Steps For Unlocking From Covid

Last week the government announced a plan for ‘unlocking’ as a nation following Covid. The plan consists of four steps taken at five-week intervals. On Sunday morning I talked about what this could mean for our Sunday meetings as a church, and below is another brief summary. This is an exciting time now with the end of restrictions perhaps in sight, though there could be some delays and changes. If all goes as planned, we might be holding full Sunday meetings, in person, this side of the summer.

Some Guiding Principles

To guide our thinking and planning as a church, we will follow three guiding principles:

  1. We will follow both the guidance, and the spirit of the guidance. Let’s remember that what’s permissible and what’s beneficial are not always the same. Technically we’re allowed to run in person meetings right now, but they’re heavily restricted and almost unrecognisable from how we would want to meet.
  2. We will keep an eye on how people in our church are feeling. We need to stay alert to how ready people are to attend meetings in person and also on how ready we are as a church to run them. The vaccine rollout seems to be going well in the UK, but many in our church are still waiting and may feel vulnerable.
  3. The pace does not need to be the same for every activity. We are not going to pressure ourselves to restart everything at once, especially in light of our Welcome Church Recovery Plan, built around the principles of Renew, Refresh, Rebuild. Some ministries may not restart until the autumn, and others may never restart.

The government plan consists of four steps, and we will make changes as a church in line with each of these steps:

Step 1 (March 8th & 29th)

Children go back to school from March 8th. During this stage we will continue our meetings online as a church, and will be working in the background to get our worship team up and running again with live worship.

From March 29th outdoor gatherings of up to six people (or two households if this is larger) are allowed, not just in parks but also in gardens. Once this happens Life Groups may want to take the opportunity for groups of 6 people to get together outdoors.

Step 2 (Earliest April 12th)

At this stage of unlocking we’ll see hair dressers return (hooray!) and non-essential retailers opening too. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and pools will also reopen, albeit with restrictions. In line with this step we intend to start an in person Sunday meeting. People will have a chance to book to attend each week and details will follow.

We don’t yet know what restrictions will be in place for church meetings at this point. We still expect numbers and activities will be very limited and most people will be watching online. Those who attend in person at that time will probably simply be present as we do the live stream.

Step 3 (Earliest May 17th)

At this point indoor gatherings of up to six people (or two households if this is larger) are allowed, which is great news for our Life Groups. Most indoor venues will re-open and groups of 30 can also meet outdoors.

At this step we hope to significantly enlarge the number who can attend on a Sunday. Many more of us will also have had the privilege of a vaccine by then too, so we may well see things really starting to open up. Again, we don’t know what restrictions will be in place for church meetings at this point, but we hope to see these easing and will make the most of whatever opportunities the regulations afford.

Step 4 (Earliest June 21st)

At this step legal limits will be removed on mixing and everything can reopen. Large events are allowed take place again too. There are likely to be changes to social distancing measures at this step, but details are still to be confirmed.

At this step we hope to return to more normal meetings and would want to restart kids work if we can. We will also need to reconsider what happens with our live stream.

Welcome Youth

At present Welcome Youth are having a great time online in small groups working through the NUA Film series. They will continue online for the remainder of this term, allowing our youth to re-adjust to school life without being overburdened with change. We want to ensure both the safety of our youth and the quality of their time together, so we plan to return to ‘in person’ youth meetings on Fridays in the summer term, all done under the guidelines in place at the time.

Remember: all of this is subject to change!

We plan to take our steps as a church in line with the four national unlocking steps. Each of these steps has a ‘no earlier than’ date and each will only go ahead after an official review. If one step is delayed they will all be delayed, and that could delay us too. We appreciate people being really flexible. Let’s all be praying that there are no delays.

Urgent: Let’s Gather To Pray

This Sunday evening (7th Feb) we have our next Welcome Church online communion. There are some key things we need to bring before God as a church right now, including some people who are very sick, so it’s going to be a bit different this time.

Please log on from 6.20pm to stay hello, and then from 6.30pm to 7pm I’ll lead us through a short message or encouragement from the Bible and into a time of celebrating communion. After this we will move into a one hour time of prayer together (7pm – 8pm) for some of these important issues.

Prayer is part of our Christian faith

Prayer is a privilege

Prayer is a joy

Prayer works

Make sure you don’t miss it!

Don’t forget we also pray online every Tuesday and Friday morning from 8.15am to 9am on the same Zoom code. You are very welcome join us.

