Church open for worship

4th  August 2020                                                                                                                  0121 356 7998

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

I am delighted to be able to write to you to invite you back to worship in church from Sunday 12th July, at our usual time of 10.30am.   Due to the current pandemic, there will be some restrictions and rules to maintain the highest possible level of safety, including the wearing of face coverings,and these are contained in this letter, along with some questions and answers to help you decide if you should come back to church now… or wait a little longer.  We will continue to provide an online worship video, so that those who are still shielding will be able to keep in touch with our worship that way.

We have done a thorough risk assessment on the church, and we are able safely to accommodate up to 55 people whilst maintaining a 2m (6 foot) distance for everyone.  This is with 13 people in the sanctuary (8 in the choir stalls, 2 either side of the altar, plus the curate and Verger in their stalls and the priest in the chair in the middle of the choir).   There is space for 40 people in the pews in the main body of the church, calculating on 2 people per pew, and only using alternate pews.   (If you are a family group living together in the same house or sharing the same support bubble, it is possible for you all to sit on one pew together, even if there are more than two of you).  That leaves a couple of spare places right at the back by the font.

At this stage we do not know how many of you are able to come back to church, or indeed want to come back yet.  For the first few weeks, we will operate a booking system (we don’t want to turn anyone away at the door).  So please telephone or email me to “book your pew”!  If I am not at the vicarage when you call, please leave a message, and I will call you back as soon as I can to confirm your space.  If we find that we have more people than spaces, we will consider putting on an extra service, perhaps at 9am on a Sunday, to accommodate everyone.  At this stage we cannot be sure how many people would like to come back, so for the first few weeks we will be gauging the demand and numbers.  We will also re-start the midweek Masses on Wednesdays at 10am and Fridays at 1pm the following week (15th and 17th July).  These will take place in the main church (not the Lady Chapel).  They have much smaller congregations, so you do not need to book for these.  If you are concerned about being in a large group of people, you might want to consider coming along on Wednesday or Friday to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. 

Individual private prayer sessions will continue in the Lady Chapel.  From 15th July onwards, the Wednesday session will move to 11am-1pm (to accommodate Mass).   The Friday session will remain at 11am-1pm, and Saturdays 4-6pm.  During the Sunday service the Lady Chapel will not be open (it is too small a space to allow safe access when there are larger numbers of people, in church).  So if you would normally light a candle there on Sundays, please consider booking a private prayer slot during the week or ask for a candle to be lit for you on Sunday (this will be done before the service starts).  Again just telephone or email to let us know.  So as a rule of thumb, private prayer is in the Lady Chapel, and services are in the main body of the church.

Here are some useful questions and answers:

Is it safe to come back to church?

We have made it as safe as possible by putting in all the recommended measures from the government and the national Church of England. Ultimately however, your safety and the safety of others relies on us all following the advice and guidelines, including hand washing/sanitising and maintaining 2m distance wherever possible.  The principle is that we are all responsible for our own safety, and for that of others.  All the precautions we are taking arise from our love for one another.

What if I am shielding or in a vulnerable group?

If you have a letter from the government telling you to shield until at least August, you should not come back to church yet.  If you are in a vulnerable group (underlying health conditions, over 70 or any other category) then you should read this letter carefully, and make your own decision as to whether or not you feel comfortable returning to church.

What if I feel unwell?

If you feel unwell in any way (not just Covid-19 symptoms), then please do not come to church until you are better.  If you think you might have the Coronavirus, then please follow the guidance on self-isolation/household isolation.

Do I have to book a pew every week?

We are trying out a booking system for the first 2 weeks, to see what our numbers are like.  If there is a demand, we will temporarily introduce a 9am (shorter) Communion service on Sunday mornings as well.

What happens when we arrive at church?

The doors will be propped open.  Please walk in and collect a service book from the box on your right, and then go straight to a pew and sit down.  Do not walk around or move to chat to others – maintain the right distance all the time.

Where should I sit?

There are numbered cards on all the pews.  Please sit right by one of the numbers.  They have been measured to ensure 2m distance.  Do not sit right by the aisle.  Move in to where the first card is placed.   (If you are in a group, then you may sit in the whole pew, except at the end of the pew by the aisle)

Is there a pew sheet?

Yes.  Please collect it yourself from the back of church as you enter.  It will not be handed to you.

I have lots of offertory envelopes.  Should I bring them?

Yes, please!  Many of you have been putting your weekly offerings in envelopes whilst the church building was closed.  Please do bring them with you when you first return to church.  Thank you!

Is there hand sanitiser available?

 

Should I wear a mask or face covering?

 

 

 

 

Yes.  There will be sanitiser at the back of church as you enter.  However it is a good idea to carry your own with you as well, to use during the service as needed.

 

From 8th August, face coverings/masks are required to be worn in places of worship, except for recognised exceptions as specified by the government, and where it is impractical.  When you are wearing a face covering in church, please remove it before you leave your seat to come forward to receive Communion, and replace it when you have returned to your seat. The advice about sanitising your hands is especially important when removing/replacing a mask. At all other times, please comply with government requirements.  Those leading worship/prayers/readings do not need to wear a face covering whilst doing so. 

