Last Sunday was a major step for our church as we met for the first time in-person as a congregation in the open air. We currently have a difficulty in that during lockdown we lost our regular meeting place and so that we have had to improvise for the time being. There were some hoops to jump through and practical arrangements to be made, but in the end it worked well and I was thankful to God for the joy of seeing our people once again. It was a taste of heaven.
We had to seek the approval of the local council who have been very helpful in the process. They wanted a risk assessment, which is usual for such ‘events’, but examined all the more closely in light of the covid-19 crisis. The only point to be resolved in our minds is the issue of numbers. As we read it the UK Government advice is that open air gatherings of more than 30 are permissible when organised by a charitable institution, which our church is. However, the council asked us to keep it to 30. We complied this time, but it is not clear yet why there should be a local restriction. It’s an ongoing discussion.
Practically we had to do the following:
- keep a pre-booking register of those who wanted to come. This was done with a spreadsheet.
- on site we marked off an area 15 squares (5 wide, 3 deep), each 3m square, with cones. Individuals, families or ‘bubbles’ could sit there.
- people brought their own seating, waterproofs, Bibles.
- set up a greetings table with sanitiser bottles, and a notice of the web address for an online order of service worked up on Dropbox Paper for people to access on their phones.
- we recommended people bring masks, but there was no requirement as we were keeping 2m apart. Some people put them on after the service during the brief post-service chit chat.
Equipment brought by various people in the congregation:
- gazebo. This was not much practical use, though it gave a point of focus for the gathering. (Actually it was a bit of a liability on a breezy day!)
- folding table and lectern.
- amplification (head mic + amp + speaker). I think I could have got away without but it would be been much more a strain.
- audio recording to my phone with a lapel mic.
- video recording camera.
- my notes, notebook, Bible (as you might expect)
All in all a fairly low level of organisation required for the event.
There is nothing like public worship. Even in the midst of trials (while taking into account the public health concerns) Christians are to keep meeting together (Hebrews 10:24,25). Our assembling is a manifestation of that great truth that “we have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God” (Hebrews 12:22). We are thankful too that there were some passers-by who stopped.
Please pray for us as we continue meeting this way through to the end of August.
Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! – Psalm 149:1
For those who are interested, here is the sermon I preached. Try not to get distracted by the footballers: