Dear Friends – Coming back to church
It is now four months since we entered lockdown, embarking on a new way of life, including for our churches. As further guidance is released and some of the lockdown measures are eased, the United Reformed Church has issued guidance and expectations for churches returning to worship. It is very clear that the pandemic is not over and we must show loving actions to all through doing what we can to minimise the risk of infection from our premises and our interactions with each other. The Elders of both churches have been looking at the practicalities of returning to worship and wrestling with what a ‘new normal’ will look like. We are still hoping to return to worship at some point in September but this is subject to some risk assessments being completed and some changes being made, to protect everyone and stay aligned with government guidance and the current Covid rate of infection for Coventry. Ahead of a return to worship, we need to let you know that the Sanctuary, the format of worship and our interactions will need to be different to before.
Below, I outline how the look and feel of our time worshiping together in the church building will need to be. During the next few weeks, one of your Elders will call you to discuss how you feel about this and ask whether you will be comfortable to return to church or would rather continue joining together by CD, DVD, paper or using YouTube. Before deciding, you may be asked to consider a personal risk assessment produced by the URC and this is something that you can talk over with your Elder when they call. We have already agreed that both churches will continue with current systems for several months even if the churches are able to be opened for some.
So, if you come back to church to worship, what can you expect?
- Advice remains that 2m distancing is to be followed if possible, to avoid the spread of infection. As 2m distancing is viable in both our worship spaces and surrounding area, we will be adhering to this distancing recommendation. There will be markers outside and inside the church showing the 2m distance.
- The current rules are that face masks / coverings must be worn at all time in church unless you have an exemption. Shields do not count as a covering, as they do not fit securely round the side of the face.
- On arrival at church, you will be welcomed by a socially-distanced Elder wearing a face mask and for the foreseeable future we need to accept that a
friendly handshake, a hug or kiss is not appropriate as part of our welcome. A smile and a nod are what we need to do. You may be asked to wait in a socially-distanced queue as others enter the building. The practicalities may be different at West Orchard and Warwick Road as to a one-way system, hand sanitiser points and whether or not the toilets can be opened – these are subjects to be covered in the Church’s risk assessments.
- As you make your way into church you will be directed to a hand sanitising machine.
- If you are in a ‘bubble’ with anyone else coming to church, we would ask you to enter church with them.
- Only people in your ‘bubble’ will be allowed to drive you to church so unfortunately any usual rota system will be on hold for the foreseeable future.
We will be making a note of everyone who comes into church as part of a Track and Trace scheme. To keep your information secure, we will ask that you place your name and telephone number on a piece of paper which will be placed into an envelope on entry into the church. At the end of the service the envelope will be sealed and destroyed after 3 weeks. However, if we are notified that anyone attending the church shows Covid-19 symptoms we will contact everyone whose name appears in the envelope so you can selfisolate if you wish. We will follow guidance from the authorities about what to do in such an eventuality.
- When you have sanitised your hands, you will be directed either left or right to one of the side doors in the Sanctuary.
- The church will look very different. You will be directed to a seat in the Sanctuary, which will be set out in twos and some threes. If you are coming to church without anyone else from your household or ‘bubble’, we will ask you to sit alone. We will fill seats up from the back on each side to avoid people needing to walk close past anyone else. The spacing of chairs to meet the 2m requirement means there are fewer chairs in the Sanctuary.
- We anticipate that both Warwick Road and West Orchard will only be able to accommodate at most 50 people and we have to yet to consider what
happens if the number of attendees exceeds the number of people we can safely seat in the Sanctuary. Could we use the hall as an overflow, or have a booking system or turn people away once the Sanctuary is full? When you are called by an Elder you will be asked for your view on this.
- Current legislation means that during worship there will no singing. We may use recorded music to listen to.
- Worship services will almost certainly last less than one hour, and children and young people will remain within their ‘bubble’ at all times, although we are looking at what activities may be available to them in their seats.
- We are still considering in our risk assessments how and if to offer Holy Communion; more information on this will follow.
- At the end of worship, you will be asked to remain seated and then leave the Sanctuary by the same side as you came in.
- There will be a table with a plate for you to put your offerings on and also a box for you to put any project or food bank donations in.
- Please make your way out of the church building without standing to chat, to enable others to leave safely too.
There will no tea or coffee served after worship for the foreseeable future. We will continue to follow local and national guidance which may change our ability to open the church for worship at short notice.
Whilst we continue to all be a part of the family of God, our mission remains the same – to love one another as we are loved and to witness to that amazing love in whatever place and wherever we can. Things may seem different and even strange
when we next enter our church building to worship.
God bless and keep safe,