As we navigate through these unprecedented times the Elders have been guided by four key principles. We want to protect everyone’s health, nurture their spiritual growth, maintain our unity as one church and continue to be a good witness to Christ in our community.
On 4th July the government issued their guidance for the safe re-opening of church buildings. This guidance included;
- 2m social distancing must be maintained at all times where possible.
- Congregational singing is currently not allowed
- People should not raise their voices
- All those who are over 70 or shielding should not attend places of worship
As Elders we prayerfully discussed what we might do and decided that we would continue with our Online Services, Midweek Messages and Zoom Home Groups. In addition to these we proposed to start a Prayer Meeting in the church building from Sunday 26th July. At the time we felt this would be within the letter and spirit of the guidance.
On 9th July the government updated and clarified their guidance for churches. In this updated guidance they emphasised that social interaction between different households should be kept to a minimum when attending a church event. To quote the guidance “wherever possible [households] should try not to engage in conversation with anyone outside of this group.”
The limit on social interaction would apply to our car park as well as inside the church building because under the law the car park is considered part of the place of worship. This clarification means that there would be no opportunity to chat with one another either before or after the meeting. We think this would make a prayer meeting feel very impersonal.
Having sought the advice of the FIEC we believe that the current restriction on social interaction combined with the requirement for people not to raise their voices means that presently a normal BEC prayer meeting where everyone is free to pray would not be realistic. The current guidance seems to assume that, for now, only the person leading the meeting will speak.
Since our last update we have also looked at the realistic capacity of our building with 2m social distancing. We had initially estimated that we could seat up to 30 people in the building. Having experimented with several different seating arrangements we have realised that our capacity would be less than we previously thought. When the chairs are set out in rows our maximum capacity is 25. If the chairs are set out in a horse shoe spread around the edge of the room then the maximum capacity is only 17. This would mean that currently only a small proportion of the church family would be able to attend a prayer meeting in our building.
Having considered all these factors we have decided not to start a prayer meeting in the church building during July and August. We know this will be disappointing for some who are keen to meet. We hope you can understand why we feel a prayer meeting in our church building is not realistic at this time.
The situation and the government guidance is constantly changing and so, as Elders, we continue to prayerfully consider how and when we can begin to gather again as a church family.
In the coming weeks we are meeting with staff at Hall Cross to discuss how and when we might be able to begin to use the school on a Sunday whilst following all the government guidance. This will require a lot of planning and preparation to ensure that those who gather are safe and those who cannot continue to benefit from our Sunday ministry. Exploring the opportunity of meeting at Hall Cross will be our priority going forward because a Sunday service there would benefit more people than a Prayer Meeting in the church building.
Any of the Elders would be happy to discuss this further with you if you have any questions.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all
Jonathan (on behalf of the Elders)