[this post sets out the thinking & considerations behind these our Covid precautions – it is a bit out of date, but has been left here to help explain our reasoning]
The Summer weeks are usually a quieter time in the life of the Church, and attendance at services/gatherings is usually down. However this year we’ve seen less of a reduction than usual. No doubt in part because we’ve been missing gathering together for so long so some of us are making the most of it, but also because many people have been unable to get away on holiday for a variety of reasons. Whatever the cause, it’s been encouraging to see consistent attendance and growing confidence among those attending – and we’ve been really blessed by Life Groups leading a members of the fellowship preaching too!
As we’ve been planning for the new academic year & the approaching autumn/winter period, we’ve been monitoring the local & national Covid-19 case data and considering what changes we might be able to make to the restrictions we apply to our Sunday morning gatherings.
As we’ve said before, our primary concern is for the safety and wellbeing of those who want to attend, but we also want people to feel comfortable & confident when returning to gather in person. In addition, if we can do so safely, we are keen to increase capacity in the building to create a greater sense of community & family.
Cases: Although the national trend for cases is currently heading up, the case numbers are significantly lower than when Government moved to Step 4 and removed all legal restrictions. Local cases are well below the national average and much more stable than the national trend (down again this week in Rochford).
Confidence: as mentioned above, there is a growing confidence among those attending and the feedback continues to be really positive. But we do have people gathering with us in person who are still very cautious, so we don’t want to take steps which reduce people’s confidence, make them uncomfortable/feel at risk, or stop them attending.
Capacity: with 100 seats available, we’ve been consistently at 90-99% capacity each week (including Summer). As we restart our Children’s & Youth work on Sunday mornings, we need to increase our capacity; and we hope and pray that as we reduce restrictions others will choose to gather with us in person again rather than online (both members and people new to RBC).
With all the above considered (and more besides), we have decided to begin reducing restrictions during September. We will be taking a phased approach with small steps forward each week, as detailed below:
- 5th September [Children’s & Youth groups return & will gather with us]
- No longer required to pre-book a seat, and no need for managed seating plan
- Congregational singing will be permitted once again (but behind masks)
- 12th September [a chance to acknowledge who/what we’ve lost during the Pandemic]
- Remove Social Distancing in the Balconies
- Maintain social distancing for all downstairs
- 19th September [will incorporate Church Members Meeting & AGM]
- Reduce from 2m distance in main body of Church and increase group sizes from 6 to 8
- Retain social distancing and groups of 6 under balcony
- 26th September [including infant Dedication/recommissioning of Life Group Leaders]
- Masks can be removed when seated
- (but must be worn when singing/moving around)
We will continue to monitor the local & national data, review how things are going, and listen to feedback from the Church family, and if we need to stop the reductions or reimplement some, we will do so. If we decide we need to change the above plan we will let you know – otherwise we’ll continue as outlined.
We believe this plan will allow us to make progress toward ‘normality’, and to do so safely whilst accommodating different comfort/confidence levels. Below there is an infographic which outlines the changes above for your reference (click for full size), and which will be displayed in the building. Each Sunday morning we will communicate the changes during the gathering.
On behalf of the Trustees I want to thank you all for your patience so far. We know that to many of you the restrictions have been disappointing and frustrating, and yet to others they’ve been a blessing. We’ve really appreciated your honest feedback and helpful questioning. But more than that we’ve appreciated your understanding of the decisions we’ve made and your adherence to the rules we’ve kept in place. We’ve truly seen Philippians 2:3a-4 lived out well:
“in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests but each of you
to the interests of the others…”
Rev. Ricky Rew
Minister / Chair of Trustees