To everyone at St. Helen's Church,
It is with pleasure that I am writing to you to tell you about the plans to reopen St.Helen's Church for public worship. However, it is also with sadness that we can't go back in the same way.
Before I give details, I do want to say that I don't want anyone to feel pressured into coming back or feel judged for not returning. Having spoken to some of you I know the nervousness and ongoing concerns with health. For that reason the online services will carry on for the foreseeable future and if there is any other way in which we can support you, please do let us know.
When will we open?
Our first service will be a one off trial of the arrangements. This will be a Book of Common Prayer service on 2nd August at 8am. After this service we will review how the arrangements worked and what we need to change.
There will be no services on 9th, 16th and 23rd August
The next services will be:
30th August 8am BCP
6th September 10am Holy Communion
13th September 10am Morning prayer
20th September 8am BCP
27th September 10am Morning Prayer
At the end of September we will review the service pattern.
Why only one service each Sunday?
Under regulations, after each service we have the option of either cleaning every surface which has been touched or leaving the building closed for 72 hours to be naturally decontaminated. St. Helen's building would require an awful lot of cleaning!
If circumstances allow we may introduce a service on a Wednesday to spread the demand.
What will be different?
We will all enter through the North door. You may have to queue and wait to enter. As you enter you will be asked for contact details (for track and trace) which will be stored for 21 days and then destroyed. Giving details is optional but strongly recommended. We may check your temperature as a further safeguard.
As you enter you will need to use hand sanitizer and you may be directed to where to sit. Each household must be in separate pews and all available pews will be at least 2m apart. All bibles will have been removed so bring your own! Service sheets will be in the pews. Please leave them in place as you leave.
The services will feel different as there cannot be any singing but we will do our best to ensure a meaningful time is spent together. The services will also be a lot shorter initially.
At the end of the service you may be directed when to leave. If you wish to have a chat with friends please wait until you are outside!
How many people can the church now hold safely?
There will be room for around 20 "households" - a household is an individual, couple or family from the same home or extended household (eg grandparents can sit with grandchildren).
We can share Holy Communion - but only in one kind. The bread will be distributed as you leave the building to minimise movement inside.
and the offertory?
We won't be passing a plate around for our giving. Instead, there will be a plate/jar at the back to put gifts in at the beginning or end of the service.
Do I need to wear a face mask?
As of today, it is not compulsory but it is advisable. Children under 11 and those with certain medical conditions are exempted. However, this may change.
I recognise that this is a lot to take in but we are trying our best to provide as covid-safe an environment as we can.
We may need extra help to ensure that the arrangements we have in place work and that the welcome people receive is still warm. If you are fit and healthy and keen to return to the building, please do offer your services.
This last few months have also been a huge burden on the financial resources of St. Helen's (as well as every parish church and diocese nationally!) Not only has there been no weekly offering but we have also had several weddings that have had to be postponed. The spring and summer is normally when our finances are boosted ready for the extra costs of autumn and winter. Can I please ask that you prayerfully consider your giving at this time?
And finally, finally...
We walk in faith trusting our heavenly father but we also use the wisdom, intelligence and compassion that He has gifted us with. Together, we can make reopening work at St. Helen's.
Rev Andy Hobbs