The easing of the Coronavirus lockdown rules has meant that places of worship can now begin reopening, albeit subject stringent restrictions on what is permitted to take place.
The Baptist Union, of which we are a member, has published guidance on reopening. In particular, they note that “The requirements for the safe opening of church buildings are extensive… Above all, we encourage you not to rush to re-establish gathered corporate worship but only to do so prayerfully and after the widest possible consultation.”
We as a leadership team have discussed the issues at length. Whilst we ache to be able to be together again in person, it would prove impossible to meet the requirements of the regulations while the building is in its current state of refurbishment, as “social distancing” in the restricted space of the schoolroom would be impossible.
Once the refurbishment is complete (and we still do not have a revised estimated date for this at present) then reopening becomes possible. However, our meetings would be very different from what we are used to.
It is rather unfortunate that the very things that many of us have most missed during lockdown – corporate sung worship, fellowship, and children’s groups – are, at present, simply not permitted. The current guidance is that services should be conducted in the shortest time possible and that at the end congregants should leave immediately and go their separate ways.
We can only pray that this situation will improve soon. In the meantime there are certain things that we can do to prepare for a reopening, including carrying out risk assessments and understanding the various adaptations to the building that will be required.
We also need to be clear about why we are reopening – what, realistically, do we expect to be able to do that we currently cannot do through our Zoom meetings?
None of this is simple. We need to come before the Lord and seek his wisdom on the way forward.