In these liminal times between pre and post pandemic we find ourselves in a state of flux. We have been led to believe that the peak of the coronavirus has passed and yet the number of cases is rising especially in the north of the country and localised lockdowns are being imposed. We have been told that churches can open from this coming weekend (4th July, 2020). What does this mean for the churches in the Kennet and Test Valley Circuit?
The Government announced that Places of Worship can open in England from 4th July with certain restrictions. However, the decision to re-open a church needs serious consideration and a thorough understanding of what is required in terms of planning and health and safety requirements. There is no compulsion to re-open if Managing Trustees do not feel it can be done safely, or it is too soon. As the Methodist Church's guidance states:
Before we consider the practical aspects of reopening our church buildings, it is very important that we take time to reflect:
"Church" can be wherever we gather or scatter, conscious of our calling as disciples of Jesus. We already knew this, but the lockdown has brought it into sharp focus. We are now permitted to open our buildings once more. A desire to "return to normal" is natural, but may not be practically possible or missionally necessary at this time. Our task in this moment is to consider what use of our buildings and what pattern of worship will best serve the discipleship of our people and the needs of our local community.
The Circuit Leadership Team have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that we are aware of, and are acting on, advice from the Government and the Methodist Church. The property stewards at each church have already been sent comprehensive details of the steps to be undertaken prior to premises being ready for opening. Alongside this, those who have previously led worship and preached on the Circuit Plan have been approached to establish what resources will be available for the next Plan.
Ministers and pastoral visitors will be consulting with individual congregations to estimate numbers of people likely to return to Sunday morning worship, based on restrictions around health and social distancing. This will have a bearing on the number of services that will be needed on the plan.
In these continually changing times, may we remember that, whilst our buildings may be closed, God still hears us when we pray!