Changes To Our Sunday Meetings

Since the pandemic began we’ve made regular adjustments to how we run Sunday meetings, and this will continue in the months ahead. Remember, we only restarted 9am and 11am meetings with kids work eight weeks ago. As it stands we’re still on a journey towards a new normal, so this September we’ll be taking some more steps towards that with some small adjustments as follows:

  • From this Sunday (19th Sept) we’ll still meet at 9am and 11am, but we’ll now be aiming for meetings that are 1hr 15 mins in length (which is pretty much what they’ve actually been all along šŸ˜ƒ)Ā 
  • We may begin to reduce the size of the socially distanced seating area since less people want to use it for this purpose. We will ensure there is enough space there for all those who feel the need for it
  • Children will continue to be in for the worship time and then go out to their groups, but their groups will now run until 10.30am for the first meeting and 12.30pm for the second meeting. This will give us 15 minutes that we can use for prayer ministry, for catching up with one another and for people to have tea/coffee together before collecting children
  • From Sunday 26th September we will reintroduce tea/coffee after each meeting
  • We will also reintroduce communion regularly on a Sunday, and begin to make space to pray for people in person too

Because we’re being warned that the pandemic is ‘far from over’ and that some restrictions might be reintroduced, we’ll continue to broadcast the 9am livestream for now (although we do encourage everyone who can attend in person to do so). We’ll also be ready to make further changes as needed, in line with official guidance for churches.

It goes without saying that we should all be careful and vigilant. If you have symptoms of Covid or have tested positive for Covid in the last ten days (with or without symptoms) you should not attend in person; this is not going to be a winter to ‘push through that cold and keep going’!

As we make changes let’s remember that we are a charismatic church; we should expect to encounter Godā€™s presence and for people to use spiritual gifts; we want the genuine presence and power of God to be experienced by us all. With this in mind, although worship times are still a little shorter, let’s expect some God focused, encouraging contributions to help us in our worship. All we ask is that you come forward and use the microphone so everyone, including the livestream, can hear you.

I’m looking forward to an exciting autumn as we continue our new preaching series, I’m looking forward to meeting with my church family, I’m looking forward to encountering God’s presence and I’m even hopeful that we might get to celebrate Christmas together this year too.

Plans For Sunday Meetings At Welcome Church From Sunday July 25th

On Monday 19th July we reach step 4 of the national unlocking plan and we’ll be getting closer to holding ‘normal’ Sunday meetings. Personally I’m excited and raring to go, and at the same time I recognise some of us will be more cautious, especially with rising Covid case numbers.

We want everyone to feel confident to attend, so to help bring reassurance where it’s needed here’s our plan for how things will work. This plan covers things we will stop, things we will start and things we will change. There are also some Covid safety measures listed at the end to help reassure people further. As always this is all subject to change if the guidance changes.

What stops from July 25th

Online kids work will not take place from that day onwards.

You will no longer be required to sit socially distanced from other people, unless you want to.

You will no longer need to book to attend or register on arrival; just turn up.

What starts from July 25th

In person kids work, including creche, restarts that day, with Sunday youth work to commence from September.

You will be free to stand up and sing during the worship … at last!

You will be free to pray for people and to be prayed for as appropriate.

Breaking news:

We will create a specific ‘socially distanced’ seating area for people who would like to use it, where face masks will also be worn. This will be situated at the back, near to the car park doors, and you will be able to enter and leave that way to avoid getting close to too many people. For everyone else we recommend using the front doors, as we did before the pandemic.

What changes from July 25th

Instead of one meeting at 10am, we will have two meetings which will be at 9am and 11am. These will each be around one hour in length.

The livestream will operate for the 9am meeting only, and will no longer have a chat feature. This means that for now you can still choose to watch online if you need to.

Children will stay in the meeting with their parents during the worship time, before going out to their groups, giving them a much shorter time in kids work or creche than before the pandemic. We will register your kids on arrival at the meeting so do try to arrive in good time if you can and please use the front doors and not the car park doors for this.

