We would like to update you on progress towards the reopening of our church for services of public worship. Our major concern is to resume services at minimal risk to everyone present. At all times we are working within the current rules set by the Church of England and we are taking note of the guidance provided by the Southwark Bishops (link text). Before we can open, we need to trial our procedures and ensure that all safety considerations have been addressed.
Our first test is a funeral on 28th July where we have agreed to accept up to the limit allowed of 30 attendees. Everyone present will have to book in advance with contact details, form a distanced queue and be checked as they arrive, wear masks, use hand gel on their way in and be shown into the marked seats. Toilet facilities will need to be cleaned between users. This will require 5 extra staff on duty in addition to Revd Susan. During the service there will be organ/piano music but only one person can sing at a time. After the service people will be escorted out by different routes to ensure groups do not stop to chat. We have rearranged the pews to allow 2-metre social distancing.
These same rules will need to be applied at public services where we will also face the challenge of finding a way to safely distribute the wafers. (The chalice cannot be used.) As an initial step we are allowing a small number of staff at the filming of our pre-recorded services, to provide intercessors and readers and to try out ways of managing the wafers without incurring unnecessary risk.
Towards the end of August, when Susan returns from holiday, we will try expanding the size of the congregation to 10 people (who will have to book in advance) before we move to a larger number (probably a maximum of 30 and certainly not more than 40 unless the guidance changes).
In the meantime, we may also experiment with holding some morning and/or evening services in church (not in the chapel which is too small) with most of the same conditions in place.
For those church members who are in vulnerable categories or who simply do not yet feel comfortable attending a public gathering, we feel it is vital to continue to provide our current pattern of online services. We are very grateful to Sebastiaan for all the time he devotes each week to act as cameraman, editor, and technical advisor on our digital services, which are recorded a week in advance to allow the video to be edited (e.g. with words to the hymns added). The service recorded is the one for the following week, and parts of the service are sometimes added later; pauses occur for changes in microphones, the camera blocks the aisle (and the view), and there are unsafe cables around the church. However, the PCC (Parochial Church Council) has now agreed to purchase new equipment which will enable us to stream our regular Sunday services live to those at home via our YouTube channel: St Paul’s Wimbledon Parkside, rather than pre-recording them. Thanks to Susan’s efforts we have now received two generous grants towards the cost of the live streaming equipment (and would welcome further donations).
We are sorry that the progress towards returning to something closer to normal is slow; we need to allow our priest-in-charge to have some family holiday before schools recommence, and we wish to simultaneously stream our Sunday services live to those at home so that we participate as one church community. Above all we have felt that the safety of our congregation is paramount. We hope that all that we offer both in church and online will enable everyone to be spiritually nurtured.
Please keep a close eye on our website for further announcements.
Margaret Brown Churchwarden