I hope all is well with you and that you and all whom you love are keeping safe in these difficult times. I know that some of you have suffered anxiety, depression, illness and bereavement because of Covid-19 and the ‘Lockdown’ restrictions we have had to endure. Please be assured that you are constantly in our prayers to move forward step by step with the Lord’s help and strength.
I would like to bring you up to date with what is happening regarding plans to return to Church for worship. Following the Government’s easing of ‘Lockdown’ restrictions, the Select Vestry and I feel that the time is right to make a return to in-church worship. This has entailed a lot of preparation and planning, so that the Church can reopen for services from Sunday 6th September 2020.
Initially there will be just one service each Sunday – Lambeg at 10.45a.m. We pray that services in Hilden will follow soon afterwards but for the moment our guidance is that there should be just one service in each parish. However, I am also glad to confirm that our Facebook service will continue online at the slightly earlier time of 9.30a.m., also from 6th September. Also, as usual, it can be accessed by telephone (028 92 508 097) later on Sunday.
The key messages impressed upon us by the Church and Government authorities are that if you or any member of your household are experiencing, or recovering from Coronavirus symptoms, or have any reason to believe that they have been in contact with anybody who has, they should not attend Church or volunteer in any capacity until they have received medical advice that it is safe to do so.
The Church we return to may feel and appear a little different to what we were normally used to, and in some respects, it may seem a little impersonal. For example, social-distancing seating will be in place, which will mean that where you normally sit will probably not be available: we will not be allowed to sing hymns or to gather in groups to chat at the back of the church. To help you deal with these and other changes, we have included in this communication some key information to prepare you for what to expect when you return to in-church worship. The information that we giving to help us return to church is based on that which has been laid down in guidance set out by the House of Bishops and the Government’s Public Health Agency.
In closing, suffice to say these are unique times, such as none of us have experienced before. Some of you, for personal health reasons, may not be ready for such a return to church. I perfectly understand that. You can only do what is safe and best, as well as re-assuring for you. So, while return to church may take time, let’s be confident in the Lord. With His help we will endure through it, and by God’s will, return to some kind of normality in the weeks and months ahead. Do please pray for our plans to re-open; for delivery from this plague; for those who are suffering especially at this time; for the work of the NHS and all front-line workers; as well as the development of a successful vaccine so that we can confidently go about our every-day lives in safety.
Until then, keep safe and well.
Lambeg Parish Church – Returning to Church – Sunday 6th September 2020 at 10.45 a.m.
- First of all, and most importantly, please do not come back to Church if you or any member of your household are experiencing or are recovering from any of the Coronavirus symptoms, i.e., a fever or high temperature, a cough, difficulty breathing or a sudden loss of taste or smell. Refer to N.H.S. Guidelines in this regard. Also, if you have any reason to believe that you have been in contact with someone who has the virus, you should not attend Church or volunteer in any capacity until you have received medical advice that it is safe to do so.
- Secondly, if you are in an ‘at risk’ or vulnerable category, or are shielding, you should carefully consider when is the right time for you to return. The virus is still about.
- If you are bringing infants or young children with you, remember that you will be responsible for them – especially where maintaining social distancing could be a challenge.
What to bring with you: Your Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), etc.
- Gloves (recommended);
- Face covering (optional, but strongly recommended because of the lack of good ventilation in the Church and because sometimes social distancing cannot always be guaranteed); [This could become compulsory before 5th Sept]
- Tissues (strongly recommended);
- Your own hand sanitiser (if you would prefer to use that);
- A pen (to complete your attendance slip);
- A coat/umbrella (You could be queuing outside, waiting to enter the Church).
- When you park your car beside another car, please ensure that the occupants of that car have moved on before you leave your own car. This is to ensure that proper social distancing is maintained.
- There will be car parking stewards there to help you park.
- Should there be a lengthy queue waiting to enter the Church, the steward may advise you to wait in your car until it has reduced, especially if it is raining.
- The toilet block in the car park will remain closed for the time being but there will be one toilet available inside the Church (in the Clergy Vestry).
Approach to Church:
- When approaching the Church (which should only be from the car park route), it will be important to observe the social distancing rule of 2 metres. They are marked.
- Read the notices on the way in but please do not create any bottlenecks.
