Update on Sunday Worship

Dear Friends 

“We have come together in the name of Christ to offer our praise and thanksgiving, to hear and receive God’s holy word, to pray for the needs of the world, and to seek the forgiveness of our sins, that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may give ourselves to the service of God”.
It is with much joy in my heart, and those of my colleagues, that I am now able to share our plans for resuming public worship for the Tove Benefice from Saturday 1st August on an incremental basis.
Whilst this letter is very much about the “when and the how” we will recommence public worship, let me affirm that the above Common Worship prayer has been and is at the heart of all our preparations as we seek to welcome you back to the house of our Lord.
In this letter I hope to give you a sense of what to expect when you come into Church and outline some of the measures we have put in place for your safety and that of others.  The layout within church will look different to what you are used to with some areas being taped off or covered up for the time being in order to meet social distancing requirements and keep additional cleaning requirements to a minimum.  We are also required to display a number of signs and we ask that you adhere to them.  Like we did when we opened for Individual Private Prayer we will also be producing some short videos which we hope will help you ‘see’ what to expect.  These will be available through our YouTube channel Tove Benefice.
For those individuals who continue to self isolate or are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, we will be continuing to produce our weekly mailing, monthly postal letters and holding weekly zoom services.  As it is not yet possible for us to leave Churches open without some form of supervision, Individual Private Prayer will continue for the time being in both Greens Norton and Towcester with a few minor changes.
Unfortunately, at the moment, we cannot return instantly to the pattern of worship we had pre-lockdown, but we hope you will sense that these incremental steps are moving us towards that.
Prior to opening all Churches have been cleaned, however we cannot guarantee clinical hygiene standards.   
Current government guidance asks us to keep the service to less than 40 minutes.  
You may be aware that for the time being singing is not permitted, however, we are also discouraged from using service books.  Therefore the words for the service (liturgy) will be shared using a combination of: projecting onto a screen; emailing the order of service for you to print up at home should you wish; and for those who do not have a printer, providing some copies on the day but these must be taken home with you for recycling.  Should you wish to read from the Bible we ask that you bring your own.
We are fortunate to be able to include organ music, and I am grateful to our organists for their support.
Use of the building – in line with current government guidance you will be asked to keep a 2 metre social distance, so as you approach the church this will be indicated by signs which will be spaced at 2 metres.  Outside of Church you will be welcomed by a sidesperson who will welcome you and complete the Track and Trace request (more on this below). 
As you enter Church another sidesperson will invite that you use the hand sanitiser and point out the COVID notices to you.  You will then be directed where to sit.  We are sorry this is unlikely to be your normal seat, however it has been necessary for us to utilise a specific seating arrangement in order to maximise capacity within the current social distancing requirements – which has decreased our capacity by 75%.  We have mapped each of the churches out with a mixture of couples and single seating and that will give us just about enough seats based on our average Sunday attendance figure.  However, we do need your help to make this work. 
When the service has finished, as  when you fly on an aeroplane, we will ask you to remain seated and you will be advised when to leave by a sidesperson. In St Michael’s, St Bartholomew’s and St Lawrence you will use a different exit to the one you came in through.  We hope that in doing this it will allow you some fellowship time and enable you to have socially distanced conversations with one another outside after the service. 
We are sorry but toilet facilities will only be available in an emergency.

For St Lawrence, until we have a clearer idea of numbers attending Sunday Worship, we will need to keep the car parking area empty and clear – should you need to park close by please speak with the office 01327 350459 who will advise if there is space on the Vicarage Drive.
Private Individual Prayer – current government advice requires cleaning to be undertaken each time the Church is used unless we can provide a gap of 72 hours.  In St Lawrence we have offered Individual Private Prayer in the Lady Chapel, but in St Bartholomew’s we have used the main body of the Church. However, from the beginning of August in St Bartholomew’s this will move into the chancel area and mean that we can offer both adhering to the requirements.
There will be a small amount of extra cleaning that will need to take place following the Sunday service, mainly communal walk spaces and frequent touch points.
Test and Trace - The government asks us to keep a record of who has attended worship as part of the NHS ‘Test and Trace’.  The record will be kept by us for 21 days, and your inclusion in it is voluntary.  In order for us to estimate attendance levels and try and keep hand written recording down to a minimum, we are encouraging people to register in advance for a service.  This can be done either online (links will be sent in the weekly news) or by calling the office. 
People can of course turn up on the day without registering, and there will be some spaces set aside for just that, but you will need to be mindful that under the current guidance when we are at “capacity” we will not be able to allow you in.     

Confirmed COVID – in the event of us being notified that a person confirmed as having COVID-19 has visited one of the Churches, that Church will be closed with immediate effect and necessary cleaning procedure will to be put in place.  You may then be contacted by NHS ’Test and Trace’.  
Government advice on attendance – we do not wish to stop anyone who wishes to come to services during this time, but I must share with you the following government guidance:
Individuals aged 70 years and over attending the place of worship
Certain groups of people may be at increased risk of severe disease from COVID-19, including people who are aged 70 or older, regardless of medical conditions.
Individuals who fall within this group are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if they do go out, to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside of their household.
Children attending places of worship
Parents or guardians should ensure children maintain social distancing.  Young children should be supervised by the parent or guardian at all times, and any facilities for children (play corners, books, toys) should be removed.
The information set out in this letter is subject to Government and Church of England advice, which can be withdrawn or changed at short notice.  We will endeavour to keep you informed of any changes, but do hope you will understand if changes have to be made.

Revd Paula Challen
Rector Tove Benefice

Update on Sunday Worship

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