Month: March 2021

Letter to Churches March 2021

March 18th, 2021

Dear Friends,

Following the First Minister’s latest briefing on Friday March 12th and its interpretation for places of worship received from Cytûn this week my colleagues and I have met to discuss what should be our recommendation to churches concerning worship for the month of April onwards.

We have given consideration to the current state of affairs with regard to coronavirus in Cardiff and Caerphilly.  We have also sought guidance from the Circuit-based team of advisors who assisted us when we first began to put together covid risk assessments for worship last Summer.  Bearing all this in mind, we have decided to suggest that churches may consider a cautious return to face-to-face worship from the beginning of April should they feel that it is the right time for them to do so.  This is dependant on the managing trustees revisiting their Covid Safety Risk Assessment, making adjustments to take into account current advice, especially as it relates to the new, more infectious variants of the virus, and satisfying themselves that the church is able to deliver and abide by the required safety measures.

I offer the following points for your consideration:

  1. At the heart of our Circuit approach from the beginning has been that no Minister, Preacher, member or congregation should be expected to do something which makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Congregations should only return to their buildings for worship when there is a conviction among the trustees that the time is right. This will differ from congregation to congregation;
  2. With this in mind, I ask Church Stewards, with their Ministers, to begin a conversation regarding if and when their congregation may wish to return to face-to-face worship. It is important that those who “manage” the risk at such gatherings feel willing and able to do so before any decision to reopen is taken.  Churches should not reopen if there are not an adequate number of people available to oversee the safety measures;
  3. Risk Assessments for worship must be revisited and revised as deemed appropriate. All the mitigating factors we had before – strict social distancing, provision of hand sanitizer, face masks to be worn by everyone over the age of 11, no singing – will continue, with additional thought being given to protecting worshippers against the current virus threat in Wales.  An important emphasis in recent guidance is increased ventilation (during and after worship).  Care should be taken in ensuring all aspects of the Risk Assessment are put into operation;
  4. Congregations which do seek to reopen need to be aware that we may not be able to provide a planned preacher every Sunday. We will not be planning any Minister or Preacher to lead a “live” service in more than one venue per day because of the possibilities of transmitting the virus between communities. This may result in conversations about churches being open less frequently than weekly and/or of covid safe ways in which Local Arrangements may be delivered.  For the foreseeable future at least one online worship service will be available every Sunday across the Circuit;
  5. As a result of the ongoing uncertainty of our situation we will continue for the foreseeable future to issue a monthly preaching plan, rather than quarterly;
  6. We are reminded that at the moment organized children’s activities are not permitted and, as the government continues to assess the impact of returning to school on our communities, we should not be providing separate children’s sessions such as Junior Church;
  7. Since Wales went into Tier 4 restrictions in December there has been a ban on outdoor worship unless it is on the church’s own grounds. This has not yet been lifted.  The Welsh Government has been approached to ask if it will consider lifting the ban but we are unlikely to hear if they have before the next three-weekly briefing due on April 2nd (Good Friday);
  8. The current regulations as they pertain to churches can be found on Cytûn’s website by following this link COVID 19 – Papur Briffio – Eglwysi Ynghyd yng Nghymru | Churches Together in Wales (cytun.co.uk)

I would be grateful if churches could inform me via their Ministers as soon as possible whether/when they would seek to return to face-to-face worship so we can plan accordingly. I am happy to have conversations with any Church/Stewards who need further information.

I close with a sobering thought shared by members of the Circuit’s Covid Advisory Group who, while agreeing that it is reasonable now to consider reopening churches, also cautioned that the greatest risk we face at the moment is complacency.  Lower infection rates and more people vaccinated do not mean coronavirus is no longer dangerous. As we move forward slowly and carefully let our concern be for each other and the wider communities in which we live and worship.

Yours in Christ,

Cathy

Posted by LIsa Medina