The last few months, following government intervention, churches in England have been closed for the first time in over 800 years.
We live in a culture of relative freedom and most people recognise that the authorities are acting in the best interest us all to ensure that COVID-19 isn’t spread as a result of people gathering. However, the principle of closing places of worship, dealing with them in the same way as a supermarket, pub or garden centre, has not been universally well received.
Indeed, the freedom of the church from any state intervention is something enshrined within the Magna-Carta. Legal challenge has no doubt helped to reshape government thinking in recent weeks and much of the instruction for places of worship have been replaced with government advice, resulting in some very mixed messages and information.
People have already contacted me to remind me that only 30 people can gather, and that singing is not allowed. In fact, neither of these are true! It is only weddings and funerals that cannot exceed 30 people and singing is currently not advised.
However, I am sure you are wondering what plans we have for re-opening for services and that is the main reason for this update.
We recognise that there will be some members of the congregation who feel extremely vulnerable in a world where we continue to live with the risk of catching a potentially life-threatening virus and you will prefer to take every reasonable step to avoid contact with others. There are others who don’t feel the same way, recognising only a small risk that would not prevent meeting together for worship. Many others of you exist somewhere between these two views!
In order to meet expectations, we are going to do everything possible by offering a number of options in the coming weeks:
The church will be open on Sunday mornings for the 8.00am and 10.00am service.
The 8.00am service will offer either a prayer book service of communion or morning prayer.
The 10.00 service will be livestreamed from the church. This will have live music (with one singer at an increased distance from the congregation); the prayers, reading and sermon will be live if at all possible.
The livestream of the service will continue so that people can take part in the service from home.
We will aim to open Emmanuel church in the next few weeks with the facility to receive the livestream service.
Our 6.30pm service will also resume as soon as practicable.
Anyone who wishes to attend the live service is welcome to do so, but we ask that you follow the procedures we have in place.
We have recently been able to invest in equipment for the church so we can continue to provide a livestream from the church building now that that it is open for services. This will enable us to serve those who cannot join us in church for the foreseeable future and also enable us to continue to serve the many, many others who have been connecting to our service on a weekly basis – each week we have been seeing viewing figures averaging around 700 people from across the world.
If you have any questions about services, please do contact me.
Finally, I know it may now feel comfortable or convenient to engage in services via livestream, but we must never forget that Christ has called us to gather together in his name. This must be our primary aim, as soon as it is safe to do so. That time will be different for each person and no-one should feel pressured to come to church if they feel the risk is too great. But when that moment comes, as a family, we need to be ready to come together in celebration to sing God’s praises.
Many thanks for your encouragement over the past weeks, I am so grateful to you all,