- We will only be using the main door for entry. There will be a Steward on duty to assist you enter the Church safely.
Entry to Church:
- Once again, please do maintain the two metres distancing rule and wait for the Seating Stewards to call you.
- There will be a hand sanitiser station inside the door for use on entry. The sanitiser works on a sensor basis when you hold out your hands and is quick drying.
- The Seating Stewards will also provide you with your Order of Service which will include your Attendance Slip. They can, if need be, also provide you with a pen or pencil to complete same.
- You will note that most notices and materials have been removed from our Notice Boards and from the back of the Church. This is to prevent bottlenecks.
- The Stewards will guide you to your seat on the basis that the first in will go to the front. Unfortunately, people who sat in traditional seats in the past will no longer be able to do so.
- Pews have been marked out with two metres gaps and every other pew is closed off. Individuals from the same household may sit together but otherwise the two metres will be observed.
- The choir pews and some chairs will also be used. You will also note that all seat cushions and kneelers have been removed.
- The Service, including the liturgy and Bible readings, will be printed in an Order of Service leaflet each week.
- Hymn Books and Prayer Books will not be used and Bibles have been removed from the pews.
- The Service will be slightly shorter than what you have been used to in the past, in order to reduce the potential for the transmission of the virus.
- There will be no singing of hymns, etc., for the time being, as this can increase the potential for virus transmission. The organ/piano may be played at certain stages before, during and after the service.
- When exiting there will be a basket available for collecting your freewill offering envelopes or Church collections.
Communion Services: Because of the severe restrictions laid down for holding Holy Communion services, it has been decided that for the time being they will be deferred. It is hoped that this will not last for too long and that in the near future we will be able to return once again to sharing in the Eucharist.
Exiting from the Church:
- At the end of the service, please remain seated for a short period and the Stewards will direct you in a safe and orderly manner, in pew order, down the aisles to the main door, commencing at the back of the Church;
- Please continue to maintain social distancing of 2 metres and avoid bottlenecks;
- Please sanitise your hands again when exiting;
- Bring your Order of Service, which includes your completed Attendance Slip, with you and deposit it in the designated box; If you received a pen/pencil they can be left there also, or left in the pew;
- There will also be a plate or basket at the exit to receive your freewill offerings;
- There will be a pedal-operated bin in which you can place any used PPE (gloves, tissues, face coverings, etc), though you may prefer to bring them home and dispose of them safely there;
- While we appreciate that you will all want to talk to your many friends and fellow worshippers, we would ask that there be no undue or lengthy socialising or congregating in groups outside the Church or in the carparks. Remember, the virus will still be about.
- You will notice that the clergy and those leading the service will not be standing at the back of the Church, or outside, in order to greet you – this has been forbidden, in order to prevent bottlenecks and to maintain social distancing. If you need to speak to the Rector please feel free to give him a ring at any time.
Because of the various risks associated with arranging for fresh flowers in the Church, there will be no Flower Rota in operation for the time being.
The toilet in the Clergy Vestry will be the only one available. Please observe the notices regarding hand washing and use the hand sanitiser provided, both before and after using the toilet.
We will ask all attendees to provide their name(s) and telephone number each Sunday in case there is a need to track and trace them afterwards, because of an outbreak of the virus. This is a regulatory requirement on the Church. The slips will be kept safe and secure and destroyed afterwards, normally after one month.
There is still an urgent need for volunteers to replace many of the existing teams of people who look after our needs, week by week, but who are now prevented from continuing in these roles because of age limits and health vulnerabilities. The specific roles to be filled are the Stewards, as described in this letter, and Cleaners who will prepare the Church for the next service. (This will be done either immediately after the service or after 72 hours have elapsed). All volunteers will receive full training and will be provided with whatever PPE items are deemed necessary. There is also a particular need for young ‘Techies’ to come forward to assist us with future proposals to live stream or later stream our services.
It has been emphatically stressed to us that anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19, or who has reason to believe that they have been in contact with someone who has, should not attend Church or volunteer in any capacity until they have received medical advice that it is safe to do so. Should anybody attending Church, whether as a volunteer or not, subsequently contract COVID-19, or show symptoms of it, they should, as well as advising their medical adviser, also advise the Rector as a ‘track and trace’ exercise may be required.