So this week we have had all the regulations delivered to us that will allow us to re-open our church again. That is once we've made sure that the full risk assessment is complete, all the signs and sanitisers are in place, the seats spaced and the sides-people sufficiently trained. There's an awful lot of stuff that needs to get done.
We are therefore taking a cautious approach and will look to start small services next Sunday. One of the major reasons for this is that we won't be able to sing. To me that's a bit like a football match without the fans. Our sung worship creates the atmosphere in which we meet with God. It doesn't mean that we can't worship without singing. But our main service will be a very different beast, a wholly different experience, until we can return with the worship band and the volume turned up.
In the last four months we have developed an online service that helps us to meet together and stay connected to God as a church. The numbers attending have stayed settled at around 90 to 100 people which is a fair proportion of our regular main service congregation. This has been supported by a whole team of gifted and talented people. God has blessed us in being able to do this and we are likely to continue for at least another month.
The other complicating factor is that the church building is now filled with scaffolding as the painters move in to paint the nave area of the church for the first time for nearly fifty years. It makes sense to give the space over to them so that they can complete this work as efficiently as possible. This further month of enforced absence also gives us more time to plan and prepare.
Yet we do still have the chancel, a small area of already painted space, in which we can hold small services of Holy Communion. These will allow those who can't connect online to resume some pattern of worship for themselves. The services will be simple and small. Everyone will need to maintain their social distancing awareness. Hand washing on the way in an out will be compulsory and masks recommended.
This time away from the church building has reminded us of the vast difference between our relationship with God as Christians against than those of ancient Israel who worshipped in the great Temple in Jerusalem. For them it was all about a day spent in the courts of the Lord. This Covid crisis time has shown us that we have God with us in the form of His Holy Spirit wherever we are. We have this gift of grace because Jesus died so that we might know God's presence in every moment of our lives. As we begin to return to the church building may all that we do seek to bring glory to Him.