Face masks will no longer be legally required, however government guidance recommends they are worn in crowded indoor areas. With this in mind we encourage you to wear a mask on arrival, on leaving and when moving around the building, such as going to the toilet or collecting your children. We will not be policing this, so our encouragement is that we each seek to be responsible and to care for others where we can, remembering that face masks are mainly worn to protect other people and not ourselves. Once you are seated you will be free to remove your face mask or to continue wearing it as you see fit, except in the socially distanced seating area where masks will be required.

Some Covid safety measures

There are several things we’re doing to help keep people safe:

1. Our heating and cooling system has been set to ‘extract’ mode and is not recycling any air. This means that we will be sitting in a flow of new air, and what we breathe out will be slowly drawn upwards and out of the building – this has been the case since meetings restarted.

2. Our hand sanitisation stations will remain in place and we encourage you to use them.

3. The meetings are shorter than they would be in normal times, reducing your exposure time to others.

4. There will be a longer gap between meetings leading to less crowding.

5. Despite reduced numbers being expected as many people will be away during the summer, we are holding two meetings in order to create as much space as possible and avoid overcrowding.

6. We will not yet be serving refreshments, so bring your own tea, coffee or water – this will avoid crowding around refreshment tables.

7. We encourage you to use the outside areas to socialise, including the car park, the area outside the front, and the areas between the two buildings.

Full steam ahead?

We are hoping this is now full steam ahead on the road to normality but we must bear in mind two things:

  1. We don’t know if there will be future restrictions put in place if cases rise or new variants emerge, especially as we head into the autumn
  2. No specific guidance for churches has been issued this time. If that does come out it’s possible we’ll find something that affects our plans; if that happens we will let you know.

It’s been an incredibly difficult time for us all during the pandemic and there have been losses along the way. We’ve also been warned that the pandemic is ‘far from over’.

With all this in mind let’s enjoy this new freedom as much as we can and as responsibly as we can. I’m excited to get back to worshipping God together in person again and I hope to see you all there.

Unlocking – Our Revised Plans

On Monday this week the government announced a delay to the national plan for unlocking, with step 4 being delayed from Monday 21st June to Monday 19th July. Whatever we each feel about the delay, let’s be praying for our government as they make difficult decisions in the face of competing pressures on all sides.

Our original plan as a church had been that from Sunday June 27th we would return to holding 2 in person meetings each Sunday, at 9am and 11am, with kids work included and no need to book. The delay to step 4 impacts on these plans which now need to be delayed and adjusted.

Our new plan

For the next five Sundays, up to and including Sunday 18th July, we will continue just as we are. We will have one in person Sunday meeting at 10am each week, which will also be live streamed. Booking is now open for all of these Sundays, and you can access the booking system by following this link. Why not book right now to attend them all?

Remember, we can now sit in groups of six people, or groups of two households, so feel free to find someone else to book in with. Maybe you could encourage someone who hasn’t attended in person yet to come with you and sit together; you may be just the encouragement they need.

From Monday July 19th the church offices should reopen. We haven’t opened them yet because the official government advice is still ‘work from home if you are able to’, and most of the time we can. When that advice changes we will change and we expect that to be from July 19th as step 4 is reached.

From Sunday July 25th, the first Sunday after step 4, we will commence a plan to hold 2 in person Sunday meetings each week, at 9am and 11am, with children’s work included and (unless some official guidance says otherwise) no need to book. Our hope is that as step 4 is reached we will no longer be required to wear face masks and that we will be able to stand and sing together.

July 25th will be a special day for us

Obviously July 25th is the first Sunday of the school holidays, so in some ways it’s not ideal for making any big change. We know that some people will undoubtedly be away. Despite this, July 25th will be a special Sunday for us as a church for several reasons:

1. We will reopen fully as a church that day

It’s been a long time coming, but I can’t wait for us to be back together. Over the summer the meetings will be one hour in length, with a one hour gap to allow people to chat and socialise. We will hold two meetings each week to make sure we’re not too crowded when we get together, which may be important to some who have felt nervous about returning in person. Our live stream will continue during this time as well for those who need it.

