Hope you are keeping well.
Janet, Hannah and I have met together and completed a risk assessment to see if we can reopen the Church to meet with the Government guidelines of Private Prayer only (and small funerals). We feel it is safe to do this once a week at present (any more regularly and you have to give the Church a deep clean each time) but I must clarify this has to be only for Private Prayer. It is not an opportunity for social gatherings or coming in to catch up on Church jobs. We have rearranged all the Church furniture to enable social distancing and to hopefully create a prayerful atmosphere. If you are in one of the vulnerable groups that could easily get the virus, the government guidance is that you should not enter the Church, and clearly if anyone is showing any Covid symptoms then they must not enter. There will be no access to the kitchen and toilet (apart from those staffing the building). I won’t go through all the ‘ins and outs’ of the risk assessment here as we will have notices in place on Monday to make it clear to people entering the building. But please be assured we are only reopening as we feel it is safe if people follow the guidelines we’ll have set. If we didn’t feel this was possible we clearly wouldn’t be reopening.
We are starting small. So at the moment only Monday mornings from 10-12 and Janet and I will staff this. I am hoping in the next two weeks we will receive Govt instruction about whether Sunday worship can return in July. If we can return for Sundays in July, then we will clearly need to stop the Monday opening as well due to the need for deep cleaning (if left unopened for 72 hours the building won’t need a deep clean).
In regards to the possibility of a Sunday reopening, we are bound to receive guidance that will say a Church service must have limited numbers (I am guessing they will say 20 – 25 people). How we staff this will be interesting! Even when we do reopen, I know many people will still feel very ‘on edge’ about being around others and won’t want to return till later in the year. It would be nice to get a sense of what people are thinking on this as it would help the PCC’s decision to know what is best to do, when we can return on a Sunday. We clearly don’t want to reopen if no-one is feeling safe to return! At present, the diocesan guidance on reopening for Private Prayer is optional, and I am guessing this will be the case when the Govt say we can return for Sunday worship. The Bishop is likely to say only reopen if you feel it is safe to do so. So please do email me your feelings on whether you would like to return to Church at the earliest Sunday opportunity or not (if you know someone not on email, can you please help with some phoning round to spread the word – thanks). This would help us plan when we could potentially reopen for Sunday worship. If I don’t get many replies to this, I will assume you are very uneasy about returning to Church, although I appreciate the national picture changes daily and what you currently feel now may be very different come July.
In regards to Private Prayer, clearly we can do this anywhere throughout each day (which is what the filmed services have been encouraging) but if coming back in to Church the next couple of Monday’s will give you a massive boost in what has been a tough 3 months, then Janet and I look forward to seeing you. But please do remember, it won’t be for lengthy social conversations as we all need to keep a distance and we want this to be a prayerful atmosphere so will need to respect those in Church appreciating the peace and the time of prayer (we will clearly say ‘hello’ to you though – we won’t be rude!!)
God bless – keep well and safe