Notes from FIEC Leadership in Lockdown webinar on ‘Ministry beyond COVID’ with John Stevens.
1. Gospel ministry is more than calling people to conversion, it is calling people to conversion and godly living.
2. How do we call people to godly living? By being an example in holiness, righteousness and blamelessness – leaders are to set the highest standard in their example. By giving encouragement – exhorting them t live lives of godliness. By giving eschatological motivations for godliness – begin now the life of the kingdom which is to come and to which we have been called. This is our week by week work.
3. COVID Update:
– Step 4 in England has been implemented which means all legal restrictions have been removed.
– No requirement to wear face coverings in church.
– No requirement to social distance.
– No limit on size gatherings indoors or outdoors.
– No restrictions on congregational singing. The strong advice against congregational singing is no more.
– No requirement to collect details for test and trace.
– No restrictions for weddings and funerals.
– No restrictions on children and youth work and no requirement for children to be kept in bubbles.
– There are some legal obligations (these existed before COVID). There is still a requirement to undertake a risk assessment and also to take reasonable steps to protect employees/attenders under Health and Safety legislation.
– Everything has been as a matter for local decision-making. Local churches have ability to impose requirements or make recommendations about what people should do.
– Local venues have right to impose restrictions on people attending.
– Clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to avoid close contact but the choice is down to them as individuals.
4. There is no specific guidance on when singing is safe, which gives complete freedom for local churches to make the decision. Where the attendance of the congregation makes it a crowded indoor space, there is the expectation that steps are taken to mitigate risk (face coverings; social distancing; ventilation). It is worth noting that in Scotland and Wales mask wearing is still required inside church, not just when singing, and will be until at the earliest 9th/7th August).
5. The government has not defined what a crowded space is. A good gauge is when there are so many people present that it is impossible for anyone to observe social distancing if they wanted to.
6. Practical considerations for churches:
– Restrictions imposed by owners of rented venues (churches can impose restrictions on others in they hire their venues out).
– Will the church become a ‘crowded indoor space’?
– What might this mean for maximum venue capacity/booking? Venue capacity limit, ongoing booking system.
– What are the risks to the specific congregation? i.e local COVID rates, age of congregation, vaccine uptake, number of clinically extremely vulnerable attending church.
– Be aware of the potential risks of mingling between younger and older people – risk higher among younger people.
– What provision will be made for those who want to continue to maintain social distance and the clinically extremely vulnerable? – specific areas maintain social distancing, or different services with different levels of mitigation.
– What will maintain church unity and enable people to feel safe to return to church? – what is going to work for the body as a whole.
– How will people be informed of what to expect when they attend church?
– Will the church maintain an online option for those who do not feel able to return in person at this point?
– Church leaders respect the choices made by all members of the congregation – it is a matter of individual conscience; don’t blame or shame people as they adjust to a different environment.
– Teach the congregation to respect the boundaries others want to observe – e.g. mask wearing, social distancing, touching (handshake) etc.
– Be patient as society adjusts to the new approach – so much will depend on COVID stats over the next 6 weeks.
7. The language of require and recommend is helpful to use when communicating to the church what the expectations are. If they have got to do something (like wear a mask) use require. If you are giving the individual a choice, but want to encourage them to consider doing something, use recommend.
8. This was the final webinar in the Leadership for Lockdown series. I’m grateful to John Stevens and FIEC for putting them on over the last 15 months.