We are now able to publish our Sunday service times for September and October in our four churches and our Digital Church. It’s been a long and complicated process, so thank you for your patience while you’ve waited to find out what our worship services will look like this autumn.
Sharing our thinking
We want to share our thinking so you can understand why the pattern looks like it does. We know we won’t please everyone, but we hope it will help to understand why decisions have been made.
Several weeks ago, the Government lifted the restriction on using church buildings. We know some people have no plans to return to the church building for the time being, but many others are very keen to return. Our recent survey revealed that nearly 75% of church members who responded would return to a service in September, if one was available. Having experimented with opening midweek for private prayer and public worship – and having given our hardworking volunteer and staff a much-needed rest over August – we are therefore going to open our buildings again for Sunday services from 13 September.
Piecing together the puzzle
Leaving lockdown is far more complex than entering it. There are so many pieces of the jigsaw, including government and church guidelines, cleaning regimes, volunteer / staff / clergy resources and sustainability, the needs and desires of 13 congregations across four churches, providing online services and accommodating a mix of traditional and contemporary services. In putting this plan together, we have followed some guiding principles.
Some of the principles behind these plans
Being Spirit-led – We have prayed over this plan and we have tried our best to be led by the Lord who alone is not confused by our current predicament!
Remembering this is only one part of our life together – There’s a lot more to being a Christian than Sunday worship – we want to worship together in person again, but without placing too much focus on Sundays.
Integrating Sunday and mid-week worship – Just as our Digital Church services have dovetailed with video Daily Devotionals, so these Sunday Services should be seen as one plan together with mid-week services and times for private prayer. They all have an important part to play.
Serving online and in-person worshippers – We are committed to providing worship both online and in-person and to value both equally. We anticipate that, initially, c.80% of worshippers will continue to be online.
Being safe – All our plans have at their heart keeping everyone safe and respecting whatever approach people are taking to their personal situations.
What has been decided and why?
In summary, we believe this plan provides both a recognisable continuity for those worshipping online and also a recognisable return to public worship for those coming to church buildings.
We have decided to provide:
Continued online services every week, both traditional and contemporary.
A regular pattern of in-person services in each of our 4 church buildings.
A maximum of one public service per church per Sunday, to avoid having to clean the buildings between services.
A sustainable pattern for volunteer, clergy and staff teams (including cleaners).
A pattern that avoids clergy travelling between churches on the same day, with the risks that would entail.
A recognisable fit with what each church has been used to in the past, but not a reinstatement of the old pattern.
Live streaming our Digital Church services from All Saints Marlow, as a workable solution to providing both online and in-person services.
An experimental period during September and October, when we can trial this plan and then review and make changes as needed.