 

Has the church been cleaned?

Yes.  After each service/church use, all surfaces, including door handles, are wiped down with anti-bacterial sanitising wipes or spray.  The lectern will be wiped down in between readers too.

What about the offertory?

Please place your offering in the bag on the table at the back of church when you enter (or if you forget, on your way out).  There will be no offertory procession.

Will we be singing hymns?

No. At the moment, singing is prohibited.   However we will play hymns at the usual times in the service so that you can sing along “in your head”!  We will say any responses during the service (e.g the Gloria, Holy Holy, Lamb of God, etc)

Will there be individual service sheets?

No.  We will use the normal Mass books, as there is more than 72 hours between services they are safe to re-use.  However they will not be handed to you.  They will be in a box.  Please pick up a copy from the box, and return it there at the end on your way out.

Will there be a Sunday School?

We are looking at how we might safely run our children’s work in Sunday School, perhaps in the main hall, keeping to already-existing family groups/bubbles.  We will let you know each week during announcements at the start what is happening.

Will there be a choir?

There are 8 individual spaces in the choir stalls (each designated by a place card).  The choir members may robe, but must do so quickly and then go immediately to their place, without waiting in the choir vestry (they won’t need to process at the start or end of the service – again to maintain 2m distance safely).

Will we share the peace?

No.  We will say the words of the peace, but we won’t leave our places or shake hands (or any physical contact).  Waving and smiling will be a good way to share!

What will happen at Communion?

The priest will sanitise his/her hands at the offertory, prior to starting the Eucharistic Prayer, and again after putting on a mask before distributing the wafers.  We will use individual wafers, rather than breaking up one large wafer, to maintain as much hygiene as possible. Those sitting in the choir and sanctuary will receive Communion in their places.  Those in the pews in the main body of the church will be directed when to move forward to take Communion.  Please maintain 2m distance as you walk to the front, and wait in turn.  Stand on the left hand side of the aisle preferably next to one of the pews that has been cordoned off.  When you get to the front pew, there will be 2 “waiting points” marked on the floor area near the entrance to the Lady Chapel.  Please wait on each of those in turn, until there is a space in front of Fr Barrie. Fr Barrie will stand at the step in the middle (not at the high altar).  He will wear a mask to distribute communion (we are only receiving the bread, not the wine).  There will be a small table in front of him, partly to maintain 1m+ distance, and partly to catch any wafers, in case they fall or are dropped.  When there is nobody in front of the table, move from the waiting point to the table and hold your hands out to receive the wafer (standing).  Return immediately to your pew (on the opposite side of the aisle to which you were standing – this will be on your left as you walk back).  If you usually receive communion in your pew, Fr Barrie will bring this to you in the usual way.  Please sit in the space near the aisle.  If you are wearing a mask please remove it before you leave your seat to go forward to receive Holy Communion. (not whilst you are walking or in the aisle waiting).  It is advisable to sanitise your hands before and after removing/adjusting your mask.

Will the toilets be open?

Yes.  If you need to use them, someone will open the hall door for you or give you the key.  If you have the key please remember to sanitise your hands after you return the keys.  This is in addition to washing your hands after using the toilets.

What happens at the end of the service?

After the altar party has processed out, and the final prayer has been said, please leave church in an orderly fashion, dropping your Mass book back in the box.  Please take your pew sheet home with you.  The people in the back rows need to leave first, and go straight out of the church. Please do not stop to chat to people until you get over to the car park area, so that we can maintain a safe distance and flow of people.  Fr Barrie and Mother Laura will be at the gate to greet everyone, but of course will not be shaking hands. Again maintain a 2m distance as you pass by.

Will there be tea and coffee?

No.  The hall is not open for refreshments or socialising, so unfortunately we will not be able to meet together after Mass.   It is fine to chat to people at a safe distance once you have left the church grounds, but please be aware of others who might need to walk past you.  It might be best to stand on the grass area outside the hall if you want to have a “socially distanced” chat or catch up. 

Is there anything else we need to know?

Yes.  A new walkway with hand rail has been laid at the side of the car park, so that people don’t have to walk across the car park, particularly over the rough surface.   Please be extra careful when parking against the walkway railings.  Also, bins have been removed from church.  Please take everything home with you.

How long are these arrangements going to last?

Things are bound to change again, as they have throughout the pandemic.  Therefore these arrangements will remain in place until there are further changes nationally.  If there is a “local lockdown”, then the church will have to be closed again for a designated period of time.  If we are able to start singing, we will do so as soon as possible.

Included in this letter is a card for your pocket or handbag, which has the outline of what to do, as a reminder during the service.  I hope you will find it useful.  Please remember to telephone or email to book your pew, at least for the first couple of weeks!

With my continuing prayers for you all. 

Every blessing.    Father Barrie