As you may be aware, last month the government announced that churches could be re-opened for public worship from 5th July. I am sorry that it has taken us until now to let you know what we plan to do at Christ Church. Unfortunately, government guidance was not published until the end of June / beginning of July. We then had to wait for guidance from the Church of England and from our own Diocese, before we could have a PCC meeting to discuss what all this means for our church.
Public worship is, once again, possible and it can even be a Eucharist, although only the bread can be received and lots of precautions need to be taken. Most of the restrictions that applied to re-opening for private prayer will still apply. Singing is not allowed and worshippers would be expected to leave as soon as possible after the service. We would not be able to have the children’s corner and children would not be allowed to move about the building. The text of the service would need to be projected onto the screen, as we wouldn’t be able to use the worship booklets.
Some churches resumed public worship on 5th July, others have since resumed and yet others, like us, are planning to do this at a later date.
Christ Church is loved by many because it feels like a country-style church, even though we are in a big city. Unfortunately, this now poses additional challenges to us. The main ones are:
Our two doors share one porch and so it will not be easy to design a one-way system at Christ Church
Ventilation in our church is not great
Having pews rather than chairs, means that it is very hard to stop people from touching surfaces while in church. This would make it very hard to clean efficiently in between services, making it difficult, if not impossible, to have more than one service in a day. This means that we would not be able to have a Eucharist and an All Age service on the same day.
We normally have around 50 adults, not including children, attend services on any given Sunday. Social distancing would mean that we could have no more than 9 households in church at any one time for a service. This means that only a relatively small number of people would be able to attend a Sunday service. How do we manage this in an effective and fair way? And what would we provide for those who can’t attend, either because there is no space in church or because they are shielding? So far, we have been recording services and making those available via our website and Facebook page. Mtr Ariadne would not be
able to record services for Sunday mornings as well as lead a real-life service on a Sunday morning.
August tends to be our low month in terms of attendance. The vast majority of our congregation are families with school-age children who tend to go on holiday or visit relatives during the summer holidays.
In light of all of this, PCC have decided to work towards re-opening the church for public worship in September. Sue Peach and Ngozi Uduku, together with Mtr Ariadne, will work on a risk assessment for Christ Church.
Many of the issues above will still affect us in September, but a delay in re-opening will, hopefully, give us some more time to find solutions. One option could be to live-stream services on a Sunday. There are some challenges where this is concerned: the church does not have any broadband, so we would have to use a mobile phone signal, which tends to be tricky on the hill and would also cost us data. We stopped live-streaming services on a Sunday from the vicarage, because of buffering issues, which made it difficult for people to follow the service.
We are aware that many miss worshipping together in church. As a PCC, we feel that it is very important that we make sure that our return to church is done in a way that is fair and that is as safe as is possible.
We will let you know when we have more concrete plans for our return to our church building in September. If you do have any ideas or suggestions or you feel you may be able to help in any way – do, please, let us know. We will need volunteers, for instance, to deal with allocating places for services, to take people’s details (in case tracing and tracking is needed) and to help with cleaning.
There is a lot of work to be done on the church site. Sue Peach and some wonderful volunteers have been working hard to deal with weeds and very high grass on the site, but there is still more to be done. Do let Sue Peach or me know if you are able to help with the church site.
on behalf of PCC and the incumbent,