You will no doubt have heard in recent days that some places of worship have started to reopen and so I wanted to write to you with an update about Woking United Reformed Church. The elders and I have looked in detail at the government guidelines as well as those issued by the URC and have noted the following…
• ‘It is recommended that, where possible, places of worship continue to stream worship or other events to avoid large gatherings and to continue to reach those individuals who are self-isolating or particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
• Certain groups of people may be at increased risk of severe disease from COVID-19, including people who are aged 70 or older, regardless of medical conditions. Individuals who fall within this group are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if they do go out, to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside of their household.’
• Capacity for church services is determined by the ability to maintain social distancing within the space. Our capacity is 60/70 (depending on the no. of households v individuals)
• No communal singing can take place.
• Children should remain with their parents or guardians (so we couldn’t run groups)
• Face to face seating should be avoided for groups.
• The use of service sheets, hymn books etc would be complex and require such items to be quarantined for 48 hours after use.
As you’ll understand, were we to return to the premises any time soon, it would not be church as we know it. We wouldn’t be able to sing, run children’s groups, spend time socially together, sit near each other or even accommodate everyone who might wish to attend, resulting in a box-office booking system becoming necessary. Furthermore, the elders and I all feel that we are not at a place during this pandemic yet where it would be right and safe to enable gatherings of people indoors.
Each church has to make its own mind up, based on its circumstances, and we have decided that, for now, we will continue to worship and connect together online. We realise this will be disappointing for some but we need to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of all our community. We are mindful that some among us are not able to access the internet and we want to remind you that we are here to do everything we can to help you stay connected. CDs or DVDs of the services are available, or even paper copies if that would be most helpful. Please contact me, David Tuson or your elder.
Work is planned on our building over the summer (more details will follow in the next newsletter) and I am pleased to inform you that our premises manager, Tiny, is now working a few hours again per week (based from home) and will be at the fore of managing our return when it occurs. She will be in charge of keeping Track & Trace records which are now required for places of worship.
The only exception to the building being closed is that the AA groups which used to meet at WURC will be returning shortly. This is something that has been allowed by the government to support the vital work they do in helping people to remain sober.
Live streaming of services will continue from the Manse for the time being, and then move to the church in due course (without a congregation) so that we can receive technical support (there’s less danger of Toby pulling out wires there!).
We will continue to review the situation regarding gathering together, but feel it’s only fair to share that we don’t expect this to be soon and will only be done when we are confident it is both safe and in the best interests of our worshipping life together.
The elders and I take this decision making extremely seriously and are constantly seeking God’s guidance for our church. We are encouraged by the ways our church family has pulled together, engaged with new ways of worshipping, learnt new skills, looked out for one another and found God in unexpected places. Please continue to pray for us as we discern the best path through this time, and pray for one another, that our faith in Jesus would continue to deepen and grow.
In Christian love,