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When will the church building reopen? A Letter from Stephen the Vicar

Dear friends

As you will know the Prime Minister announced on Tuesday 23rd June that Places of Worship would be able to reopen for public worship, but with strict guidelines.  Those guidelines were published on Monday 29th June and we have been working hard looking at how to respond.

The PCC (Parochial Church Council – our elected Church leadership) met on Zoom on Tuesday evening to consider whether we should, as a Church Family, consider re-opening for public worship.

The limitations placed on us by the guidance would have restricted:
  1. the number of people who could attend, probably 30 given the size and layout of our building (The same number allowed for funerals and weddings.
  2. the length of any service – the guidance says it should be “as short as reasonably possible”
  3. the content of the service – no singing or loud talking allowed
  4. the conduct of the service – minimal interaction with one another, children would have to remain with their parents and the play area would have to be removed, minimal social interaction before or after the service.
  5. The necessary cleaning of the building should it need to be used again within 72 hours and the risks this poses to those volunteering

Given these restrictions the PCC expressed various views.  Some of the comments were that to meet, with these restrictions, “wouldn’t be real”  and that this is “not who we are!”.  Concerns were expressed about those who wouldn’t be able to join us, either because of health or the limited numbers – “we are a whole church family – we don’t exclude people”.  Others shared the view that we were “doing more as we are than if we reopened” in these circumstances and that we would “lose more than we gained”.  The most moving comments were that it would be heartbreaking to have to separate some of the children who haven’t seen each other for months and that it wouldn’t be All Saints if people were “not able to share their joy and praise”.

After a discussion which lasted a considerable time we came to the unanimous and overwhelming conclusion that for now, we will not be reopening the building to use for worship services, and that, given our practise of winding back on what we do in August to allow for rest and recuperation, we would not consider opening for worship services before September at the earliest.

We agreed unanimously to continue to provide “Live Stream Faith” and “Telephone Church” as our principal acts of Worship on a Sunday and  to find ways to engage further with a small number of the Church family who are not able to access either of those for a variety of reasons.  It was noted that some housebound members of the Church Family had been far more included in the life of the Church since lockdown started and we resolved to ensure that when public worship resumed in the building they were not again excluded from that.

With regards to Weddings and Funerals we decided to work towards reopening the building for those services from the week beginning 13th July.  Given the low numbers of people allowed to attend (currently 30) and the ability to “quarantine” the building for 72 hours after a service to avoid having to deep clean the PCC felt that the benefits to grieving families were worth the effort and time involved.

Most of the weddings booked for this year have already rescheduled and we have communicated our plans to the remaining couples and await their decision.

I know some of you will be disappointed by this news, and I am sorry for the pain this may cause but having spoken to many of the Church Family over the course of the day there is an overwhelming sense of agreement with, or at least acceptance of, these decisions.

If you want to talk to me then please contact me directly on 07740200942 or by email – stephen@all-saints-church.net.  I will try and respond to you as quickly as I can.

On a related point I have had many comments both from the Church Family and the Community about the length of the grass around the Church.  In the first phase of lockdown we were not permitted to make journeys for the purpose of cutting the grass.  The Central Church authorities made this very clear,  Since those restrictions were eased we haven’t managed to find a date when our grass cutting volunteers were available and the grass was dry enough to begin the process of cutting it.  We will do our very best to get it cut within the next fortnight, before the Church opens for funerals.

With every blessing and my prayers for you all

Vicar – All Saints Church, Woodlands and Highfields

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