2. We will restart our children’s work that day

Our kids have missed out on so much over the last year and they now need to be a high priority for us all. Starting children’s work will help to make church meetings more accessible for those with families and it will be good for our children. When we start the children will join us in the adult meeting for a short worship time together before they go out to enjoy a shorter children’s work together.

3. We will have baptisms that day

These baptisms will be a great celebration of what God has done over the last few months. If you’re a Christian and haven’t been baptised since you came to faith in Jesus, baptism is for you. If want to know more then please get in touch here. We would love to chat to you about baptism.

4. We will hold a ‘Back to Church’ Summer Social that afternoon

On the afternoon of July 25th, from 12.30pm to 4.30pm we will hold a fun social event for the whole church. This will be an open air event with all food and drinks provided free of charge, along with bouncy castles and games for the kids. This will be a great chance for us all to get together and catch up with friends after such a long time. All you will need to bring is a chair or blanket to sit on. Details of the venue and how to book will be out soon.

Making the most of this time

This latest delay is disappointing for us all. It means we all have longer to wait for normality and it means we’re now restarting our fuller in person church meetings, with children’s work, just as the school holidays begin, which is a traditionally quiet time of year for us as a church and not a great moment to begin anything.

Despite all of this let’s do what we can to make the most of the season we’re in. Remember that you can meet indoors with six people or two households, and outdoors with groups of 30. Why not make the most of this to catch up with people in person? Why not meet in person as a life group too?

As we do this let’s not forget our Welcome Church Recovery Plan for 2021, of which this is just one small step. You can read more about that here.

And let’s all bookmark Sunday July 25th if we can.

What Might Unlocking Mean For Welcome Church?

On Monday the government announced a “Four Step” process for unlocking as a nation following the pandemic. This Sunday morning at Welcome Church Online I’m going to be sharing news about how these steps affect us as a church, and about the principles behind our plans for returning to in person meetings.

Each week we go live at 9.45, and this information will be shared at some point before 10. Make sure you don’t miss it!

Some Key Welcome Church Updates

In case you missed them here are some updates from our Welcome Church family regarding elders, staff, the new Lockdown and Sunday meetings:

New Elders

At our vision focus evening we were delighted to propose two people to join our eldership team: Nnamdi Anyaegbunam and Robin Willison. Both of these are a real gift to our church and a model of godly leadership and life; we recommend them to you wholeheartedly.

We would love to hear your endorsement of these choices and equally, if you have any Biblical concerns, please let us know. How and when they will be appointed during Covid remains to be seen!

Staff Changes

Rhea John and Peter Leach have both now left our employment. They had been on furlough for a while as their roles were not possible during Covid.

Rhea has secured a much sought after job in London as a civil servant, a role she was pursuing before she joined us. Peter has now officially retired. We will miss them around the offices, but they will remain part of our church family.

Impact Of The New Lockdown

The new Lockdown has impacted some of what we do:

  • The church offices are closed for the next four weeks with all staff working at home
  • Recruitment of new staff (bearing in mind that Ben Martin, Peter Leach and Rhea John have all left us during Lockdown!) has been put on hold until the crisis has passed. This will both help us financially and allow us to fully assess what roles we need most for the future.
  • Welcome Youth had planned to start ‘in person’ meetings this week, but this will be delayed until this Lockdown ends. Youth Alpha starts online tonight, so pray for them
  • Our day time Life Groups were working towards some in person meetings in the building and these will now also be delayed until after Lockdown

Some things remain unchanged:

  • Sundays will continue online as before
  • Prayer meetings will continue online on Tuesday and Friday mornings
  • Our Life Group refresh will continue as planned
  • Baptisms can go ahead as planned unless the Lockdown is extended
  • Our new Leadership Development course continues online

Live Streaming on Sundays

At Vision Focus I announced our intention to move away from a ‘pre-recorded’ approach to Sunday meetings and towards Live Streaming, with whatever congregation we are allowed to have ‘in person’, from early January.

