Worship Onsite – Covid Phase 4

We are delighted to be able to move forward in our worship together. The government has lifted Covid 19 restrictions from Monday 19th July and the Church of England has issued guidance to help us make our own arrangements regarding public worship. In our parish, as throughout society, there is a range of views regarding risk, and the restrictions that we live with or not.

The legal responsibility for the ordering of public worship lies with the incumbent and Felicity has spent the last two weeks working with staff teams, PCC and listening to the views of congregation members. Thank you for your contributions. We are aware of the increasing number of people whose family and work lives are currently disrupted by enforced isolation or actual infection. Very many of you have echoed the Bishop of London, who chairs the Church of England’s Recovery Group:

“This is a difficult point in the course of the pandemic. Despite vaccination rates, cases are up, hospital admissions are up and long covid remains an ongoing concern. Therefore our approach needs to be cautious and careful. Taking personal responsibility means responsibility for our neighbour, not just for ourselves, and taking precautions to protect those more vulnerable than we consider ourselves to be.”

In making these decisions we want:

  • To ensure our churches are as inviting, accessible and safe as possible for anyone to worship together, either onsite or online.
  • To have special regard for all those who are more vulnerable to covid 19 and its effects, physically or mentally and to make sure that anyone who is feeling anxious or cautious about the lifting of restrictions is not discriminated against.
  • Nevertheless to take measured steps forward in the practice of our public worship, as we make progress to something like a new normal.

For some of us, these measures won’t go far enough.

For others, they represent a lifting of restrictions that will cause anxiety.

Please know that all of you are prayed for here in your church, whatever your circumstances or views, and that we are committed to making our way through these next few months together as we have travelled together so far.

From July 28th until September 12th (inclusive) we will:

  • Encourage all congregation members to wear masks
  • Provide a choice of seating in rows or distanced
  • Provide laminated cards to indicate people’s wish to remain distanced
  • No longer require advance booking for services
  • Encourage all to scan in using the QR code or sign in
  • Open doors and windows for appropriate ventilation whatever the weather
  • Continue to sing as a congregation outdoors where possible, or indoors wearing masks
  • Ask congregation members not wearing masks to refrain from singing
  • Continue to offer services with a reduced amount of sung music
  • Continue offering communion in one kind only
  • Serve refreshments outdoors if at all possible (and at St Mary’s in church if not possible outdoors)
  • Continue to clean the buildings after events
  • Hold some services outdoors if practical
  • Advertise some services as said only
  • Continue to offer online worship

If you have not yet attended worship on site you might be wondering what our churches will look like, with a choice of seats in rows or more distanced. Scott has kindly taken a photo of St Mary’s Kidlington so that you can see how it looks at the moment – but of course we do move chairs around for different events.

Towards the front are seats in rows, a little more spaced out than before Covid but where people can sit together and feel connected. Towards the rear and at the side of church the seats are distanced in ones, twos and threes with good space between them. With no advance booking and no seating plan any more you are free to come when you feel able and to choose where feels most comfortable for you to sit. We also have laminated cards to use if you would like to be sure that people do not come and sit too close to you. With these safeguards in place, we hope that you will wish to join us for worship when it feels right for you to return to the buildings. 

Felicity, Martin, and Susy; Chris Tupling (Health and Safety Officer)

Notes:

  1. We will review this in the first full week of September.
  2. The choir and choristers are on holiday in August, and will return with restricted numbers for the first weeks in September.
  3. We have many baptisms, funerals and some weddings in this period. The full time clergy will be in contact with many family gatherings and we will be maintaining distance in services and refraining from attending wakes, parties, and receptions.