28th June 2020
Following recent government announcements concerning the re-opening of church buildings, our Vicar, Mark has written in the "Little Net Extra" which is published each week. He writes:-
"Dear sisters and brothers in our church family, You will be aware from the news and other communications that places of worship are currently allowed to open for private prayer. This was followed on 23rd. June by an announcement that places of worship would be allowed to open for religious services and weddings, funerals and baptisms, albeit with number restrictions from 4th July as part of the general easing of lockdown restrictions. This note is to let you know what we are doing in order to assess the feasibility and benefit of safely opening the church for these uses.
The first and most important point to note is that the government have given permission to reopen. There is no compulsion or even recommendation that churches should reopen. It is up to the local church governance i.e. the incumbent, the wardens and the PCC to make the decision that is right for their church, taking into account all the individual circumstances pertaining to the local situation.
When the announcement was made about the possibility of private prayer, a small team was formed to look at the issue. The team comprised the Health and Safety Officer, PCC chair and vice chair and individuals who have experience of having to manage a situation with significant numbers using a building e.g. schools.
One of the first actions of the group was to commission a survey of the demand for private prayer in the church. We had a good response of 41 replies. Only one person wished to use the building for private prayer at this time and so the decision was taken not to reopen for this purpose. This will be communicated to the congregation through the usual channels e.g. Little Net Extra, FaceBook & WhatsApp.
In terms of opening for worship or occasional services, so far there has been no advice from the central church or the diocese. St Andrew’s church building has a complex set of issues that need to be carefully considered and assessed before a decision can be made about reopening the church. In addition, the guidance from government about the relaxation of social-distancing is not straightforward i.e. it remains at 2 metres but where this cannot be achieved it is possible to reduce to 1 metre plus other mitigating measures such as face coverings. The team is also conscious that a sizeable proportion of our congregation are shielding or otherwise unable to attend a church service in the building. Therefore, the team have decided to wait until guidance has been issued before making an assessment of the feasibility and benefit of opening."
Once an assessment has been made, the team will bring any recommendation to reopen to the PCC for review before a decision is made. Therefore, it is unlikely that we will be reopening from 4th July.
Consideration is also being given to the return to work of our Office Administrator and cleaner. The recent announcements will almost certainly increase the interest in occasional services for which having the office functioning would be helpful. The office would not be open for anyone other than one person at a time and as far as possible all contact would be by phone or email. A risk assessment is being developed for the activities it is anticipated that this work would involve.
Mark East, Rector.