Opening the Church for worship
From the Minister
The start of September to me is always linked with ‘back to school’ and the feeling of butterflies – excitement mixed with nerves, that came as you start a new school year. As a Methodist minister, life is not so different as September is the start of the Methodist Connexional year and the time when ministers start new posts. Please do remember them in prayer.
This year we may all find ourselves with that ‘back to school’ feeling as we prepare to recommence worship in the St John’s building after the coronavirus lockdown. For some returning to church will not yet feel like a safe option and I would like to reassure everyone that the posted weekly worship sheet and newsletter and all of the online services will continue for the foreseeable future. It is important that you return to church only when you feel that it is safe to do so – no one should feel that this is something they have to do.
For those who are ready and looking forward to being back in the building, things will be a little different and here is a bit about what you can expect.
Firstly, we are starting slowly with worship, planning only one service a month from September. This is partly so that we can test out the new arrangements and make sure that all runs smoothly and partly because there are a limited number of ministers and preachers available for the circuit. We hope that this will soon increase, but it is better to start slow and build up rather than finding that we have taken on too much.
We will need to have fewer people in the building, due to the need to social distance and therefore we will have a booking in system for each service. If you wish to come on a Sunday, give Gill Phillips a call during the arranged times in the week before the service and she will allocate you a seat, an arrival time and put your name on a list. If more people wish to come than we have space for then those who miss out will automatically be prioritised for the next service.
In order to prevent too many people arriving at the same time and needing to queue to enter the building, we are asking small groups to arrive at 5 minute intervals between 10.15 and 10.30am. Gill will give you a time slot when you book, please stick to this if you are able and please leave the church car park free for blue badge holders.
When you arrive on a Sunday morning, you will need to enter the building through the Link. As with all public indoor spaces you will need to wear a mask at all times unless you are exempt due to health reasons. A steward will welcome you and offer you hand sanitiser, then you will be shown into the church and to your designated seat. Words for the service will be on the screen and there will be no books available, although you are welcome to bring your own if you wish. Notices and the Herald will continue to be sent out by post or online so that we do not need to hand any papers out. If you think you may require a drink of water during the service, please bring your own as we are unable to supply glasses of water at this time.
Our services will be a little shorter than usual and in order to remain in solidarity with those worshipping at home we will use material from the weekly worship sheet. Although we are not able to sing yet, we can listen to music and our organists will be able to play for us.
We hope to make our first service a service of Holy Communion, but this too will be a little different. Instead of receiving both bread and wine, we will use wafers only to reduce the risk of infection. This is something that is perfectly theologically sound and is already being done in many other Christian traditions at this time. Communion will be brought to you in your seats rather than everyone coming to the front. In spite of these changes, it will be wonderful indeed to be able to share together again at the Lord’s table.
At the end of the service, everyone who is able to will be asked to leave via the Girling Street door. Those with mobility difficulties will be able to exit through the link. Unfortunately we cannot yet have refreshments after the service and if you wish to chat, you are asked to do so once you are outside of the building. We will not have an offertory during the service, but there will be plates at the doors for envelopes and offerings.
You will appreciate that all these arrangements will need a number of extra stewards available to help direct people. There are still some restrictions on what those aged 70 or over are allowed to do – including locking and unlocking the doors and I know that some of our regular helpers will be unable to assist at this time. If anyone feels they are able to help by stewarding on an occasional basis, please let me know as soon as you can.
I know that all these changes seem a bit daunting and discouraging, but the primary concern is to make things as safe as we can for all who gather to worship. In spite of the unusual set up, it will be wonderful to share in prayer and worship as a church family once again and to re-establish the building as an active place of prayer. We know that throughout the lockdown prayers have continued and there has been something wonderful about each home becoming a church and a place of worship in each neighbourhood. I’m reminded of the Israelites who set up the tabernacle to worship each night as they camped in the wilderness and who on arrival in the Promised Land set out a permanent place to be God’s house, which later became the temple. God goes with us always, wherever we may be to worship him and we look forward to His leading through these difficult times and beyond.
Our next service will be on Sunday October 25th.
If you would like to book a place [there will be space for 22 “bubbles”] please phone Gill [01787 583557] between 3.00 pm and 5.00 pm on Tuesday 20th October or between 7.00 pm and 8.00 pm on Wednesday 21st October. You will understand that bookings can only be made between these times.
Other Church Activities
Similarly, as soon as other activities are able to start again we will let you know.
Ruth is leading weekly meditations on Thursday evenings at 6.00 pm. You can join her by going to Facebook. (If you go to the bottom of the St John's Community Team page in this website, there is a link to the appropriate Facebook page. Then click on "videos" on the left hand side of the page)