Message from Tim
‘Everything is permissible for me – but not everything is beneficial’ (1 Corinthians 6:12).
That verse was cited on more than one occasion in our deacons’ meeting last week as we considered what our response should be to the lifting of legal restrictions on public worship (and pretty much everything else) on ‘Freedom Day’, 19th July.
The most recent government guidance says that we will not need to stay 2 metres apart from people with whom we do not live. There will also be no limits on the number of people we can meet. However, in order to minimise risk at a time of high prevalence, we should limit the close contact we have with those we do not usually live with, and increase close contact gradually. This includes minimising the number, proximity and duration of social contacts. We should meet outdoors where possible and let fresh air into homes or other enclosed spaces.
The requirement to wear face coverings in law will be lifted. However, the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport. There will no longer be restrictions on group sizes for attending communal worship … or restrictions on singing or dancing.
The emphasis has shifted from government diktat to personal responsibility, and for us as Christians, consideration of the wellbeing of those around us is a key priority for how we conduct ourselves – love for others constrains our freedom to do whatever we want. In forming our response as a church the deacons have also considered the fact that the number of Covid infections is increasing rapidly again and that a significant number of our congregation are extremely clinically vulnerable. We therefore want to take things slowly.
Lots of us have really missed being able to sing, and from 25th July onwards we will be free to sing together again. Yet loud singing entails quite forcible exhalation, and in a crowded indoor venue lots of people doing this would be dangerous. So please continue to wear a mask all the time you are in the building and to sing quietly behind it. To mitigate the effects of singing, we also intend to maintain a degree of social distancing, so chairs will still be spaced out in the main church, though you are free to sit together with others if you all agree to do so.
We are also encouraged to keep records of who attends church, so we would ask you please to continue to book in, either via the website (Home page > What We Do > Services > Sunday Services) or by ringing the church office before 4pm on a Friday. Please continue to sanitise your hands when you come into church. Do please give each other plenty of space when talking or when passing each other in the building. We will not be serving refreshments yet, and would encourage you to meet outdoors to chat together – maybe on the green by the car park.
In recent weeks we have had 50-70 people attending Family Worship, and we can’t fit many more people in downstairs with social distancing. From 25th July we also aim to move towards having two morning services. Running a second morning service will double our capacity, as well as providing two styles of worship which will engage people at different levels.
Family Worship will move back to 11:00am. This will be an interactive service, designed to include and involve people across the entire age range. At 9:30am, we would also like to invite you to a service with an emphasis on worship which enables us all to honour God, and on biblical teaching which offers practical guidance for everyday life, showing the way and unlocking the truth through the Holy Spirit, so that people are secure in God's holy word.
If you would like to be part of the team resourcing these services by working at the sound and projection desk on AV and providing the livestream, we would welcome your help – please let me know!
We look forward to welcoming you back to church as restrictions lift, but also fully accept that you may prefer to take your time and will wait until it feels safe before you return – and that is absolutely fine. We will continue to stream our services, and also, if you have not found them yet, can I point you in the direction of our weekly podcasts on 1 Peter (if you are logged into the website, you can find them at Resources > Downloads > Sermons And Podcasts).
We will also continue weekly messages in the bulletin. At the moment, I’m afraid we are not planning to resume evening worship onsite just yet. One idea is to renew our Engage and Equipped series online in the evenings – providing worship and teaching on Zoom, though we will have to assess whether this is feasible.
And of course, there is a lot more to church than meeting on a Sunday. Please keep your eyes open for opportunities to participate in a range of events we hope to arrange over the summer (suggestions welcome!). But from Monday you will be free to meet each other any place, any time, and we don’t need to organise that for you.
God bless – and enjoy!