|Reopening of Churches |
You may have seen on our Union Facebook page or elsewhere that the Church of Ireland has produced a document entitled Return to In-Church Worship Protocols. This was recently circulated to clergy, Diocesan Readers, retired clergy and Church Wardens in our Union for comment, ahead of Zoom Rural Deanery meetings scheduled for 16-18 June in to plan a way forward with this document in mind.
Since this is now in the public domain I wanted to offer some guidance as to some of the implications this document has for the reopening of churches for public worship in our Union of Parishes.
I need to be honest at the outset and say that, in spite of the government saying that places of worship would be able to open after 29th June, not all of our churches (if any) will be open the following Sunday, July 5th. This may come as a disappointment to some, but if the requirements contained in this document are mandatory it will require a great deal of planning before our churches can be safely prepared for reopening. It is not simply about social distancing! A risk assessment has to be carried out in each church to ensure, amongst other things, that safe entry and exit from the building and socially distanced seating can be managed and stewarded by the Church Wardens. There are also cost implications for the signage and sanitizing stations we’re going to be required to have in place, not to mention each church needing a Covid-19 committee who have been “suitably trained” and who have “agreed to take responsibility for carrying out tasks” identified in each of the church’s Covid-19 plans. The document states quite clearly that, “It is the responsibility of the incumbent…...and the Select Vestry to ensure that churches are only reopened if it can be done safely…..even if this requires additional time.” and that “A plan must be developed in respect of every church prior to its reopening for public worship.”
As soon as is possible all parishioners will be informed by email (or posted letter for those who don’t have that capability) and via our social media pages and website as to what our Union “Roadmap” will be for opening our churches for worship. One thing that is certain, however, is that it will be a vastly different Sunday experience to that we left in March. So I ask you to please be patient as the Church Wardens, Select Vestry and I work through the “Return to In-Church Worship Protocols” designed to ensure the safety of those both attending and leading worship.
Dean Gerald Field