As your minister I am aware that many members are anxious to hear an update about the use of buildings especially in regards gathering for worship. Whilst I am certain that our buildings will be opened for worship once more, I need to temper expectations, as there is first a large amount of guidance and safety information from both the government and Connexion for Stewards and Church Councils as Managing Trustees to consider. This will ensure that when we are ready to open (and some buildings may reopen at a different rate to others) we are confident that we meet the government and Methodist guidelines and regulations so that ourselves and other users can meet in a safe and clean environment.
Property Secretaries have been carrying out regular property inspections and are reading through the Connexional Property guidance updates as well as preparing the various risk assessment (29 pages), which will enable a ‘live’ Action Plan to be formulated. (By ‘live’ it is meant that any and all documents are reviewed and updated as part of a continuous process of reflection by those who own it, on how well it is working in reality, and making changes to it if needed; it is not intended to be a one solution, static document.) This planning process is essential, as it checks and ensures that the Church building accommodates the requirements for opening; including what physical changes or provisions Managing Trustees will need to instigate to manage risks throughout the property. This includes working with, and obtaining full co-operation with, the many outside groups that use our buildings.
Stewards have been busy working with myself in keeping members informed of the latest news, information and advice available to us, as well as providing details of the church services that are available both locally and nationally. Steward and Leadership meetings are currently being convened so that we can begin the monitoring and preparatory work that is expected to be needed, although we must also note that it will only be after Conference has met (25 June – 2nd July) that we will receive the full guidance relating to places of worship fully opening for public worship.
Preachers and Leaders of Worship have been organising the weekly Circuit Service sheets and online worship has been well supported using the ZOOM platform, both for Contact at 9.30 and at 10.30 am and I would like to take this opportunity to especially thank Pete and Karen Bowery for providing us with our live music over these last few months. If you wish for details for either of these services then please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can include you on the mailing list.
Pastoral visitors and contacts have ensured that the weekly circuit worship sheets and minister letters are distributed, including posting and hand delivering to those who don’t have electronic devices and it is hoped that these will continue to be distributed even as buildings reopen.
Treasurers have been reviewing church finances, identifying ways in which we can still meet our obligations for the bills that still need paying. Obviously, our finances have been somewhat depleted; as we have not been able to collect the offerings envelopes during Sunday worship, nor have we received any income from those organizations that we rent our buildings to. If you are able to give at this time via online banking please do contact me on email@example.com or phone 01933 622137 and I will put you in contact with the treasurer for banking details.
As I compose this article the main connexional guidance from the 11th June 2020 remains: that churches stay closed, but we recognise that different parts of the British Isles might be at different stages and we appreciate that there may be those who feel their mission depends on their church being open for individual prayer. If Managing Trustees feel they are at a point where they want to open their buildings for individual prayer, then the guidance documents as found on the Methodist Church Website must be followed. (If you are interested in reading these documents then please email firstname.lastname@example.org)
When the Government announced its intention to change the advice it stated that: ‘Places of worship still have discretion over when they consider it safe to open and may decide to remain closed or reopen at a slower pace if they wish’ and we would like to stress that no-one should feel under any pressure to open buildings for individual prayer.
We understand the vital need for prayer at this time and have found that our people have been praying no less because they have not had buildings in which to pray. We know that mission, ministry and church has been happening in new and exciting ways in these times.
We are conscious that those churches in jurisdictions outside England may have different needs and mission opportunities, and have to abide by different regulations from English churches.
Above all, we want people to pray and worship safely and as we have already stated, we are committed to doing a full review of our guidance after the Conference.
So whilst our buildings continue to be closed at this time; to both worshipers and to those groups who use our buildings, can I take this opportunity to say “Thank You.” It is because of your praying, worshipping, in displaying your love for neighbours and helping in all the ways that you can during this time of Covid-19 that you, the people of God, have shown to our communities and to the world that the church has in fact remained open.
So I close with a blessing for us all:
May God sustain us all at this time
May God continue to bless each one of us
For whilst we are apart,
we remain together,
as we offer our love,
and our prayers,
in service to one another and to the world.
Rev’d Kim Shorley
Circuit Minister with pastoral charge at Irthlingborough with Yelden, Raunds, Wellingborough and Wollaston