It is our intent, Lord willing, to return to a “regular” Sunday service at the church hall tomorrow. This post gives some preliminary information about this reopening, for those attending.
Coronavirus is Serious
I want to emphasise that we are treating this seriously. Government responses may have been (at best) capricious, but the virus is still a serious problem. This article tells of an outbreak in one church — something we certainly don’t want.
There is no Need for Fear
The Biblical teachings on this subject are quite clear, I’ve mentioned them before, and so I’ll just give one verse.
I John 4:18
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
People around us may fear, but if we do, it’s because we’ve forgotten God’s love. That’s a very bad idea for many reasons. Don’t do it.
A Spiritual Perspective
We want to meet to worship the Lord “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). That means putting others first:
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Some precautions are inconvenient. Some, perhaps all, might be unnecessary. But you do not want to give the virus to others, some of whom may not have the health to withstand it.
We should come with this attitude: if symptoms start Sunday evening, and it is the virus, will I be able to look back with a clear conscience towards my actions at church that morning? Will I be able to say I acted lovingly towards my brothers and sisters? Let’s act so that we can have that clear conscience.
If You Have Symptoms
Don’t come. Get a test, find out if you have the virus, and act accordingly. Don’t come to church before it’s been checked out.
It is a very bad year for hay fever. I’ve had hay fever for years. I know why I’ve had the sniffles every morning for weeks. Nothing has changed. You don’t have to stay home from church if you have hay fever and you know that’s what it is.
If you started sneezing yesterday and you think it might be hay fever but you aren’t sure, please get it checked. Don’t risk infecting your brothers and sisters because you thought it might be hay fever and didn’t bother to check. The virus might not be worse than hay fever for you, but for some it is much worse. Be wise and careful.
If You are “Shielding”
From the government guidance:
Faith leaders may wish to discourage this group from attending places of worship during this time, or set aside specific time for them to attend for individual prayer or contemplation.
At this point in time, we intend to continue to stream our service. I believe that joining by Internet for those who are “shielding”, at this time, fulfills the Scriptural commands about worshiping together.
Each individual is responsible before the Lord to decide, taking into account their own condition, their view of the risks, and their family. We will support whatever decision those in this group make. Please contact me directly if you have questions.
Everyone in our church knows this, but if anyone wondered, visitors are more than welcome. We are a church, not a private club.
Precautions — Distancing
Chairs within the church hall will not be set up in rows, but in groups 2 metres apart. Each household or “extended household” should sit in a separate group. For questions about “extended households” please see government guidance or contact me directly.
Precautions — Hand Cleaner / Masks / Shields
There will be hand cleaner inside the church hall after the entry way. There will also be hand cleaner in the toilets.
Government guidance says in enclosed spaces “you should wear a face covering.” Although the government damaged its credibility with its earlier advice on face coverings, I believe current advice is sound and encourage the use of face coverings.
I intend to use a face shield during the service. If you find masks to be difficult for health or other reasons, we will have some additional shields available if you wish to try one and see how it goes.
Distancing Other than Seating
The church kitchen is small and we will not be using it for now.
The entryway is small and we ask that people not stop in the entrance, but just move on into the church hall when entering, use hand cleaner, and on to a seat. When leaving, we ask that you move on to the exit without stopping in the entryway. If you stop in the entryway, people cannot easily maintain distancing in passing you.
We ask that there only be one person in the men’s toilet at a time, and one in the ladies’ toilet.
Singing and Communion
We will not be singing in the church hall, for the time being. Indoors singing would be very high risk if anyone present had the virus.
We expect to observe communion before long, but not yet.
Children should stay with their parents / guardians before, during, and after the service. They should be told in advance that none of the usual toys will be available. As of now, we intend to keep the back room closed during the service.
Hymnbooks and Bibles
We will use recorded hymns. Though we will not sing with the recording, the words will be projected on the screen. All Scriptures used will be projected on the screen. We will not have shared hymnbooks or Bibles, but of course, anyone can bring their own Bible or hymnbook.
The principle of anonymous giving, for those who wish it, is an important one. We will continue to use a box, as we always have. We will use appropriate precautions in handling the cash.
We are required to collect the names and contact information of any who are in attendance, so that if anyone present should come down with the virus, all present can be contacted. Contact details will only be kept as long as mandated by law, and we will not use them. If you wish us to retain your details, and contact you to let you know of church news or events, please let us know.
Before and After “The Service”
Unlike normal, we will not be having tea / coffee / biscuits. However, we believe that a church is a family, and that “the service” does not really end when I stop preaching. As I have said many times, time together before the service “starts” and after it “ends” is often more important than anything I say in the sermon.
The weather forecast for tomorrow is reasonably promising. For those who are physically able to stand outside, conversations before and after the formal part of “the service” are best done outside.
I expect this to be a developing situation. These things can and will be changed in future weeks.
You are more likely to be injured in a car accident on your way to church than you are to have coronavirus. But I want to again emphasise that as believers, we have a responsibility to do our best not to harm one another, or those living around us. These changes that we are making for the time being should help prevent you passing it on to anyone, in the unlikely event that you should bring it to church with you tomorrow.