It is possible (not definite) that the start date may be delayed slightly because we need to do significant technical training for some volunteers, and Lockdown 2 is making that difficult. Regardless, our direction of travel remains the same.

Coronavirus

Finally, please pray for Alan and Beryl Hunwicks. Alan is a former elder and a current trustee of Welcome Church, and Beryl is a local councillor and the Mayor of Woking.

Alan fell down a flight of stairs and has been in hospital. Sadly we heard today that he now has Coronavirus with some clear symptoms. The hospital are unsure how he caught it. He has been transferred to the Covid ward. Please pray for Alan’s full recovery, and also for Beryl, who is not allowed to visit.

And remember …

… in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purposes. (Romans 8v28)

We are not abandoned or forgotten. God is at work for his glory and his purposes, even now.

New elders, staff changes and a plan for Sundays

On Sunday 18th October at 7.30pm, for about one hour, Welcome Church will hold an online Vision Focus meeting. These meetings provide a great opportunity for us to look ahead and share news and vision for the church.

This one will take place on Zoom, and login details will be publicised nearer the time; in the mean time please put the date and time in your diary.

There are three main things we need to talk about that evening:

We have two new elders to propose to the church

We have some staff changes to announce

We want to update you on plans for our Sunday meetings

There are a few other things to mention as well, so don’t miss it!

A New Staff Team Member

During our online communion meeting on Sunday evening, it was my privilege to announce a new staff member for Welcome Church. From September 1st Christopher Hawes will leave his role as a full time teacher to join our staff team. Chris will focus on preaching & discipleshipĀ and also on leading & developing the creative elements of all we do as a church.

hawesChris is married to Sarah and they have three young children. He’s already part of our eldership team, and I’m delighted that someone who carries our DNA as a church is going to be available to focus on this key role full time.

Chris will be undertaking our new Commission training courses,Ā starting at level 3 and working through to the level 4 masters degree. By the way … there are some great courses available through Commission, including an internship year you could do at Welcome Church. Do let me know if you’re interested.

Chris and Sarah are a big gift to our church family. In addition to her work as an actress, puppeteer and motion capture artist, Sarah regularly hosts our online meetings and helps develop others in this too. Sheā€™s also part of the leadership of Welcome Kids.

I believe we have a good future together as a church. Coronavirus will not last forever.

This appointment will release significant time for me in my own role, and Chris will also be looking to develop other people in their gifts. I believe this appointment will serve us as a church in many ways and will help shape us for the years to come.

 

Staff Change, Unlocking & Compassion

This Sunday we have our Welcome Church online Communion meeting, and everyone is welcome to join us. It starts at 6.30pm and all the information is in the picture below.

The communion part of the evening will run until 7.15pm, and will be followed by a short time of updates and information, finishing before 8pm.

communion 2

The communion will be led through by Tim Robertson from Compassion UK and will include updates on the projects we’ve supported in Togo.Ā Please provide your own bread and wine (or suitable alternatives) and join us with all the family on zoom.

When Communion finishes I will share the latest news and updates for Welcome Church. This will finish by 8pm and will include:

  • Details about unlocking and how it affects our Sunday meetings going forwards
  • An exciting new staff change that will really bless our church

See you there!

And don’t forget to join us for Welcome Church online each Sunday at 9am and 11am, with kids work at 10am.

Moving Out Of Lockdown???

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 mustĀ 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.

communion 2

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 meanĀ 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.Ā 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 inĀ 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 šŸ™‚)

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 Ā 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.

3. Worship

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 isnā€™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.Ā  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.

 

 

 

 

Making changes, keeping things fresh

We have been living and we continue to live through unprecedented times. None of us have walked this road before; none of us know what’s ahead.

In order to serve people well as a church, in addition to our Welcome ChurchĀ online Sunday meetings, kids work, youth work and Life Groups, we quickly introduced two new things when this situation began:

  1. A daily encouragement video
  2. Twice daily prayer meetings on Zoom

These have both been running for just short of ten weeks now. The positive feedback from the encouragement videos has been appreciated, and I’ve been amazed at people’s faithfulness to log on and pray faithfully, as well as at the many answers to prayer. We’ve also held online communion which has been well received.

