Pastoral Letter: Church Reopening Timescale
We appreciate how difficult the past months have been for you all. The restrictions that have been in place over the Covid-19 pandemic, while for good reasons of health protection, have nevertheless imposed a curtailment of the services and activities we loved and enjoyed together. Now that we are seeing an easing of the restrictions, we hope that we can soon resume our use of church buildings again. Meantime, we wanted to inform you about the present situation and how we see the way forward, having met as a Kirk Session on Tuesday 14th July.
Although the government has now lifted the prohibition on the use of church premises, for a congregation of our size there are several regulations which make it impractical for us to begin using our church buildings meantime. A maximum of 50 people attending is specified; we would need to thoroughly clean the building before use and after each service; singing is not allowed; a distance of 2 metres is required between people, other than those of the same family; a register with contact details needs to be taken of those attending, so that if anyone present should happen to have the virus those attending can be contacted and given details of what they should do. For congregations with fewer people these conditions may be surmountable, but not for ourselves with the numbers we have. We hope and pray that this situation will not last long, but there is no certainty as to when the next phase of recovery will begin.
We do thank you for your continuing prayers and practical support. It has been so encouraging for us to see the numbers accessing the online services, including some who did not come to services previously. We realise that some of you do not have online facilities and we have taken steps to try and get copies of the services to you by other means. Please contact any of the office-bearers if you have not been included. We are also very grateful for your messages of encouragement, which mean a lot to us.
It is important for you to know that work is taking place in the church and Seminary meantime to prepare the way for a return to use. Video equipment is being installed and upgrading of broadband connections is being carried out where required, so that we can have everything ready for livestreaming the services from both buildings whenever we are able to use them again. All other preparations relating to Covid-19 will be carried out to ensure the comfort, health and safety of worshippers and we will issue all the necessary guidelines in advance.
The past few months have been hugely challenging for all, particularly for those shielding, and those who could not visit loved ones in hospital, care homes or in the hospice. Our thoughts are also with those who had to deal with the death of loved ones while the normal visitations and services associated with this have been unavailable.
Whatever this pandemic has taught us, it has clearly revealed our need of God to us. Sadly, it appears throughout the nation that people continue to live as before. Not even a crisis the size of this pandemic will of itself change hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. But we pray that he will bless this providence to awaken that sense of eternity which would lead people to Christ throughout our needy land.
“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust. I shall not be afraid” (Psalm 56 v 3-4).
With much love in the Lord,
James and Kenny