After six months of lockdown, we are all now resigned to the rules changing continually, either nationally or locally.
Churches were recently allowed to re-open, subject to important social-distancing constraints. These are mainly about everyone present wearing face coverings, strict limits on who can sing, vocal responses during worship must be at low volume (so no raising a shout to the Lord!), dispersing promptly after services and, of course, at all times maintaining appropriate distancing between households. All of these constraints still apply.
At the time of posting people can only meet socially, indoors or outdoors, in groups of up to six people. But at present that doesn’t apply to church events in the church building.
So, where does this leave 360Life Church?
We have carried out a lot of work to ready the building for use again.
Firstly, a thorough risk assessment has been conducted. The resulting document sets out in detail how the building should be re-opened and used for future events. It has been approved by the church trustees and will be published this week on the church website.
Secondly, the building has been configured to be as Covid-safe as we can make it. As you would expect, this includes the provision of hand-sanitiser, a one-way system for moving around the building, processes for collecting contact data and work done to define the regular cleaning that will be necessitated.
All children under 11 must stay with their parent/carer at all times and be accompanied to the toilet during your visit, everyone must use hand-sanitiser on entry and upon exit (and after every use of the bathrooms), and all property brought into the building with you must be taken home again afterwards.
As with going anywhere in the current climate, travel to and from the building must be carried out in a safe manner, according to the rules.
Most importantly, you must stay away if you have any of the Covid symptoms – even if you think you have faith to believe that you haven’t actually picked up the virus!
Thirdly, the Stewarding Team has being trained in the new procedures for welcoming and looking after people attending events.
So, we are ready now to use the building.
There are some key points to bear in mind:
– We are totally committed to following government guidelines and regulations in full. This means that all of our schedules are subject to change as regulations change. We understand that some churches are choosing to flout the regulations but we will not be imitating them.
– Because of the social-distancing measures, the capacity of the building is no more than 30. This means that we will operate a booking system (by telephone or online on the website) for some events. Availability will be on a first-come, first-served basis. But we will try to give priority to people who were unable to get “seats” previously. You can’t just turn up and attend if all the tickets for an event have gone.
– We will continue to deliver all the online ministry that we are doing. The one exception may be the Thought for the Day videos, which we will continue to post three times a week for as long as we can.
Unless the rules change again, we will run a small number of pilot events during September and October. We will publish a “what’s on this week” bulletin every week.
The purpose of pilot events is to test that our procedures work properly and to learn from our experience. We will be seeking your feedback, good and bad.
In parallel we will be assessing the options for running online and buildings-based ministry in parallel, including more reliable live-streaming than we ever managed before lockdown.
Pilot events may continue, they may stop or they may get re-shaped into other kinds of events. This means that we should all try to have realistic expectations!
There will be four kinds of pilot events:
– Café-style during the daytime – mainly a chance to meet up
– The opportunity for our small groups, one at a time, to use the building to meet up in the evening if they wish.
– Some Tuesday evening prayer sessions
– Short Sunday services.
We don’t expect numbers to exceed the seating capacity for many of these events. So initially, booking will only be required for Sunday services.
Everyone, unless they are exempt, must wear face coverings while they are in the building and the car park. This applies to all events, except when seated at tables during the café events.
The Sunday services will be in addition to the usual online Sunday services.
Because of the limitations mentioned above, these Sunday services in the building will be short (45 minutes duration). To conform with regulations, only one or two people on the stage will be allowed to sing so the services will consist of “contemplative” worship with readings and a short sermon. It won’t entirely feel like the church of old but it will be an opportunity to engage meaningfully in a shared act of worship.
Government guidelines stress that socialising before and after the service should be kept to a minimum, even when social distancing. We can’t serve refreshments after Sunday services so we do ask you to leave the building promptly after events and to observe social distancing throughout, even in the car park.
We can’t create a 100% risk-free environment, so you should only attend these events if you are comfortable that the risk involved sits OK with the health vulnerabilities of yourself and your household.
We will soon be publishing, in all the usual places, the dates for these pilot events. The process for booking will also be explained then.
We will also publish today a video of Hayley walking around the building, explaining how it will all work.
As we enter this new phase of lockdown, let’s pray for God’s continuing blessing on all that we do together as church, online and in person.
Please talk to one of us if you have any comments or questions.
God bless you,
Kevin Todhunter & Hayley Wall & Andy Eadie