Last week, I warned that I may need to be a bit of a wet blanket with regard to ‘Freedom Day’. This week, I’m able to set out the positive steps we are now taking in the direction of a more familiar pattern of worship.
As of now, there are no Covid-specific restrictions on the numbers of people who can attend worship in the church building. We are limited for fire safety reasons to about 250, but other than that anyone who wants to come along just has to show up.
We are also now permitted to sing together and I must admit I was quite moved a moment ago when I included a hymn list in this sheet for the first time in what seems like an age just now. I have needed to make some judgements about how best to enable the maximum number of people to attend church safely and confidently, especially as infection rates continue to rise. The Church of England has given the responsibility for these judgements explicitly to Incumbents, so this has fallen on me personally, although I’m enormously grateful for the help I’ve received from the people I’ve consulted. (You know who you are!)
The full risk management documentation for this new phase of the pandemic can be downloaded by following this link:
A few of the important headlines are set out in the remainder of this letter.
Social distancing hasn’t gone away altogether. In the main part of the nave, there are areas indicated for seating with green ticks, and areas to avoid marked with red crosses. There are chairs in the north aisle (to your left as you enter) for individual people who want to be well apart from others. There are also chairs in the south aisle (to your right as you enter) for small groups who likewise want to keep their distance.
We can’t insist that people continue to wear face coverings, but we can ask, and we do ask. This is particularly important while we are singing, when the risk of airborne transmission is much higher.
We continue to offer opportunities for hand sanitising, and we encourage everyone to make use of these, especially as you enter the church building and before receiving the sacrament. Holy Communion will continue in one kind only for the time being and the ‘one-way’ system for returning to your seat remains in place, mainly as this works very smoothly as a means of distribution.
Above all, please be aware that there is a wide range of feelings in our community and enormously varied levels of confidence. With that in mind, please be sensitive to the possibility that some people may not wish to shake hands or hug and do respect their preferences. Please also continue to remain in your place to share the Peace.
May God bless you all,