We also want to witness to the wider community that they feel respected, safe and welcome.
We cannot eliminate all risks but in order to maximise the safety of the congregation and minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission as much as reasonably possible, Christ Church Haywards Heath has put in place the following changes and procedures. Overall there are three main pillars for keeping us all safe:
- Minimising the possibility of those with the virus attending our service.
- Minimising the possibility of anyone with the virus passing it on to anyone else in the service by social distancing.
- Minimising the possibility of anyone with the virus passing it on to anyone else in the service by strict hygiene and cleaning processes.
We are grateful to Richard Allan one of our members for his expert assistance in compiling the risk assessment.
Attending a Sunday morning gathering at Christ Church
This is a description of the whole process from initial information and booking through to the exit from the building. Sadly, at present we can only allow people who have pre-booked to come to our meetings.
Before the meeting
The building will be cleaned by cleaners prior to the service.
Attendees will need to book online. We will offer places until all the allocated spaces have been taken (approx 60) by using our small groups on a week by week rolling basis.
The booking process will be on the basis that you agree to follow the guidelines and any instructions, in particular:
- Anybody, or anybody in the household of a person, who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is showing any of the following symptoms will be told they cannot enter the church building and must self-isolate for 14 days according to government guidelines and follow test and trace procedures after the appearance of these symptoms: a new, persistent cough, a high temperature, a change in sense of taste or smell.
- Some people, including those aged 70 and over, those with certain underlying conditions and pregnant women, are clinically vulnerable, meaning they may be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. As we continue to ease restrictions, the government advice is that this group should continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household.
- Sadly for the present, those with the following health conditions will be unable to attend our meetings in person and will instead be encouraged to watch the service live stream: type II diabetes, ischemic heart disease, severe respiratory diseases, and anyone receiving treatments for cancer or other diseases, that have an immunosuppressant effect.
Attendees will be given a designated time to arrive, in order to ease the queuing process.
Disposable gloves are not required for attendance, but attendees should feel free to wear them if they wish to. In accordance with the Government guidance released 7 August 2020, face coverings are required in places of worship from 8 August 2020. However, children under the age of 11 and people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability are exempt from this requirement. Exemptions also include employees (or a person acting on their behalf) such as someone leading a prayer or service. In light of this, the service leader and preacher will remove their face covering while they are speaking during the service to ensure what is said remains audible especially for those harder of hearing.
We encourage people to walk to the meeting where possible to reduce the pressure on local parking and to bring their own drinks if necessary as we are unable to provide refreshments at this time.
Attendees will queue on arrival, keeping 2m from other households using markings on the church driveway. A steward will be on the pavement outside and another on the driveway to maintain social distancing.
The steward on the drive will ask those attending to confirm that they are not displaying any symptoms of Covid-19 or in a household of anyone who is.
A steward in the hallway will check off the register to record who has entered the building.
Immediately upon entering the building through the main front doors, attendees will clean their hands with antibacterial gel, provided in dispensers, and monitored by the steward on the door.
Attendees will not be permitted further into the building without sanitising their hands in this way.
All doors will be wedged open so that they need not be touched. If anybody touches a surface, a steward will wipe the surface with disinfectant as soon as is reasonably possible. Congregating in multi-household groups will not be permitted.
With the exception of needing the toilet or other emergencies, there will be a one-way system in operation. Normal fire and evacuation procedures will apply in the event of an emergency including the use of all available exits
No objects such as books, Bibles, bulletins or other papers will be handed out. Attendees will have been reminded to bring their own Bibles and other necessary items.
Attendees will enter the main hall and be asked to sit, filling the seats up starting at the front row and will sit within their own households (or household bubble) and will maintain a distance of at least 2m from all other households at all times. Chairs will be in rows, with a 2m distance between each row, and attendees not sitting closer than 1.5m to attendees next to them from another household. (2 chairs gap).
Posters will be on display throughout the building to remind attendees to keep 2m distance between households and to remind them of the specific hygiene practices.
During the service
Speakers will maintain approximately 2m distance from each other. There will be a 3m gap between the speakers and the first row of chairs. Each speaker will use separate audio equipment. There will be no singing from the front or from the congregation. Speakers will avoid shouting. The service, where possible, will be kept to a maximum of 60 minutes.
Attendees with young children in their household will be asked to keep their children under close supervision in order to help them maintain a 2m distance from others outside of their household. If families with small children feel they would like to, facilities will be provided to take them to a quiet room. The Triple Room will serve as three ‘pods’, with one household allowed within a section of the Triple Room at any given time. As with other parts of the building, any surfaces touched will be sprayed with disinfectant and wiped with a disposable towel by a steward. No toys or other shareable objects will be provided and attendees will not be allowed to share toys or books with other households.
If, during the service, a visitor, volunteer or speaker shows symptoms of COVID-19 they will be immediately asked to leave by a steward or the service leader.
Attendees will be discouraged from using the toilet facilities during the meeting, however, if they need to do so, attendees will maintain 2m distance whilst entering the toilet corridor, with only one visitor/household in a cubicle at any time (unless taking a child). After using the facilities, users will wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water, drying their hands with a disposable towel and placing this in an open bin. Users will then clean any surfaces touched with disinfectant wipes, including toilet seats, flush handle, taps, light switches and door handles. These wipes will be disposed of in open bins upon leaving the toilet corridor. Children under the age of 11 will be accompanied to the toilets by a parent/carer.
As part of our service on the first Sunday of every month, we will take communion.
We will encourage people to bring their own bread and juice for use by those in their household.
Bread and wine will not be shared in any way outside of households. Any rubbish or the cups used by individuals will be taken home with them and disposed of there.
There will be some bread and wine available for those who would like to take communion but have forgotten. This will be in separated small cubes of bread and juice in individual cups available as people arrive. People will have moments before sanitised their hands on entry and so the risk of passing on infection by picking up the bread is very low.
This bread will be prepared beforehand with the person doing so washing their hands then wearing gloves to cut the bread. Once the bread has been cut and laid out, it will not be touched by anyone apart from the individual who will then take it.
We will make available small cups for people to use who are bringing their own juice if they wish.
The leader will conduct the service from the front in the normal way but will not share the bread and the cup. The leader will seek to maintain the 3m distance from the front row.
The leader will also arrange his own bread and cup and wash them up afterwards.
People will remain seated throughout the communion service and only the leader will speak.
After the service
Attendees will remain seated until told to leave by a steward or the service leader. Stewards will ask people to leave one household at a time, through the side exit of the main hall in order to maintain the one-way system. A distance of at least 2m will be kept between different households at all times, with 2m distances marked out on the floor surrounding the exit. Attendees will be asked not to gather in groups outside of the church doors, in the car park, the exit passageway or immediately outside on the pavement, and to take care to maintain 2m social distancing at all times. Posters will be displayed throughout the building to remind attendees of this.
Wheelchair users will be assisted to exit the building via the main entrance, which has step-free access.
No refreshments will be served at any point, and groups will not be allowed to gather within the building.
The building will be thoroughly cleaned after the service.
Sunday evening meetings
We will also invite people to attended the morning service to attend an evening service provided that they all adhere to the same hygiene and social distancing measures and sit on precisely the same seats that their households used in the morning meeting. This will avoid the necessity for deep cleaning between these two meetings.
As we have recently been learning in 1 Peter we want to “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor”. (1 Peter 2:17)
We realise these restrictions may feel burdensome, legalistic or unnecessary but this is part of our honouring the authorities and loving one another. We do not ultimately fear the virus or trust in our strategies but we fear God and trust him to provide and protect.