Letter from our Minister - May 2021

by Pannal Methodist Church
Posted at 09:13am on 17th May 2021
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Dear Church members and friends

Over recent weeks, the stewards and our Church Council have been giving prayerful thought to the re-opening of the Pannal church building.  It is with great joy that I can confirm the decision to reopen Pannal for worship from Sunday 23rd May 2021.  I know how much collective worship means to us all and the sense of togetherness this generates.  I am excited to be welcoming members and friends back to worship with a reopening service on 23rd May at 10.00 am.  The circuit are offering a fortnightly resource for worship on the summer plan which is now available although for Pannal the worship will be led each week by either Clair, myself or both of us.

During the pastoral conversations that Clair and I have been having over the past few weeks it has become really apparent that whilst some of our numbers are desperate to get back to worship in the building, some even wondering why it has taken us to so long to reopen, a significant number of others are not yet ready to attend and would appreciate some online material as well.  In the light of this the Church Council has agreed the recommendation that we hold two services a month as per the Circuit’s offering of someone to lead this, on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month, and that the 4th Sunday of the month is not in our building but is a live Zoom service.  All of this to be reviewed as the summer months progress.  

We are keen to keep to fortnightly initially partly because it will allow everyone to use the gift of the better weather in the summer months to see family or go out and do things to support their mental wellbeing.  We hope to return to weekly in-church services from September.

We have agreed with our friends at Trinity to set up a joint YouTube channel and all services, live and Zoom, will be streamed on there.  Trinity will be holding services from mid-June on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month so each week there will be a Pannal or Trinity service for you to connect to online if you wish.

At the end of our first service together on 23rd May, it is our intention to gather, socially distanced, outside and to sing one hymn together regardless of the weather (we are permitted to sing outside!).  In future weeks we may be able to serve refreshments suitably distanced outside as well but we are working through the advice on this one.

As part of the required risk assessment for the reopening, we will need to implement some precautions and new ways of worshipping together to comply with changing guidance from government, health agencies and the national Methodist connexion. We will keep these arrangements under review but for now they seem sensible and pragmatic in the light of the current situation.  Your understanding would be very much appreciated – and I would ask for your prayers to support our church family as we move forward together.

The following paragraphs outline the arrangements for Sunday worship.  They will be kept under review and amended as necessary.

Booking for Sunday worship

We have agreed that we will not in the first instance be asking people to book into worship however please do note that when the church is full (with everyone seated at suitable social distances) we will not be able to allow any more people in.  We have worked out that, dependant on the numbers in each bubble, we could get as many as 30-35 people in for worship. 

Social distancing and other measures

We will adhere to the 2-metre social distancing arrangement.  A one-way system will be in operation and you will be guided through this by welcomers and the stewards.  Hand sanitisers will be available on entry and exit.

Face coverings must be worn by everyone over the age of 11 – exemptions will apply for those in possession of the NHS exemption card.  We will have a small supply of reusable masks in church donated by many people across the circuit who have been sewing and we have ‘mask fairies’ who will collect, wash and sanitise masks for our reuse.  Please do note that this supply is not for you to choose to not bring your own.  If you have your own mask, please bring it.  These masks will be if you arrive having forgotten it or if your mask breaks during your time in church.

We regret that initially there can be no singing of hymns or songs inside in line with national guidance and all conversations and opportunities for fellowship should take place at a suitable social distance outside the church building.  We do appreciate that it is tempting to chat, please do not engage in discussion with other church members and friends until you have exited the building.

Once seated, people will be asked to maintain their seat.  In the event of anyone needing to leave their seat a steward’s help should be sought to maintain the one-way system inside the building.  Toilets will be open, and you will be directed to facilities by the side door.  The disabled toilet will be available.

Throughout the service we have been advised that we will need to maintain airflow throughout the building so the doors will be left open.  If you are someone who notices the cold you may wish to wear some additional layers.

Service arrangements

Services will be at 10.00 am and are likely to last between 30 and 45 minutes.  We are keen to offer communion as soon as is practicable and hope this will be on 13th June.

Arrival at church

Please arrive and queue through the garden and out onto the pavement if necessary, at 2m distances between 9.30am and 9.55am.

Please try not to be late but bear with us as we will need to confirm your contact details for track and trace requirements before you are shown to your seat by a steward or welcomer.  If you have the NHS Covid Track and Trace app, we do have a QR code you can scan with your phone instead.

You are welcome to bring your own service book or bible to church with you.  Sadly, no books will be available from church stocks.  Responses and other information will be shown the projection screen.

Leaving church after the service

Please remain in your seat until invited to leave by a steward.  It is vital that the one-way system is adhered to and that people leave by the exit indicated. Anyone with mobility issues is asked to remain in their seat until other members of the congregation have left and will then be helped to exit the church.

Offerings

We have been encouraging people to set up bank transfers such as direct debit arrangements to ensure their financial offering is maintained during the pandemic.  For a number of reasons, not everyone is able to do this.  At weekly worship, a container will be available for money offerings either in envelopes or just cash.  These donations will need to be placed in the container on entry to church. Members are encouraged to contact our Treasurer Rob Memmott if they have any queries about donations or Gift Aid. 

Other issues

The cleaning arrangements for the church have been reviewed.  The church building is cleaned in line with national guidance as appropriate.  To enable an adequate quarantine either side of the service access to the church building outside of the weekly services needs to be strictly controlled.  Please seek permission from Clair Webster or myself before entering the building other than for Sunday worship or as part of the team who are opening the building daily to maintain the health of the structure.

If you develop Covid-19 symptoms, please let Clair or myself know by telephone if you have attended a church service prior to your symptoms developing. Under no circumstances attend church if you have symptoms or feel unwell even if you are unsure whether your symptoms are Covid-related or not.  Clair and I will be doing regular voluntary Lateral Flow Tests for the foreseeable future to enable us to be more certain that we are not infectious.

I am sorry this information is necessarily detailed but I hope it gives clarity and helps build confidence that your safety and well-being is my priority.  This should in no way diminish the excitement and pleasure we will all feel when we join together in worship once more. 

If you have any queries about these arrangements, please contact either Clair or myself by email (revbclowes@gmail.com or clairwebster@outlook.com) or by phone on Harrogate 870977 or 07398 394268.

Yours in Christ

Ben