E-Newsletter for week beginning 03 August 2020
This week the doors at St Columba’s open on Sunday morning for the first time since Sunday 15th March, twenty two Sundays ago. Back then, thanks to the swift action and dedication of various people, we were able to install the equipment for the live streaming and so have not missed a Sunday’s worship throughout lockdown. Many of you have been a precious part of that. Collectively, we have been incredibly fortunate to have that facility, keeping us connected both to a place and its people. Now, albeit cautiously, we can, with some restrictions and adaptations open for worship, attended in person. While eager for people’s return, the imperative is to do this safely.
Headline considerations: limited numbers in the sanctuary and social distancing; masks to be worn; music, but no hymn singing; Track & Tracing details requested; refreshments not served.
Plans in more detail.
Worship at St Columba’s in August
From Sunday 9th August, throughout the month, there will be two services on Sunday mornings: 9.30-10.00am Early Service. (Attendance, maximum 48 people) 11.00am-12.00 noon Morning Service (Live-streamed; unattended.) Both services will be led by the minister (or visiting preachers on Sunday 23rd & 30th August) in the main sanctuary.
Prior to Sunday worship: Notifying your intention to attend
Sunday Early Service: Arrival & Entry to the Building
We will ask people to observe physical distancing inside and outside our building. There may be a small delay getting people inside. Please allow plenty of time to arrive before service. The doors will be open from 9.00am. If required, the socially- distanced queue will be from the front door round the Lennox Gardens side of the building.
Sunday Early Service: Safety & Hygiene
Government advice is that you must wear a face mask while you are in the building unless you have a health or disability reason not to. Please come with and wear your own own face masks while in the building. (A small supply of masks will be available if you do not have/ forget your own.) To observe good hygiene, hand sanitiser stations are on site. We ask that you use these to keep yourself and others safe. Ladies, Gents and Disabled toilets will be open, with a one in, one out system of use. The lift will be in operation, for those who require it.
Sunday Early Service: Inside the Sanctuary
As you enter the entrance vestibule a member of the stewarding team will check your name off the attendance list and indicate to follow arrows marking the staircase designated for going up to the sanctuary. There will be a one way system in use for going up and coming down, between entrance vestibule and sanctuary. Inside the sanctuary you will see that two out of every three pews are roped off. The remaining “open” pew will have markings to indicate where worshippers should sit. There will generally be three marked spaces in each pew. Members of the same household can sit together. Please be understanding if you are shown to a seat that is not in your usual place.
To adhere to government regulations the sanctuary has been cleared. The pew cushions, bibles, hymn books, Gift Aid envelopes and the Children’s Quiet Corner have been removed to reduce contamination and assist post-service cleaning.
Sunday Early Service: Content
The Early Service, 9.30-10.00am will include prayers, bible readings, a sermon and musical interlude. Unfortunately there will be no congregational singing.
Sunday Early Service: Departure
At the conclusion of the service we ask that worshippers leave the building via the designated one way system and maintain social distancing, particularly at narrow points and exits. We are not able to offer refreshments after service. We know how valuable time to talk and catch up is; we encourage you to phone/Zoom etc, the person with whom you would normally have coffee. Some people may wish to remain in the sanctuary after service for a moment of quiet. While encouraging that, the sanctuary will require to be clear by 10.15am to enable sound checks and preparation for the 11am live-streamed Morning Service.
Sunday Early Service: Givings
For the moment there will not be an offering at the Early Service. Currently, medical advice discourages the use of cash. We continue to encourage people to give electronically, either via the Donate Button on the website www.stcolumbas.org.uk or via the planned giving programme (details in E-Newsletter below.)
Sunday Early Service: Track & Tracing
To assist Track & Tracing we will keep a record (name and telephone number) of everybody who enters the building. The information will be held securely on the premises for 21 days. Should someone in the congregation fall ill and test positive for Covid-19 the details of who was in the church with that person will be passed to the NHS who will then make contact with those who may be at a greater risk of contracting the virus.
Sunday Early Service: Stewarding Team Volunteers
To open the building for the Early Service, safely and efficiently, requires a minimum team of six volunteers. Traditionally, these duties are undertaken by our elders. In current circumstances however we would be very grateful to receive offers of help from any member of the congregation. To volunteer, please contact the Church Office. Volunteers need to arrive at St Columba’s between 8.30-8.45am and will be free by approx. 10.30am.
We are asking people not to step forward if they are clinically vulnerable i.e. over 70, regardless of medical condition, or in alternative vulnerable categories, or if anyone in their household is showing even mild symptoms.
Sunday 11.00am Morning Service
A message received this week from Central America: “Strange times indeed, but I have been deeply comforted by St. Columbas' livestreams on Sundays - just a glimpse of the sanctuary has given me incredible strength and a sense of belonging and familiarity in these difficult times.”
We believe it is really important to continue to live-stream the Morning Service under its current format i.e. for the benefit of those joining worship from afar or those as yet unable to make the journey to Pont Street. For those without internet, the Dial-In facility continues. Many people comment that they do have a sense of worshipping together, even if invisible to each other. While current regulation forbids singing in the pews, the live stream strongly recommends singing in the sitting room!
Sunday: Private Prayer, 1.00-3.00pm
Starting on Sunday 9th August we will open the church for a time of quiet and private prayer. The sanctuary will be open to anyone who wishes to come in and pray. Social distancing will be required at all times. Those entering the building will be asked for their contact details to assist with Track & Tracing if/when necessary. No other part of the building, other than the sanctuary, will be open, apart from the toilets. The lift will be in operation. Caretaker and minister will be on hand.
If you are travelling by car, please be aware the London Congestion Charge is now in operation throughout Sundays.
A Final Thought
We are working hard to ensure that those who come into our buildings can feel safe. We will undoubtedly require to refine arrangements as we learn from experience of what works and what doesn’t; all the time mindful of evolving Government guidelines. It is definitely a time to appeal to your patience, flexibility and good humour! What I really hope is that though you may see some things that feel different, at its heart, you will still find St Columba’s a place of welcome, peace and prayer.