16th July 2020
For the information of the Congregation of North Harris Free Church,
At the prayer meeting on 15th July 2020, an update was provided to those in attendance, following new guidance on the opening of places of worship, I have tried as far as possible to capture here what I shared.
Following an announcement by the Scottish Government that Places of Worship could open from 15th July as part of the easing of lockdown restrictions, the Deacon’s Court have made a decision that at this time it is not appropriate for us to open the Church building. While there is a desire to be able to resume worship services as soon as possible, this decision has been made primarily as the Court wishes to open the building only when it is safe to do so and when we are able to come together as a congregation in a way that our worship of God is able to be carried out in a participative manner, free from the distractions that the current guidance does not allow for. At present, due to the current guidance, we would at any one time only be able to allow 22 people in to attend a service, which would be conducted without singing.
The list below while not exhaustive gives an overview of what the guidance requires of us at this time:
- Physical Distancing of 2m must be observed at all times, both inside and outside the building, should a queueing system be required then it is the courts responsibility to have 2m markings on the ground to guide persons attending.
- Face Coverings should be worn.
- Singing is not permitted, (if singing is deemed an essential part of the worship it can be done by one person from behind a Plexi-glass screen!)
- Children must physically distance while inside the building.
- Children’s play corners or areas are to be removed.
- Items 4&5 would indicate that Sunday School or Creche are not an option.
- A one way system, where practicable, must be put in operation for entering and exiting, and fire exits should not be used to facilitate this.
- Contact details of worshipers should be obtained, but again there are legislative requirements around this. If the details are recorded electronically, we have to register with the Information Commissioners Office to do this. We must retain the information for 21 days and destroy it timeously after that period. We have to have signs up to explain why we are recording the information and what it will be used for. We can record the information in a register, but this must be held securely due to the information contained in it. People can refuse to provide the information.
- Hand sanitisers should be available at all entrances and exits.
- If we decide to have the toilets open for people to use, there is separate guidance for this and further considerations to comply with the opening of public toilets, and ours would fall within that category.
- The current guidance is that anyone in the at risk Category https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19-general-advice which covers far more than just people over 70 are discouraged from attending places of worship.
In recognition that this means a further time of waiting and separation for us a congregation, the following message was shared as an encouragement:
‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone’. Colossians 4:2-6
As this verse teaches let us together:
- Devote ourselves to prayer.
- Let us be watchful, that despite the length of time we have been in lockdown, that we stay close to God and that we are thankful for each of His mercies to us.
- Pray that God will open a door so that we can ALL come together around His word when it is safe to do so, but also that as the opportunity has been given to share God’s word in new ways and into new homes that the mystery of Christ would indeed be proclaimed.
- As Paul writes here, and asked for prayer for himself in his situation, that we would pray for David in the situation he finds himself in preaching to a camera each week, that he would be filled with the spirit and be able to proclaim it clearly, despite the restrictive circumstances.
- Continue to be wise in our dealings with everyone and make the most of the opportunities we have to witness for Christ.
- That we would have grace and be salt and light when challenged or questioned about why the church is not open, when others around may choose to.
On behalf of the Deacon’s Court of North Harris Free Church.