Latest update: Opening up Services at St Andrew’s

Opening up Services at St Andrew’s (update 28th August)
(please read carefully. Lots of important info here)

Thank you to everyone who took part in the survey this week about opening up St Andrew’s for services. The feedback was very helpful in prayerfully discerning the way forward. The staff team, wardens and PCC representatives have met this week to discuss what we do in the coming few weeks and we have made some decisions, which I’ll outline here.

Before I do that, I think it is really important to appreciate that there is a wide variety of feelings amongst our congregation members (only 31% indicated they are keen to return now; 31% they would wait until congregational singing was allowed, 30% wait until social distancing was removed and 8% wait until there was a reliable vaccine). These figures reflect both people’s different levels of concern about COVID and also highlight the different levels of introversion/extroversion and those who are especially feeling they desperately need to connect up with others! The feedback from the online services was overwhelmingly positive and we are delighted that people are finding this so helpful at this time, despite it not being what we’d all choose. We have taken on board the helpful suggestions for how to improve further and will continue to learn and adapt in the coming weeks. We have also been encouraged to see new people connecting with us online (and some in person) due to our online presence of the last few weeks.

As I, and others, have prayed over recent weeks too, we also have sensed God calling us not to simply rush back to ‘the old normal’ but to stay in this place of transition and allow God to continue to shape us in this time, and potentially lead us into new ways and patterns of worship. We also want to, as far as we can, ‘move forward together’ and not create a two-tier system of those who can and those who can’t worship in person yet. Therefore, in the light of all the above, we have decided that the pre-recorded online service should remain the ‘main’ service for the moment (at least until communal singing is possible again), and we commit to doing this as well as we can, especially as it is currently our ‘shop window’ for our community and beyond. In addition, we are going to facilitate some different ways of meeting up in person, for both adults and children/young people, which we hope be a blessing to those who are ready for that.

Trial Service Pattern for September

We will trial the following pattern in September and experiment, review and adapt as we go.
From Sunday September 6th
10am    In-person Service at All Saints (as currently) with liturgy, Holy Communion and some reflective music. Open to anyone at either church looking for an in-person ‘live’ service.10:30am Interactive in-person showing of the pre-recorded service at St Andrew’s with children’s work (5-10’s) available and younger youth work (Helen & Eddy to send out more details). This is an opportunity to gather corporately to watch/participate in the pre-recorded service together, and we will experiment with the service host or others leading some components in person (e.g. response/prayer ministry; prayers, extra reflections, doing the sermon live on occasions, Holy Communion in person etc.). It might seem strange initially, but we will experiment and see how it best works and this means whether watching in church or at home, we will all be experiencing largely the same worship.Sunday evenings (time to be decided) Older Youth Work session at St Andrew’s
The young families’ video and children’s resources will also still be being produced and on the website each week.
From Thursday September 10th
Thursdays at 12noon at St Andrew’s –  A short traditional (mainly Holy Communion) midweek service with liturgy, a short sermon (with the same theme as the Sunday service), prayers and normally some reflective music. This will be videoed and broadcast as our traditional online service on the following Sunday morning (instead of the current videoing of the All Saints Service, which is not available currently until early evening on the Sunday).From a date to be decided (Helen and her team to work out the details)
9am ‘Early Bird Church’ – in the St Andrew’s church hall. A special 30-40 minute service aimed at children under 8 and their families. This would consist of a story, a craft, some singing (if allowed) or actions and prayers in socially distanced family groups. This would also be something that was potentially missional that we could invite messy church/toddler families to.Other youth provision (e.g. mentoring sessions) will continue in addition to this and Eddy will notify youth and parents.
The above will all be trialled in September as a bit of an experiment and, we will then assess at the end of September and change and adapt, and potentially add extra provision if needed, and if we have capacity. Please do bear with us. This may not all work, but we sense this is a time for experimenting and seeing where God is at work in all of this and where the Spirit is leading. Obviously if COVID spikes again we may have to go back to solely on-line provision.
Do I need to book to come to services?
It would be really helpful if you could let us know by Friday 12noon of each week (by emailing or telephoning the church office on 01684 576582) if you are intending to come to the St Andrew’s 10:30am service (We will need to know numbers of adults and names of any children/youth). Places at St Andrew’s will be limited to around 25-30 and Helen and Eddy will need to plan provision for the children/youth numbers coming. If we have too many people wanting to come we will have to operate a first come first served system and will put a more specific booking system in place at a later date. There is no need to book for any of the other services.What guidelines will I need to follow to create a safe environment at St Andrew’s? (It sounds daunting and strange but you quickly get used to it!)
  • Social distancing will need to be observed in the car park, on entry and exit.
  • Hands will need to be sanitised on the way in and way out.
  • Masks are now mandatory unless you have specific exemptions (Service leaders and others participating do not need to wear masks for those parts of the service where they are participating).
  • A welcomer will welcome you and take down your name (and a telephone number if we don’t have that already in the church directory) for track and trace purposes in case someone subsequently is found to have COVID-19.
  • There should be no hand shaking or hugging and people will need to remain 2m apart as far as possible at all times. Please avoid touching door handles and other surfaces as much as possible.
  • You will only be able to sit next to people you live with or are in a bubble with. Some chairs will be grouped in twos (and more if necessary) and you may be directed where to sit. All other chairs will be 2 meters apart.
  • Children and youth will need to observe social distancing at all times in their groups too. They may go straight to their groups rather than coming into the first part of the service to minimise movement.
  • The words of services will be all projected on the screen. There will be no singing (but we will play reflective music) and you will be asked to say responses quietly with no shouting!
  • The peace will be done by sign language only and there will be no moving around to greet everyone.
  • Communion, will be ‘in one kind’ only. In other words, you will only receive bread (a wafer). The clergy will sanitise their hands during the communion prayers. The clergy will bring communion to you in your seat to reduce the amount of movement and you will be asked to extend your arms out as much as you can to receive it and the wafer will be dropped into your hands to minimise contact. The clergy will be wearing masks during the distribution.
  • After the service there will be no refreshments and you will be encouraged not to remain in the building too long after the service finishes. Socialising with others needs to occur outside observing correct socially distancing.
  • If you, or any of your household, have any symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19), you must not attend worship services.
  • Guidelines from the Church of England advise that over 70s and the vulnerable should remain at home ‘as much as possible’ and not join larger indoor gatherings, but the decision is left to the individual. We really want people to consider very carefully if it is right to attend services or wait a little longer, and above all else to consider your own safety.
This is both an exciting and daunting time, but we do trust that in this God is at work and we seek to be open and obedient to Him and His leading at this time. Please do continue to pray for all those in leadership who will be putting together these new services. Pray that in all of this we will encounter God deeply and continue to grow as disciples and grow together as God’s kingdom people at this time.Please do contact the clergy, wardens or church office if you have any questions.
With our love and prayers
Dave & the leadership