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Coronavirus - District response
STATEMENT REGARDING CHURCH RE-OPENING
I wrote in the middle of last month regarding church closures and promised to write again following the Methodist Conference. Mindful that a wealth of information and guidance is knocking around, I will keep this document brief and enumerated for ease of reference.
Methodist Church in Britain Website
Useful information and links can be found on the website but I especially draw your attention to the document REOPENING OUR CHURCH BUILDINGS FOR WORSHIP (first version, 26.6.20., second version 30.6.20.). A number of people have contacted me with questions, the answers to which can be found on the website.
Consider carefully and prayerfully before deciding to reopen
Remember, we are permitted, not compelled to open. Trustees should not feel guilty for delaying opening churches until such a time as it is safer. Think about what form worship will take; we will not be singing, socializing as we normally do, or having coffee after. The dynamic of worship will be affected by the smaller number present, as numbers should be decided on the basis of the capacity of the place of worship, following a risk assessment, and many are still anxious about public gatherings. Furthermore, we don’t want people coming to church and being disappointed by a pale imitation of what they were used to.
After issuing the statement on 15 June I was gently reminded that the decision lay with local trustees and not at District level. Quite right, and that was never in doubt. But as the decision lies locally so does the responsibility. Managing trustees are accountable for actions they take and must therefore assess the risks. Each church is legally obliged to carry out a risk assessment before opening. Here again, details are on the website.
If you have questions which you can’t find answered on the website you have a number of other options: You can contact the District Property Secretary, Lee O’Neill (email@example.com) or email me at the District Office (firstname.lastname@example.org), or you might contact Stephen Hetherington direct. Your own Superintendent will also be a fount of wisdom!
Finally, having spent the past forty years trying to get people into church it pains and saddens me if the impression is given that I am trying to keep people out. With my colleague superintendents, we are desperate to gather again physically as God’s people in our places of worship. But as pastors, we have a duty of care and do not want to put people at risk.
Paul Martin, July 2020