I love our church and I can’t wait to meet together in person again. I miss seeing people and I miss our corporate times of worship and ministry. Although we have a great online church, this time of Lockdown is not something I’m enjoying at all.
Yesterday announcements were made about the lifting of some of the aspects of Lockdown from Saturday July 4th, and part of this related to church. Naturally some people are getting excited and have even asked when we plan to start meeting again on Sundays in person.
Let me say that, although I love the enthusiasm and I share it, we must remember when announcements are made that we only get headlines; the full guidance follows in long documents. All churches are unique and need to individually assess what is safe in accordance with the guidance to be issued and our own context. The manner and timing of ‘re-opening’ will undoubtedly vary a lot from church to church.
The latest updates are a mixed bag, and during our online communion on July 5th we will bring you fully up to date with our plans as they stand.
In the meantime, here are a few thoughts to keep you going for now:
Weddings are allowed again from July 4th … sort of
To get legally married people need to first declare their intent to marry a month in advance at the register office and then bring us their ‘blue form’ (this has always been the case – nothing new here). Sadly the register office is not yet open, so you can see the problem.
Weddings will need to follow Covid-19 Secure guidelines which mean that up to a maximum of 30 people can attend, all at a social distance. No singing is allowed so there will be no worship band. There will also be no food, no drinks and no party. Every surface will need to be cleaned afterwards. The toilets would probably have to operate a “1 in 1 out” system to avoid people coming into close contact.
In short, it’s mixed news and not straightforward. Despite these restrictions we look forward to seeing people legally married soon, especially James and Hannah, who’s plans have been delayed.
What about other meetings?
Meetings of up to 30 people will be allowed from July 4th … but only as long they follow the Covid-19 Secure guidelines. This means social distancing must be in place. It also means no singing, no handshakes, no hugging, and that all interactions with anyone you do not share a household with must be minimised. The points that apply to weddings also apply here (apart from needing a blue form 🙂)
In reality there are a lot more aspects to the guidelines as well, and we are probably still some way away from meeting together in person as a church for anything like a full Sunday meeting. I know this is frustrating and disappointing but remember:
Church is about more than our Sunday meetings; we are a family together
We are still the church even without being able to meet in our building.
So since two households are now allowed to get together indoors, you could take advantage of that to see people from church. You could even do it on a Sunday morning and enjoy online church together, but do bear in mind that you are still supposed to be socially distant, and you are not supposed to prepare food together or share utensils … and you shouldn’t really sing.
On days with good weather you can meet with up to five other people outside, and Life Groups could start to take advantage of this, but please remember that the same rules apply!
So how will we formulate our plans going forward?
Beyond the official guidelines, here are some key factors we need to consider:
1. The quality of what we do
When we start Sunday meetings in person again, whatever size they are and whatever form they take, the total experience needs to at least be as good as we get online. Thirty people wearing face masks, keeping away from each other and not allowed to sing does not tick that box for us! It would also not bless those involved or help us reach new people at all.
In the mean time we are always looking at Sundays online to see how they can continue to be improved.
2. Children and youth
This is a huge factor for us as a church because we love our kids and youth and there are a lot of them! Before we do anything we need to know that our children’s work can be delivered in a way that the children will safely enjoy, that parents and leaders will be confident in, and which will comply with all the relevant guidelines.
One of the main reasons we come together is to join together in an act of worship to God, and at the heart of this is our sung worship time. If singing is not allowed we may decide that we are better off staying as we are for a while longer.
We do want to be on the front foot with this, but being on the front foot isn’t the same as rushing back to what we had before. Instead it means listening to and embracing what God is doing at every step of the way, remembering that God’s people have been in various types of “Lockdown”, many times before … like Jonah, Daniel, Paul, Noah, Joseph and the whole nation of Israel at times too. God is in control of all our days. Let’s be patient.
In the meantime online church continues, so does online Alpha, prayer, kids work, youth work and Life Groups and more, and please remember: the Holy Spirit is not confused by Zoom or by the internet! God can still work in us and through us, and we can still meet with him.
In short, we are not in a rush to make changes, but neither do we want to delay unnecessarily. We will take all of these factors into account and make decisions in ways that are faith filled, sensible, legal, practical and will help us move forward together best as a church.
Please pray that God gives us great wisdom
For now, please put Sunday July 5th in your diary
That evening, at 6.30pm, we will have online communion together, led by my friend Tim Robertson from Compassion UK. This will be followed by a time of sharing updates and information from Welcome Church.
These updates will include the latest information relating to coming out of Lockdown, and also the details of an exciting staff change, and it will all be over by 8pm.
Don’t miss it!
But please know this: I do miss all of you.