In Response to Questions: Opening Church
Since the Covid lockdown, we have not been allowed to use our churches for prayer and worship. The nature of our meetings and gatherings make covid
us particularly vulnerable to the spread of Covid 19. This decision to close places of worship was a difficult one, but it was decided right for the safety and well being of not just the congregation, but also the clergy and anyone who is employed to work in our churches.
As time has gone on and our distance from our last communion lengthens we have struggled. We feel a longing and a pull drawing us back. We miss the building, we miss our church family and we miss the sacraments. And as our society starts to relax it's policies and things start heading back to normal, many questions are raised about how we can return to church. Questions we've received from members of the congregation include comparisons to retail shops, and as, if they are open and allowing X number of people in, why can't we? We have a large building and a relatively small congregation, why can't we now go back to having services?
Part of the answer to this is about the law, and what churches are permitted to do by parliament and the bishops. Currently if acts of worship were to take place, it would be breaking the law, and you can read more about this here, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-during-the-pandemic/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-during-the-pandemic
Another part of the answer can be found in advice from the scientific communion around safe gatherings and Covid 19. If you forgive this article being American, you can read more here https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/03/what-is-safest-gathering-size-coronavirus-wrong-question/
But the bottom line is, the longer you spend with people from outside your household, the greater your risk.
We are a community who meet in Jesus' name, and who aim to share his life. Part of our mission is to show God's love through our lives, and to care for the sick, the poor and the vulnerable, and if we are truly about care, and love, than it doesn't take too much to realise that abstaining from meeting is the best thing to do during this crisis. This does not mean we stop being the church. This is does not mean we stop communicating, praying, or doing acts of service. It means we need to consider how we can do these in new ways, in safe ways for our health and the health of our neighbours.
As policies relax, and as the risk reduces, we will be able to do more together. But for now we must act with patience and gentleness. We are now allowed to open for private prayer if it is appropriate for our community. Many churches won't, but for us, but after completing a risk assessment, and putting in place a cleaning policy, we think this is a safe step for us. And so, we will be opening twice a week to start on Thursday and Sunday evenings 5-7pm.
This is a good step forward, and if we can continue being sensible, in good time, we will soon be able to return to services. We continue to pray for all those who involved in decision making, for keyworkers and those who continue to shelter.