Important Announcement – Re-opening of the church for communal worship by Rev Gayle Taylor

As part of phase 3 of the Scottish Government route map out of lockdown, places of worship are now allowed to open for communal worship. The Kirk Session of Newbattle Parish have carefully considered the new regulations and restrictions, have satisfied the Presbytery risk assessments and check lists and are now in a position to reopen Mayfield and Easthouses church for worship.

The Church of Scotland has prepared extensive guidance which we will be following. Worship initially – and possibly for a considerable time – will not be as it was before March of this year as we take steps to ensure that everyone is safe and secure when they return to the church building. Nevertheless, we will be worshipping God every week, as we have done throughout lockdown and our worship will continue to be online as well as physical for the rest of 2020 so that people have a choice. The Kirk Session are committed to a process out of lockdown that asks, whenever we do something in the building, “what we are also providing for people at home?” We will be moving slowly and cautiously as we reopen, pausing at different intervals to review and evaluate the new systems and ways of worshipping that we are beginning to try.

This is our proposed timetable which will be subject to the introduction of any increased Government restrictions due to spikes in the spread of the virus:

  1. To reopen Mayfield and Easthouses Church on Wednesday 16th September for a short mid week reflection/private prayer service from 11 – 11.30am. The booking system for this will be by telephone via the church office and will begin this Sunday (13th).
  2. To discuss at the Kirk Session meeting on the evening of the 16th of September at 7pm (on zoom) how this went and to make further plans for the livestreaming of worship from the church, for everyone at home, on Sunday the 27th September at 11am.
  3. To prepare and plan for a Harvest service on Sunday the 4th October, livestreamed and also with people back in the church sanctuary.

Announcements relating to this timetable will be posted, when relevant, on the church website.

To book a place at the mid week reflection, please phone the church office 0131 663 3245 this Sunday. You will be asked to leave a message stating your name, the number of seats you require for your household (must be from your own household) and your contact number. You will receive a call back to confirm your place on Monday.

If you are coming back to the church building for worship here are a few questions and guidelines to help you imagine what it will be like. Don’t panic! You do not have to remember all the information, the duty team will be there to keep you right. The main thing is to remember the Government FACTS guidance and to know that this applies to everyone and will be insisted upon at all times by the church duty team as they steward.

What will it look like to come to church?

The duty team will welcome you as usual but at a 2 metre distance and with no physical contact.

You will be asked to maintain a 2 metre distance from others out with your household while you are waiting to come into church. Please do not arrive too early.

The chairs in the sanctuary have been carefully measured at a 2 metre distance, are taped and should not be moved. We are able to offer up to 35 seats. Due to this limitation, we will be operating the booking system so as not to have to turn people away and so that we can record people’s details for NHS Test and Protect purposes. When you arrive at church, a member of the duty team will check your name on the list.

Please bring a face covering with you and wear it as you enter, during worship and as you leave. A member of the duty team will ensure that everyone is wearing a face covering and that each person uses the hand sanitisers provided as they enter the church.

A member of the duty team will show you to your seat, filling from the front to the back and seating couples and families together at the sides of the sanctuary. There will be a one way system in place for entering and leaving the building.

What will the service be like?

Our service will continue to be about worshipping God and finding comfort in our faith for the challenges of life. As Minister I will make sure we connect with God and each other in new and creative ways. Even though things will feel strange at first, we will still feel God’s presence in our midst whether we are in the building in a mask or watching a live stream at home.

Families with children are welcome but please note that we cannot offer any separate children’s activities and children will have to stay in their seats with their parents/guardians.

Unfortunately, we are not allowed to sing, have hymn books, bibles or orders of service. However, if you wish to bring your own bible you may do this to follow the reading in this way.

Feel free to bring an offering if this is your usual custom, this will be in a stationery plate near the door.

Ministers are required to be 4 metres from the congregation and therefore do not need to wear a face covering whilst conducting worship. They are required to wear face coverings on entering and leaving the sanctuary and are not able to shake hands or stand at the door after the service to speak to congregation.

We are required to leave doors open to let the building have air circulating. This means it will undoubtedly be cold and you should dress warmly. The service will be shorter for this reason.

There will be readings, prayers, a short reflection and contemplative music during the service.

When you leave the church please be mindful of the 2 metre social distancing rule and leave the building directly. However, also remember we have garden space and space out at the car park where you can speak to a friend at a safe distance, for a short time as though you met them when out on a walk.

In conclusion:

I know what a strange and unsettling time this is for everyone. Some of the new restrictions perhaps feel like a step backwards and some new feelings of confidence about being back out in circulation have quickly faded. However, the Government have maintained that places of worship are exempt from the rule about gatherings because connection to our faith and faith community is so vital in these days. The Kirk Session and I are working hard to take small steps forward in a regulated and safe way. All are welcome in the church building but equally, the church is of course not really about the building and everyone must pray and decide what is right for them from the available options.

If at any time you would like to ask any questions or talk about your faith through lockdown, then please email me and myself and the Kirk Session will make sure you have someone to talk to.

God bless,