Sunday 5th July 2020
Re: Our response to COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of places of worship from 4th July.
As you may all be aware, the Government published the above mentioned guidance document on 29th June 2020, with the stated purpose that it is designed to assist places of worship in England to prepare to open for a broad range of worship activities, in accordance with the associated legislation which will come into effect on 4th July 2020.
In effect this guidance sets out:
- Advice as to how places of worship may prepare their premises for the timely and safe return to worship and other associated religious activities.
- Some key principles for safely opening places of worship while recognising that the public health emergency which we are still experiencing as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, remains a real threat.
- Ways of adapting practices and general actions to reduce the spread of infection.
- Ways in which places of worship can communicate the guidance to visitors.
As a result of these changes which come into effect as from 4thJuly, a number of churches have decided to take advantage of the relaxation and to return to their places of worship with immediate effect. By this response these churches are saying in effect, “We can and therefore we will”.
However, in the weekly forum held between the Pastors of Beulah Apostolic Church UK, we have been discussing this matter, both prior to the latest Government guidance being published and since. In these discussions we have asked a number of key questions which will form the criteria for the re-opening of our places of worship.
As a Leadership Team we came to the consensus that under the current conditions set out in the guidance, there does not appear to be any significant benefit that we can see for reopening anytime soon.
Our reasons for this are:
- From the risk assessments which have been carried out, the reorganizing and adjustments that will need to be put in place at each Church premises in terms of social distancing are very significant.
- Space modelling carried out in a typical sanctuary with 2-metres social distancing, resulted in a reduction in numbers of up to 66%. In simple terms 24 seats previously packed tightly will be reduced to 8-seats, meaning that the number of attendees that can be accommodated could be one third of normal capacity.
- Preparations in the form of temperature checks, hand washing facilities, sanitizing dispensers and replenishing products, wipes and cleaning regimes, both before and after use of the premises, are also very demanding in terms of labour and are very costly.
- Services will therefore almost certainly need to be on a shift basis with staggering starts(typically two services on Sunday morning).
- Most significant however is that the guide requires that, “singing, shouting, raising voices and the playing of music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult to hear, must all be avoided.”
It is clear from this requirement that the ‘Places of Worship Taskforce’ may well have followed the scientific evidence available to them but have given no consideration to the form of worship practiced in a Pentecostal Church, where singing and praising are absolutely unavoidable elements of our services.
We will therefore continue as we are for the time being and will continue to monitor the guidance as it will no doubt be updated as necessary, as more data becomes available.
Yours faithfully in Christ Jesus,
Overseer Keith M. Linton
Chairman of the Board
Beulah Apostolic Church UK