Thanks to everyone who has taken part and to everyone who has worked to make these things happen – especially to Darren, to Ethan and to our subtitling team

As Lockdown eases – (and who knows what may happen in the next few weeks) – we want to make sure that what we do as a church stays fresh, is sustainable over the long term and serves people well.

We are all aware of changes happening in our country as more people are now going back to work and as the range of reasons we’re allowed out has been expanded. We are also more used to Lockdown, and no longer in a state of shock and panic.

Review

With all this in mind we’ve done a review taking into account a range of different factors including:

  • Changes in the level of engagement as people have gone back to work or have simply gone out more, especially on a Saturday (we have numbers and trends for every video and prayer meeting!)
  • A desire to keep things fresh and helpful (it’s always better to change things before they get stale and not to wait until after they do)
  • The reality of needing to do things sustainably over the long haul (and it may be some time before we’re free to meet together in person, perhaps not until next year)
  • A need to avoid burning out the team Ā (and it’s got too close for comfort along the way, in more than one case)
  • The fact that if we’re doing one thing with our time & resources, we can’t do something else with the same time & resources (this is called “opportunity cost”; put simply, sometimes doing something good can stop us from doing something great)

time-for-change-sign-with-led-light-2277784

As a result of this review we’re making some changes, and we’re also introducing something new …

A change to the Zoom Prayer Meetings

From Monday 25th May onwards we will be holding our prayer meetings online once a day, Monday to Saturday, from 8.15am – 9am. That’s a lot of prayer meetings every week, and my encouragement is for people to come to at least one each week if you can, and let’s expect to see God answer our prayers

This time can be made to work for the vast majority of people. I know that some will be disappointed to lose the 1pm, slot, but it’s worth bearing in mind that when we had that time, there where others disappointed by the lack of an evening slot!

A change to the Daily Encouragement videos

The current run of daily videos will be ending on Monday 25th May, after almost ten weeks. Thanks to all who have made them possible and thanks for the feedback.

From the week commencing Monday 1st June we will begin ‘Encouragement from Welcome Church’ as a twice weekly video, probably on Tuesdays and Fridays at 4pm.

These encouragement videos will be a mix of news and Biblical encouragement. Don’t miss them if you want to stay up to date and encouraged!

And now for something completely new

From the week starting Monday 1st June I am delighted to announce the launch of a new ministry called:

Forerunners

female-and-male-runners-on-a-marathon-2402777Forerunners is our new ministry aimed at anyone from age 60 and upwards. It is intended to help people build friendship and connection with one another and to grow in God. Some aspects will be social, many will be more ministry based.

Forerunners will be led by Tony and Pat Hewatt, along with a team, and they have a desire to release people into all God has for them in this season of life. They will say more about their vision and plans in the weeks ahead.

Pat and Tony want to be clear that, although this is aimed at people from 60 and upwards, all the meetings are open to anyone of any age who wants to join in.

Initially Forerunners will start online on Tuesdays and Thursdays at lunchtime, so bring your lunch and be online ready to eat, chat and pray. The exact details and timings will be communicated in the coming days.

I’m so pleased that we’re able to kick this off during this time of Lockdown, and I know that there are a good number of people in our church who will appreciate it, including some who will miss the 1pm prayer slot.

Please feel free to invite other people to join in too, wherever they are from. This is not exclusive for Welcome Church: all welcome; come as you are.

Don’t forget

Welcome Church online continues each week at 9am and 11am. Welcome Kids is at 10am each week. Youth is on Friday evenings. Most Life Groups are also meeting every week.

If you are looking for connection to people and to God there are many places to find it so no one need miss out.

One last thing: communion online

We will be holding our next communion online on Sunday 7th June at 6.30pm, for about 45 minutes. It will be on the same Zoom code as the prayer meetings, so do join us.

It will be another ‘Come as you are communion’, so do log on as a family and bring your own bread and wine (or Ribena or whatever). Please put it in your diary now, and I look forward to seeing you online.