Most of those who read this letter will also have heard the Prime Minister announce, earlier this week, that churches would be permitted to re-open from 4th July onwards. This is, of course, exciting and encouraging news, and I’m sure that we all very much hope and pray that this is the next step in the steady return to a more familiar way of being church.
Most of you will also have many questions about how this will work in practice. I’m sorry to say that many of these questions can’t, at this stage, be answered. We are expecting further guidance from Government and from the national Church. Until we receive that guidance, the detail remains unclear. We have a plan, and we hope to be able to put that plan into action, but we need first to check it against the detailed instructions that we expect to appear early next week.
In the meantime, there are a few things that I need to make clear right here and now. I ask you please to read this information carefully, and share it as widely as you possibly can.
First, I need to say that notwithstanding the Government’s recent announcement, we will not re-open for public worship on Sunday 5th July. So please do not come along to church next Sunday expecting a service that is open to the public, whatever you hear or see on the news.
We are aiming to re-open for public worship during the month of July, but we’re not yet in a position to announce specific dates publicly. We hope to do so very soon, possibly in the next day or two. Please look out for further announcements in your email inboxes and on the website. We will also be contacting people by phone, giving priority to those whom we know are not able to access our online material.
e-Church will continue after we re-open. This will help those who still need to stay at home, but also continue our wider outreach, which is now seen and valued literally all around the world. These videos will also remain the place where we offer sermons. Once we re-open, though, e-Church will happen just once a week. Further opportunities to join in online worship will also be provided.
When we re-open for public worship, numbers able to attend will be limited by the need to observe social distancing and other hygiene restrictions. Therefore, those wishing to attend will need to contact the Parish Office to let us know. The Administrators will be keeping a list. Stewards at services will give priority to those on the list. We hope very much indeed not to have to turn people away, but this depends on everyone helping the system to work by letting us know their intentions. As services begin to ‘fill up’, you may be asked to attend a different service from the one you first enquire about. We will be asking you to pick one service a week that will be the one you generally attend.
At this stage, the last of these points is very much the most important. I cannot emphasise it strongly enough. I want to be able to welcome everybody into church who wants to be there – that is always my wish. With your help I’m sure we can make it work.
Please pray especially at this time for those folk who will be prevented from joining in the public worship of the church when it resumes. Some have died since last we celebrated together, and others may never be well enough to return. Still more will continue to shield themselves from the virus, which remains a grave threat. For these folk, the news that we will soon be re-opening will be tinged with sadness and regret. May they know our love for them and God’s love for us all.
May God bless you all,