Sunday Mornings: Going live at 9.45

This Sunday (24th Jan) sees the start of our new approach to Sunday meetings at Welcome Church with the launch of Live Streaming at welcomechurch.online. One, live streamed, weekly meeting will replace the pre-recorded meetings we’ve been creating each week since lockdown began last March.

We will be “going live at 9.45”

The new Sunday morning schedule means that the Welcome Kids meetings will be streamed at the new time of 9am, and you can then stay tuned for the full Sunday meeting afterwards.

Why switch to live streaming?

Live streaming does carry some risks and challenges! For example if the internet goes down at our building, or we hit up against some other technical issue, we could lose the stream. If we make mistakes we can’t edit them out 🙂. Live Streaming is also technically more difficult to deliver well and can’t be subtitled in advance. But there are some BIG advantages too, which relate to our Welcome Church Recovery Plan and will help us towards a return to normal church life:

We can all be together in real time

We will be live in real time and able to interact with one another more easily. We can more easily share family news and updates. We can all be ‘together’ in the same place at the same time (albeit online!)

Lots of us used to enjoy times of fellowship on a Sunday at the start and close of each meeting. Live streaming will allow us to recreate some of that community as we interact through the chat, which the meeting hosts will be able to see and respond to in real time.

Be aware though: it also means that if you miss the meeting when it’s live … you’ve missed it – so set your alarm clock and be there!

It will create a good ‘runway’ for the return to in person meetings

Live Streaming means that, when the time is right, people can attend the live streamed meetings in person. Of course, at the right time, we want to have everyone back in the building and return to a Biblical pattern of church life together, but that still seems to be some way off despite the vaccine. Live streaming will allow us to serve a congregation in the building and at home at the same time, and for us to still all be together as one church.

When restrictions ease enough so that in person meetings can be done in a safe and effective way, we will let you know and people will be able to book places.

Lets make the most of this live stream

Let’s all use this new opportunity to help RENEW our relationships with one another, to RENEW an increasingly Biblical pattern of church life together, to RENEW our sense of adventure together, to REFRESH our vision as Welcome Church, to REFRESH our rhythm of weekly life as a church, to REBUILD our faith for this mission together and to REBUILD our core Sunday meetings.

Live Streaming is a significant step towards our RECOVERY as a church. See you on Sunday, live at 9.45.

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.

The Big Welcome Church Survey

We absolutely do not lead our church by surveys or set our direction in response to popular opinion, but it’s very helpful to know what’s going on in people’s lives … especially in this season when we’ve been distanced from one another. Because of this, we’re doing a survey.

The survey is aimed at anyone who would say,

“Welcome Church is my church”

If that’s you, we would love to hear from you. It will take less than five minutes to complete, and here’s the link: click to access survey here

The results will help us improve how we serve and care for people going forwards, and will also provide fuel for our prayers. If you want your answers to be included the deadline is Sunday 11th October.

Community and Racism

We’ve lived through some difficult days with the challenge of Coronavirus, but events took place in the USA last week, which for many have overshadowed them all: the murder of a black man called George Floyd by four white police officers on the streets of Minneapolis.

Protests, some of them violent, have erupted across the USA. Even in the UK there have been protests and anger. This event has become a tipping point, pushing people to speak out and take action.

Racism is not unique to the USA of course; it happens in the UK too and many here feel angry; many experience racism on a daily basis. I believe we can and must do better than that within the church; I believe we can be a shining beacon in our town and our world.

So this Sunday at Welcome Church Online at 9am and 11am, I’m going to talk about how we can build a community together where everyone can be included, regardless of their ethnicity or the colour of their skin, and where Jesus’ Kingdom values can shine through. Everyone is invited to join us online on Sunday to hear more.

There are also two important events happening for us as a church on Sunday evening:

First: online communion online

We will be holding our next online communion  on Sunday 7th June at 6.30pm, for about 45 minutes. This is a great chance for us to build community together and will be on the same Zoom code as the prayer meetings, so do join us.

communion

It will be a ‘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.

Second: “Listening Together”, a chance to talk about race and the experiences of people in our church

listening TogetherWe celebrate and praise God for the diversity of cultures and heritages that make up Welcome Church. We are one in Christ Jesus. As a leadership team we’re very aware that we’re not a perfect church, and as we reflect on the shocking events and the damaging history of racism and prejudice in our world, it’s important that we make space to reflect on how these issues are relevant within our own church family.

