Notes from an FIEC Leadership in Lockdown webinar on Leadership through Lockdown in deprived communities with Andy Constable, Stephen Kneale and Ian Williamson plus extra Q+A with John Stevens about relaxation of lockdown restrictions.
1. The headlines from the latest advice regarding lockdown (in England):
– Weddings (both religious and civil) allowed from 4 July with maximum of 30 attendees – this is better than was anticipated.
– Places of worship can reopen from 4 July. There is much uncertainty about this as we wait for government guidance to be published (see questions below). The expectation is that church will need to be COVID secure.
– Unclear whether maximum of 30 attendees applies only to weddings or to church services also.
– There is uncertainty about what guidance will be legal obligation, strong advice, and advice. Trustees will need to undertake a risk assessment. Clarity is needed with regards to insurance and liability.
– Congregational singing is unlikely to be permitted.
– Social distancing ideally will need to be 2m, but if 1m+ other mitigations will likely need to be put in place (e.g. masks, screens).
– Two households can gather indoors together which opens up the possibility of two households watching the online service together.
– Restrictions for outdoor gatherings remains unchanged which prevents open air services of more than 6 people or 2 households.
– Government policy is to not lay down rules for everything, opting for advice over law. This will make it difficult for churches to know with certainty what they can and can’t do. Care will be needed because of insurance implications.
– Check out the helpful document from GAFCAN.
2. Questions still needing to be answered.
– Will preaching need to take place behind a screen? Government is concerned about the spread of the virus by projected voices. Amplification through PA system rather than by voice might be the solution.
– What about Sunday School, Creche, parent and toddler groups etc? There will be issues regarding cleaning (note soft play areas are closed); social distancing.
– What about collections involving handling of cash? Collection may require being left for 72 hours before handled.
– What about running multiple services? Questions regarding cleaning and the length of time gap between services.
– When will guidance be issued? Don’t know.
– Can elders meet in church buildings? Guidance about use of offices might be instructive. 6 elders can social distance in garden. Another possibility is zoom meetings with two elders together.
– Use of church buildings during the week? Expectation is guidance given won’t be limited to Sunday only. Key will be ensuring all activities are COVID safe.
– Outdoor large gatherings? Currently not allowed. Drive-In churches are different.
– Car parks and gardens on church premises and owned by the church are regarded as the place of worship.
– What about transporting people to church? ?
– Track and Trace Implications? This could mean church activities being shut down for 14 days if whole church gathering is forced to self-isolate.
– What about churches that rent properties? They are in the hands of their providers. Some providers have already made clear that they are not accepting booking before January 2021. Churches with buildings might choose to show gospel generosity and allow other churches to use their buildings when they are not.
– What about Lord’s Supper? Waiting for guidance that covers the use of food. Food may need to be individually packaged.
– Use of toilets? Likely to be same rules as pubs and other hospitality venues. Cleaning between individuals, social distance queues. This will likely impact how a church decides to meet.
– When to begin meeting again? A decision for every church to make. Risk assessment will need to be in place. It will not be the same as it was. Do we want to gather with social distancing, limitations regarding who we can connect with, no congregational singing? Do we want to divide the church into who can come and who can’t come?
3. The concern among God’s people in the Old Testament and the work of the Spirit in the New Testament is the practice of generous giving by believers so there is equality. Paul words in 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 are to encourage the church in Corinth to be generous. Pointing to the Macedonian church whose giving was generous, supremely modelled on the Lord Jesus, and whose goal was equality. This kind of giving is not charity but doing justice. They weren’t giving to do God a favour or people a favour, but because it was doing what is right. Desire that FIEC churches show genuine fellowship by giving to one another.
4. What are some of the challenges of lockdown being faced by churches in deprived communities? Mental health issues exacerbated by lockdown removing structures usually in place; loneliness; single parents struggling to educate their children; fear and anxiety about catching the disease; missing physical connection of community. Observation that issues more social than financial.
5. What are some of the gospel opportunities lockdown has opened up? Engage community out in front gardens and out and about in neighbourhood; provide care packages for those shielding; online Bible studies in groups or 121; people tuning into livestream who wouldn’t usually come to church such as unbelieving family members.
6. What are big needs? Prayer, Money, People. Finances keep the first generation of church planters/staff going, but people (esp. lay elders) are needed if they work is going to continue after that.