Re-opening Our Churches - the position as at 18th June

Dear Friends,

From the email exchanges and conversations I’ve had over the last few weeks, I know that most of us are missing meeting each other, seeing each other face to face and being able to worship together in our church homes.  I also know that there are many other feelings for most of us at this time which may include:

  • worries about the responsibility to keep everyone safe
  • worries about our own health or the health of loved ones
  • valuing the ability to worship without the responsibilities of running the church
  • uncertainty of what we will be able to do when churches re-open and about when that might be

and many more.

Following a District meeting on Wednesday 17th June, I thought it would be wise to give you some of the thoughts and information around at the moment.  I do so with a warning that, in the words of the song, ‘there are more questions than answers…'

When can we open?

The government has already permitted places of worship can open for private prayer.  It is also expected to allow public worship in some form from 4th July (although this has yet to be fully confirmed).  However, the Methodist Church has not changed its guidance that churches should remain closed (apart from the use by food banks, night shelters and nurseries).  It is unlikely to change this until after the annual Methodist Conference meets in early July. (Please note that to go against this guidance would most likely invalidate our churches’ insurance and trustees would become personally liable for any claims.)

How do we decide when to open?

When the Methodist Church allows reopening it will then be up to individual churches and circuits to decide when and in what ways it is best for them to open.  It is advised that we do this carefully and slowly.  Therefore, it is unlikely that we will return to worship in our buildings in July.  Indeed many churches and circuits around London are aiming for a September return.

However, this cannot be a return to the way things were before the lock-down.  We will need to find new and appropriate ways to be church together in this new environment bearing in mind that our lives are likely to be different for months if not years and that much may change permanently as a result of this experience.  I therefore suggest we work together as a circuit to make some of the decisions and to think of ways forward.  Your Circuit Leadership Team has already begun work on this.  

In all of this I think it is vital that we work together as a circuit rather than each church going it alone.  This will make it possible for us to support each other, so that no one feels overloaded or alone.  These are complex issues and they will need our collective wisdom to work through.

The District is hoping to offer a session on infection control next week after which I should be able to tell you a little more.

In all of this, whether we meet on Zoom, or the phone, through letters or emails, or on our doorsteps we continue to be the church, the people of God alive and working for God’s abundant life in our communities and through it all we live in the confidence that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

With love and blessings,

Rachel


First published on: 18th June 2020