We have now resumed our normal schedule of worship in church with necessary adaptations to ensure everyone can worship as safely as possible.
It is our purpose to be a house of prayer, so it is important to take this step and to embrace Christ’s promise that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
For some of you, this is a long awaited blessing, but others may feel anxious about venturing into church again. It is normal to feel anxious and no-one will be judged if they are not ready to return yet. Each of us must make the decisions that are right for our own circumstances. For those who are unable to be in church, it is our goal to continue to share the act of worship via Zoom, as we have been doing in recent weeks. This will be a process of trial and error, so please bear with us!
Reflecting on the changes
When the government issued its order suspending public worship in March, we all experienced a decision that, while right and rational, was deeply painful. We have had to endure these difficult months without resort to the sanctuary of our church and have, without doubt, been changed as a result.
We at St Giles have done our best to embrace the challenge presented by the Covid-19 crisis and to continue to live out our Christian calling by different means. It has not always been easy, especially in the middle of an interregnum, but response to our virtual church services has been very encouraging, as has your willingness to share music, books and ideas in our regular emails. We hope that you have found strength and comfort in being part of this community.
The relaxation of lockdown rules confronts us with a new set of decisions and it is right that we approach these with an equal amount of consideration and care. We are entering a time when rebuilding can begin, but when we also need to reflect on the events of this year, mourn our losses and contemplate how we have been changed. We cannot, nor should we, rush back to “normality”. Progress will be gradual, but also intentional and considered. We will need to absorb and implement the new guidelines and everyone in the congregation will need time to adjust, as your personal circumstances allow.
Worship in church
For those attending worship at St Giles, you will notice a number of changes and you will be required to follow certain guidelines to ensure everyone’s health and safety. We have carried out a risk assessment of the church based on the guidelines issued by the Government and the Church of England and taken necessary measures:
Physical distancing: Everyone is reminded to continue observing the government’s guidance on physical distance and to maintain a distance of 2m wherever possible between people of different households. Spacing will be marked out on the pews in church to help you to do this and a one-way system will be in operation, so that everyone enters by the North Door and leaves by the West Door. You are asked to avoid physical contact with people from outside your household (such as shaking hands) and to leave church directly after the service.
Capacity: Ensuring people can maintain a safe distance within the church will mean that our seating capacity is significantly reduced. We estimate that we will be able to accommodate approximately 20 people in the main body of the church. We do not anticipate that this will pose a problem initially, but should we encounter problems, we may have to limit access to the church, or consider other options.
PPE & Hygiene: Hand sanitiser will be available in church and everyone is reminded of the importance of regular hand washing. The church is being cleaned regularly and will be cleaned on Friday evenings in preparation for Sunday worship.
Lavatories: Toilet facilities will be available, however you are asked to please use the available anti-bacterial wipes to clean surfaces after use and to wash your hands thoroughly.
Face coverings: The use of face masks is mandatory in churches unless you are exempt.
Orders of service: For the time being, all service materials will be printed in a single-use pew sheet. You are asked to please take these sheets away with you at the end of the service.
Music: Guidance now allows small groups to perform or sing in church as long as they follow correct procedures. We have undertaken a thorough risk assessment to allow our singers to resume leading worship. However, congregational singing is still not allowed at this time.
Collections: The government guidance discourages the making of cash donations. We therefore encourage you, should you wish, to make any donations using the contactless terminal located at the back of the church or to set up a regular donation via Parish Giving. If you do want to make a cash donation, please deposit the money into the donation barrel.
Public transportation: Everyone is reminded that the use of face coverings is obligatory on public transportation.
Parking: For those who would normally use public transport but may now wish to drive to church, a limited amount of parking is available in the north churchyard.
People who are symptomatic: Everyone is reminded that the government’s guidance on testing, tracing and self-isolation remains unchanged. If you have symptoms of Covid-19 (a new continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss of taste or smell), you should not come to church you should self-isolate immediately and seek medical advice.