A letter from the Vicar, Revd Will Gibbs
Since the end of July, it has been wonderful to be able to resume Sunday services in church at 8 am and in the churchyard at 9.30 am. We have also continued to offer the online service at 9.30 am on a Sunday morning for those who are shielding at home and for those who live a distance away from St Mary’s. As I write, we have managed 10 services out of 10 in the churchyard and the weather has been very kind to us. But I do realise that as autumn sets in, that won’t be such a good option for us and so I want to share some thoughts about our plans going forward, starting from the weekend of 10 and 11 October.
We can’t fit everyone into St Mary’s who has been attending the 9.30 am service in the churchyard and so we will need to offer two services so that all who wish to can attend. I will not be ticketing services (I can’t bear that thought!) nor will I be asking people to come alternate weeks so we can fit everyone in, nor will we want to be so full that we have to turn anyone away or we can’t welcome a visitor joining us for the first time. My first thought was that we would do this on a Sunday morning at perhaps 9.30 am and 11 am but I think we may have a better solution.
Saturday Evening Service
What we will be offering is a service at 5 pm on a Saturday afternoon which will be unobtrusively filmed. This will then be edited, with hymns and music added, and will be the basis for the 9.30 am service which is then broadcast online the next day. And then on the Sunday morning we will offer the 8 am service (just as we have been doing), and then also the 9.30 am service in church in the identical format to the 5 pm Saturday service, at the same time as the recorded service also goes out online.
This has several advantages. Firstly, it creates the capacity we need for the next phase of our worship during the pandemic. Secondly, it lightens the load in terms of the filming and preparing of the online service. But, also importantly, it addresses a challenge that many families have been facing for a long time – how can we get to church and still take part in a sports team on a Sunday morning? Well, sign up for the 5 pm Saturday service and you can do both! But I stress that the 5 pm Saturday service is not just for families and all are welcome, young and old. It will be identical in terms of the prayers, readings and the sermon to the 9.30 am service being offered the next day.
Please Return our Questionnaire
So, we need your help to know who to expect and how to run things, so that it all goes as safely and smoothly as possible. At the bottom of this page is a short questionnaire which we need you to complete and return as soon as possible please so that we can get our plans in place. Please tell us what you would like, and if possible, rank your preferences from ‘1’ for your favourite option, ‘2’ for the next best option, and so on.
As best we can, we will try and give everyone their first choice, but I’m afraid I can’t guarantee it. The downside is that for the 9.30 am congregation we will only be with half the people we normally worship alongside so we ask you to commit to the service you’re allocated for October and November, and then in November we’ll ask you again to say which service times you would like for November and December, including our Christmas services, so there’s a chance to mix with some others at this stage.
Please bear in mind that there is also some spare capacity at the 8 am service on a Sunday. We’ll give priority to our regular 8 am attendees but others might like to consider whether to make this their service for the next couple of months (even if they normally come at 9.30 am) so that we can have three services with roughly equal numbers attending. And again, the readings and sermon are the same at 8 am as at the other services (and we can’t sing at any service sadly) so you wouldn’t be missing out by choosing this option.
A few final reminders and pointers:
1. Please do stick to the time that you’re allocated, or our new plans won’t work.
2. You do need to wear a face covering when attending a service inside church.
3. Please use the hand sanitiser as you arrive and as you leave.
4. If you have the NHS Test & Trace app please scan the QR code at the door as you arrive.
5. If you don’t have the app, please say and we will sign you in on a register as you arrive.
6. If you give by envelope, please leave this in the plate as you arrive.
7. Please pick up your own pew sheet and service booklet from the trolley.
8. Please sit 2 metres away from others, except those in your household or bubble.
9. Please wait to be invited up for communion, starting from the back to the front.
10. Please leave the service booklet at the door as you leave so these can be quarantined.
We want to establish these routines quickly and easily so that everyone is kept as safe as possible, things run smoothly, and our services can be reverent in worship to honour God.
I recognise that much of this is about services in church and for those who are staying at home, please know how much you are missed and prayed for. Please do still reply to the questionnaire so that we know how best to meet you worshipping needs at home.
If you have any specific concerns or questions on any of this, please do not hesitate to contact me.
This comes with my love, prayers and very best wishes.