5th August 2020
It is incredible to believe that the last time we gathered as a church family in our buildings was back in February of this year. This will indeed be a year that none of us will forget. As a church family, our faith is grounded in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and therefore even in difficult times it always brings hope into every situation. And although the buildings have been closed, the work and ministry of God’s Church has gone from strength to strength. We have helped to develop initiatives in these past months which have made such an impact into our community, and it is something that I believe God desires for us to continue as we move out of lockdown.
The good news about moving out of lockdown is that the Northern Ireland Executive and the Church of Ireland have provided guidance to help us safely reopen our church buildings for public worship, and therefore I am delighted that both Christ Church and St John’s will reopen from Sunday 16th August, resuming our normal times of 10am and 11.30 respectively. However as I am sure you can understand, there are a number of government restrictions that will make the return to church seem rather different. This will include limiting our numbers in the buildings, refraining from congregational singing, the removal of all books from the pews, and so the list goes on. To help you understand the changes that we are faced with, we have provided guidance below to help you through this.
We want to recognise that for some of you, the return to church services is still considered too much of a risk, and therefore we will continue to provide the weekly Sunday service on the internet at 11am via our YouTube channel, and the phone-in service using 028 93 270020.
Should you have any questions regarding our return to church worship, please feel free to give me a call on 07808 479649. May God bless you and your families, and we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible return in the weeks to come.
Guidance for returning to Church
- Please be assured that we have been diligent in making our buildings as safe as possible and have been following all government and Church of Ireland guidance.
- Should you be feeling unwell before coming to church, we would recommend that you do not attend and remain in your home.
- We would recommend that you do not arrive early for church. We will be opening the doors 15 minutes before the commencement time (9.45 for Christ Church and 11.15 for St John’s).
- We recommend you do not bring any hymn books, prayer books with you as everything will be provided on a screen for you to read.
- Due to the restrictions on numbers attending services, we have had to introduce a booking system. This will open every Monday from 12 noon for the following Sunday’s services. Do not assume that if you were in church one week that there will be room the following week, so please book each week. To book a place, you will need to either book online via our website. Go to www.theunitedparish.org.uk or by phoning Revd Jonny on 07808 479649 (this is due to David our Parish Adminstrator going for surgery in the weeks to come).
- As restrictions change, these guidelines will also be amended to reflect current good practice.
When you arrive at Church
- If you arrive and have to queue for church, please ensure you maintain social distancing with other parishioners.
- Upon arrival, there will be hand gel and face masks available. We would emphasise the importance of wearing face masks, so if you have one already please bring it with you.
- We are required to record everyone who attends church, so a registration will take place before entering. Your details will be retained for 21 days after the service in case the Health Trusts or Department of Health need this information. Your temperature will also be taken using a thermal device upon entering the building which is non-contact.
- Due to the 2 metre distance rule, we are limited with seating in both churches. Families however can sit together. Some pews will be blocked for social distancing.
- As a church family we love to see our children gathering to worship. However due to the restrictions on seating and movement, if you believe your children cannot remain seated for the duration of the service, we would encourage you to consider using our online services on YouTube channel which includes a weekly Kid’s Church online.
- A one-way system will exist which must be followed. In Christ Church, the exit will be through the back door at the side of the pulpit. In St John’s, parishioners must walk down the side transept aisle and leave through the main entrance door.
- Wardens and Stewards will escort you to your seats. Whilst people like to sit in particular areas of the church, it is necessary for health & safety to fill the church from the front. Therefore please be kind to our Stewards as it will not be possible for you to choose where you sit.
- The churches will be thoroughly cleaned each week before the services, but we would recommend that you avoid touching surfaces as much as is possible.
During the time of worship
- Should you feel unwell during the service, you must indicate to one of the stewards who will provide support.
- Due to the scientific advice provided to the Northern Ireland Executive we are advised to refrain from congregational singing. However we still intend to incorporate music into the worship.
- All services will be much shorter in duration. The services will be conducted wherever possible using a screen to avoid contact with books.
- Toilets will be available during the services, and we recommend that you adhere to all hygiene guidance on washing hands and surfaces.
Leaving the church
- Stewards and Wardens will guide you to the exit. Do not leave your seat until instructed to do so.
- When you leave, please ensure you take all belongings with you, and remove any waste, tissues etc. and place in the pedal bins provided at the exits.
- The offering will be taken at the exit as you leave. No collection plates will be passed around. Many people are now choosing to contribute to the church via Standing Order or bank transfer. If you would like to contribute in this way, please ask for further details from the Wardens or Stewards, or you can find details by clicking here.
- As you leave remember to maintain social distancing.
Thank you for your patience. These guidelines are not an ideal welcome back to church, but these are in place to keep everyone as safe as possible. We pray and look forward to the time when we can come together freely and worship in the way we all remember before lockdown.