Church re-opening for prayer

I know that for many, the closure of our church building has been one of the most difficult aspects of the whole of lockdown. Therefore, I am really pleased to let you know that we are ready to open St Andrew’s, Oxshott, for individual, private prayer beginning on 8 July. Preparation to reach this point has been exacting and time-consuming and I am very grateful indeed to the wardens and office teams especially, plus the members of the PCC, Ministry team and Welcomers who have worked hard and will be working hard to make this possible.

We shall be starting small with a maximum of 6 people at any one time (5 booked places and space for one ad hoc visitor) on a Wednesday afternoon between 4 and 7pm. The timing is to enable the widest range of individuals to attend. The day was chosen because it fits with the availability of personnel to assist those who visit our church (and it also enables the important 72-hour interval required between different people entering the building).

People will be able to book a 30-minute time-slot for prayer by either visiting the website and booking direct or by contacting the office: we believe that a booking system is necessary for tracking and tracing people in the event of a local outbreak of the virus. Each person with a booking will be told the time which they are expected to arrive. By using this system we aim to avoid large groups of people and to protect the most vulnerable in our community. Bookings will close at 5pm on a Tuesday for that week’s opening, so that welcomers will know they have an up-to-date list.

When someone arrives, a monitor will check that person’s identity and contact details and that each visitor washes their hands with hand sanitiser (which will be provided). Everyone coming into church will also need to wear a mask (there will be a small supply available, but you are encouraged to provide your own if possible, please). Each person will then be asked to follow the one-way system signage to an empty seat for quiet, individual prayer. All chairs will be set at a 2m distance from each other, to comply with Church of England guidance. We will also be using the un-upholstered chairs to enable effective cleaning between each visitor. Everyone will leave via the south door of the church where there will be a second person available to help and make sure each person washes their hands with sanitiser once more.

Parts of the church building will necessarily be inaccessible, and this will include the toilets, although the disabled toilet will be available for emergencies.

These protocols and systems may initially seem both rather baffling and unnecessarily restrictive. However, we are concerned to enable the church building to re-open in Oxshott in the safest way possible for the largest number, including those of us who fall into the vulnerable categories identified by the Government at the outset of the pandemic.

We are also keen to enable someone who visits the church building on the off-chance to come in to pray. To this end we will try always to leave at least one seat free to accommodate such visitors.

As I mentioned above, we are starting small in the hope that over time we might be able to add to what will be available from Wednesday 8 July. We will also keep this system under constant review. Naturally, if we need to, we will suspend church opening immediately.

 A short summary of the main points:

In everything we have outlined above, we are trying to keep the most vulnerable people in both our church family and community safe. As I have written before, we follow this principle:

But God has so arranged the body… that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it. (1 Corinthians 12.24-26)

It will be so wonderful to be able to open the church doors again and welcome those who wish to pray!