*Please note, printed copies of this letter will be available to pick up at church on Sunday* With the changes in Covid restrictions from 19th July, many of the things we have become used to in the way we live are now technically optional and many of the procedures that we have to follow as we are out and about have been scrapped. It is a tough thing to navigate what our church should do with its procedures in response, and we must all be kind to each other as we all move at a different pace with respect to the freedoms which have been allowed but not necessarily recommended.
The PCC have looked carefully at what we should now do at church, based on the various scientific evidences, the case numbers, and guidance from the Diocese and the Church of England nationally. As a result, from 15th August there will be a set of transitional arrangements put in place governing services. These will seek to enable more freedom whilst at the same time creating safe spaces for those who do not yet feel able to embrace these for whatever reason. As a church family, we love each other, and an expression of that love is that we look after each other, even if we disagree.
This letter gives you an idea of what to expect at services after 15th August. It is a transitional arrangement which will be reviewed by the PCC in September.
· As a church we will continue to recommend the wearing of face masks/coverings. We recognise that this is uncomfortable, but for those who can (exemptions apply) we intend to honour and value each other by putting others ahead of our own discomfort. This is not mandatory or legally required. It is a voluntary act of service to our family. Those who are exempt from mask wearing should continue to feel no guilt or judgment.
· Singing will be reinstated at services.
· There will be no coffee between services yet. This will be reviewed in September.
· Track and Trace monitoring will continue. It is voluntary, but is an important tool in keeping the village and each other safe.
· The church will continue to maximise ventilation through the opening of windows and doors where this is possible and safe to do.
· We will continue to use the parish room for overflow if the church becomes too busy.
· We will continue to use the screens instead of encouraging the handling of paper service books and hymn books. This will kept under review.
· The church will be reopened during the day for private prayer on all days that we are able to staff the opening and closing.
· Specific to Zest:
o We shall return to interactive prayers and confessions, using shared materials, except for those which involve increased risk of airborne transmission (e.g. bubble-blowing)
o Craft and colouring will no longer be quarantined for 72 hours and will mostly be shared freely as before Covid. However, there will be one or two tables kept distanced for those who would feel more comfortable to maintain more distance.
o We will continue to use the Parish room for discussion to enable extra space for the above.
o Online video of Zest will cease, partly because we encourage people to return in person, and partly because the safeguarding of images of children in a more free-flow Zest would become impossible.
· Specific to 11am service:
o Continuation of the audio recording of the service for the telephone line in order to provide for those who are housebound and cannot attend in person.
o The service will return to its normal format, rather than giving a break in the middle before communion.
o Altered seating arrangements to enable choice about distancing: the North side of the church will remain a place for social distancing with alternate pews closed, whereas the South side will be less restricted with all pews open.
o There will be the opportunity to have other people doing Bible readings and Intercessions.
o Communion will have altered arrangements, reflecting the North and South aisle distancing decisions: Those on the North side will continue to have a wafer delivered to them by the celebrant, whereas those on the South side will be offered the chance to received communion at the altar rail, giving space for each other. The celebrant will continue to use mask and gloves, but will no longer wear a visor. The wafers for the congregation will continue to be covered during the Eucharistic prayer to prevent airborne contamination, but they will no longer be required to lie dormant for 72 hours prior to the service.
We recognise that as a list, this all feels complex, but are confident that we will become accustomed to the new system quickly. The key issue is the need to be gracious to each other, potentially putting others before ourselves, and not accidently placing obstacles in the way of others being able to worship.
For some, these changes are bold and for others they do not go far enough. Our primary aims continue to be to worship God and work together for the spread of the Good News of Jesus throughout Menston, as we grow in faith ourselves. I pray that God will guide us as we keep these new procedures under review.
Thank you in advance for your continuing generosity and grace as we navigate these times.
Revd S Proudlove.