Covid-19 May Update
This is just a quick line to advise you of where we are in relation to the use of our buildings at this stage of the pandemic.
On behalf of the congregation, a wee group consisting of Allan Ritchie, Laura Barron, Carole Winter, Erik Leslie and Paul and Rhona McKeown have been working hard on the guidance and legislation we need to process to get using our buildings safely again. This allowed us to open up the Sanctuary for a spell last Autumn until a further lockdown was imposed. We were then able to open up again on Easter Sunday and are continuing to meet in-person at the moment.
The most recent changes to the rules allow us to use the balcony again, so with that our safe capacity on a Sunday is up to 64. As folk get their vaccines, we hope to see more of you feeling safe enough to make a return to worship on Sundays. A big thanks to everyone who is helping with the additional cleaning that's necessary.
We've also been working at getting the Hall and Annexe ready for use. This is a much more complicated situation. Not only do we have a great new building to commission (with all that entails), but we then need to make sure we can operate it safely. The multi-use nature of the building makes opening the Hall safely more challenging to organise. Thanks again to the folk working behind the scenes to get the hall up and running, with a special mention to Alex Cooper who's been very busy putting the finishing touches in place, and Ernie Wray who's been helping with Fire Safety checks.
We are preparing to welcome our first group - the local Brownie company - into the Forsyth Hall on 20th May and they'll be meeting there til the summer.
We are happy to begin to take booking enquiries again, but with the caveat that things are not going to 'go back to normal' quickly because of the complexity of the planning that's going to be needed. We are going to have to manage a return to activities in a slow and phased manner. All potential user groups - including church groups - will need to work on a Covid Risk Assesment for their activities to help them think through how to minimise risk from the virus. We will have to work closely with every potential hall user to make sure their activity can be operated safely within the current (but ever changing!) guidelines. There will also be some additional cleaning responsibilities for groups in keeping the Hall and Annexe Covid-free going forward.
These are changed days, but it's great to be getting to a place where we can finally welcome folk back into our buildings and see them beginning to get used again, and we're grateful for everyone who's playing a part - big or small - in making this happen. Godwilling it won't be too long when we can relax a little and be able to look back on these Covid days as a thing of the past.
Returning to our church buildings
“Let us not give up meeting together…..” Heb 10:25
Dear church family –
I’m glad to say that during these difficult times, many of us have chosen to keep meeting together, albeit virtually. It has been encouraging to get your positive feedback on our online services and see a good number of new folk logging in to join us in worship. Going forward, online worship is something we hope to continue.
For those who don’t have the internet we’ve provided a dial-up service where you can listen to the Sunday Service through your telephone (the number is 01358 505510) and DVDs can be provided for those who want them (please contact me if that is you!). Services are also available on iTunes and Spotify.
None of this, though, can replace meeting other folk face to face and so we’ve been making careful preparations for a return to worship in our church building, taking on board the regulations from the Scottish Government and ‘121’ – the Church of Scotland’s central offices. Folk are working hard in the background to get everything in place for a return to worship in our Sanctuary on SUNDAY 20TH SEPTEMBER.
We are working to ensure that risks are minimised and safeguards are in place to make worshiping as safe as possible during this pandemic; though as with any activity, the risk of infection is still a real and present one.
It’s important you understand that worship in the church building will not be as it was on the 15th March 2020 when we last met there and if you are planning to come along we’d ask you to pay particular attention to the changes outlined below:
1. When church re-starts, we are going to have to operate a ‘booking’ system because the maximum capacity will be 50. (The new ‘rule of 6’ does not apply to Sunday worship)
2. Anyone wanting to attend church on a Sunday should indicate so by emailing or phoning Allan Ritchie (email@example.com 01224 704386) anytime during the week up to 12 noon on Saturday, giving their name and telephone contact number. Those exceeding 50 will be given first priority the following Sunday to attend.
3. If you are unwell, or should be isolating because of contact with a positive Covid-19 case or live with someone with symptoms, please stay at home and do not come to the church putting others at risk.
4. If you are shielding, you should not be thinking about attending church at this point in time. Let us know and we’ll try to involve you in other ways.
5. The church will be cleaned and disinfected after every service.
6. Dress warmly in the event that there may be slight delays gaining access to the church.
7. You will be required to wear a face covering throughout the time you are in the church building unless you have medical reasons for not doing so. This is part of the way we protect one another from the virus. Please bring your own mask, but we will have a supply for those who forget.
8. To comply with the government’s Trace and Protect scheme, we must keep a record of a name and a phone number from each household. Allan Ritchie will have a list of who is expected to attend and your name will be ticked off as you arrive. These records will be kept safely in accordance with our data protection policy for three weeks only, and then destroyed.
9. As you enter and exit, please maintain a physical distance of 2 m from others and use the hand sanitiser available.
10. When you enter the sanctuary please fill up from the front. Stewards will assist you in this. (Please be aware you will not be sitting in your usual seat and we ask for your compliance in this). We can only seat people together in household groups. The balcony is off limits apart from those operating the sound desk.
11. Please turn over the little laminated ‘Sit Here’ notice so we know which seats have been occupied. At the close of the service we will leave from the front and exit through the vestry door.
12. A plate will be made available at the exit door for offerings. If you have a number of free will offering envelopes, you may wish to write a single cheque for the total amount to place in one envelope or make a direct deposit or bank transfer to the church account. The minister or treasurer can supply details. Electronic giving is especially helpful just now.
13. We will have music but will are not permitted to sing as we usually would. Hymnbooks, Bibles and Orders of Service will not be given out and instead, words will be projected.
14. For now, we are not permitted to have tea and coffee in the hall after worship.
15. There will be no Sunday School or crèche at this stage, but you are welcome to bring your children along to worship if you wish to.
16. Services will be kept relatively short – around 30 minutes or so.
17. Unfortunately we cannot safely operate the car transport rota at this time.
For the time being, this will be our ‘new normal’. We realise that some of you are keen to get back to your church building, while others are content to remain at home with the online service until the situation with Covid improves. Whatever your choice, we would encourage you to try and keep connected with your church family however you can, and keep an eye out for ways to do just that on the church Facebook page and website.
Let us not give up meeting together!
Paul (on behalf of Kirk Session)