This Sunday evening from 8pm to 9pm one of our elders Christopher Hawes, alongside one of our other leaders Nnamdi Anyaegbunam, will be hosting a conversation, which is open to anyone, with an emphasis on listening to those most affected by these issues. It’s an opportunity for us to grow and learn to love each other better, and to grow in our unity as a church family.

You are invited to join us on the usual Zoom codes. I’ll be there, and I look forward to seeing you.

In the mean time

I have resisted writing a blog about racism and our response, because other people have said it so well already. If you want some excellent reading about this, please check out these links:

And finally this video response from my friend Tope Koleoso who leads Jubilee Church in London:

Welcome Worship Online

Our online Sunday meetings have been well served with worship songs recorded by members of our Welcome Church worship team.

Some of these tracks are now available for you to listen to online via Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube. Please click here to access them.

Enjoy the worship, and don’t forget to follow us. More of the tracks we’re producing as a church will be added soon.

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Special thanks (so far) goes to to Simon Field (for filming the videos), Jo Petch, Owen Petch, Steve Tait and Sophie White (for making the music), and Owen again for mixing the sound.

More people will be getting involved in the weeks ahead, so look out for that too.

 

 

 

Going Online

We are a church family, whether we can meet together or not! At the moment, in line with government advice, our meetings and ministries are postponed until further notice, but that won’t last forever.

For now the office is closed, but we’re still available

  • The phone is diverted to a mobile, so you can still call it
  • E-mail is still in use, and you can contact the church on info@allwelcome.uk

I thank God for the technology that’s available to us today. Here’s an update on some of the plans for taking Welcome Church online. All the information you need is in this video, and there is a brief summary below as a reminder too.

Please do watch the video through to the end though 😃

A summary of the plans:

First, we’re reshaping the website:

You will see it change a lot over the next 24 hours, with adjustments being made to get us ready to function online.

Second, pastoral care:

We need to pray for one another and care for one another at this time. Life Groups will set up Whats App groups, and to to help people communicate centrally with us as a church, we’ve set up a new email address: care@allwelcome.uk

Please use that address to let us know when Coronavirus is impacting on you and your family. This goes straight to the pastoral team. We can’t fix everything that may happen, but we can pray and get others to pray too.

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A Plan For Sundays

On Sundays we will meet online. This will develop over time, and this Sunday it will work as follows:

  • At 10am a preach will go live on our website (www.allwelcome.uk) for you to watch or listen to, while others do the same at home too. Why not post comments as you listen along?
  • The Welcome Kids team are working on something for the children. Details are still being finalised for that so watch this space
  • Because we’re not able to meet together physically, we’re not in a position to stream worship right now, so on Sunday why not use Spotify or YouTube to find some worship songs you love and get into God’s presence before you watch the preach?
  • Youth are making a plan for Friday evenings too, and they will communicate that directly to our young people

Daily Encouragement

From tomorrow (Thursday 19th March) we plan to post a short daily encouragement video and podcast on our website at about 4pm each day (Mon to Sat).

  • This is intended to serve both us and our town more widely. Please be ready to share it with anyone you think it would help, perhaps by email or on social media.
  • This daily video will appear on the church website, perhaps on this blog, and also on our Facebook Page (NOT THE GROUP – see below for info!)
  • We will also share it on Twitter and hopefully via Instagram, so do follow us

There’s a lot of fear and worry about right now. This is a chance for us to step up and pastor our town; these videos will help with that.

Regular Communications

As time goes by there will be other messages we need to communicate. These will be posted in the Facebook GROUP, and will also come out by email. Please take the time to read and watch them so you know what’s going on.

An encouragement:

1 Peter 5v6-7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

The nations have been humbled at this time by a virus too small to see with the human eye. It didn’t take much for it to happen!

We may have all sorts of anxieties, but we also have a Heavenly Father who loves us and cares for us. He has not forgotten us. He will not abandon us. Let’s submit calmly to His will for our lives in this season, knowing that he loves us and will raise us up again in his own time. And let’s pray for our nation and our government.

And remember: the church was made for a time like this

(** For clarity: we have a FaceBook PAGE and a separate GROUP.

The GROUP has a pink logo and things posted there can only be seen by others in the group; it’s great for internal communication and fun.

The PAGE has a purple logo and can be seen by anyone in the world with access to the internet – it’s great for public communication. If you want to see what’s posted on the page it’s best to go to it and ‘like’ the page.

I know some people have been confused by this in the past! 😃)