Dear Church family,
We hope you are well and you are being encouraged today by the goodness and grace of God in all that you do. We have been praying that out of this season of restrictions upon us we will see incredible kingdom growth as God stirs the church to once again proclaim the gospel and love the world in which we live.
Above you will find the video message from our family update on Sunday night, we hope you find the video both faith building and informative for the steps we see ahead as a leadership team emerging from Lockdown and an outline for meeting again in our venues.
Here is also a link to our ‘returning to church gatherings’ survey that we would love you to complete as a tool for us as leaders to begin gauging the feelings of you as the church towards what returning from lockdown may be like, and in response the things you would be looking to be in place before considering a return to Sunday gatherings at our venues.
Take the Survey Now
Please consider as you read and listen to our aims and plans that we cannot just bring an old mindset into a new movement that God has for us as a church, in days of adversity we look to God and say, what are you doing? What do you want to change in us? How do we approach you, make disciples and build community into the future?
I love considering something our friend Phil Moore recently reminded us as New Ground churches that, ‘Our scattering is as important as our gathering. Our Life Groups are as important as our Sunday services. Our online church services are a vital aspect of our family life together, and a vital aspect of our outreach to a world which is too often excluded from in-person church gatherings’.
So here are the steps we aim to take over the coming weeks and months. Much of this is still very dependent on further government guidance and, of course, if the ‘R’ number begins to rise then we may well have to slow these plans down, but for now this is where we are aiming to move.
Step 1: Opening the Kings Centre
Recently we have been reopening the Kings centre. David Gamester (as our venue manager) and the team have been working tirelessly to ensure the building is Covid-19 secure and are working through all the implications of risk assessments, cleaning and movement of people around the building.
We are also beginning to have conversations about external bookings and who may be able to hire space safely again. We are well aware of the financial challenge closing the building has presented us and we still anticipate it being many months before the centre is as busy as it was pre-lockdown, but at least we can start that process.
As part of reopening the Centre, we are hoping to open the building as a pop up cinema style venue for those who do not have access to our current live stream because of limitations on technology and or internet connection. This will be primarily for the people we have been giving DVD copies of the online church service to each week. They can then watch the live stream, as we have been doing in our own homes, instead of having to wait until a DVD copy of the service can be created and delivered.
Step 2: Gathering with another household — Double bubble!
From July 4th, two households are allowed to join together. This gives us a great opportunity to gather with others once again in our homes. For those able and comfortable to meet again safely with others, why not use the easing of lockdown restrictions for attending online church together. You could meet for church online, pray, break bread and have lunch at the end. Please follow the government’s advice found here for gathering in your home with others but really, who doesn’t love a bit of double bubble?
Step 3: Gathering to pray, read God’s word and break bread together
Recent updates have also allowed places of worship to open for ‘services’ and ‘group prayer’. We are therefore considering reflective prayer meetings throughout the week to begin gathering again at the Kings Centre in July/August. While we know this is already possible and being done by groups in gardens and homes for two households or up to 6 outside we do want to work towards the opportunity for slightly larger gatherings throughout the week, for those who wish to attend.
There are still a number of factors we have to consider before we can go ahead — social distancing will have to be in place, ticketing will be used to ensure we can track and trace those attending, no corporate singing will be allowed, cleaning requirements will increase and separate gatherings for over 70s may need to be considered but once we have confirmed as Elders and Trustees with David our Venue manager we will let you know when and where these will be.
Step 4: Life Group Gatherings
We hope that as restrictions ease further, entire Life Groups will once again gather together to meet mid-week or to enjoy the online service together — worshipping and praying altogether. It looks as if we are still a little way from this being possible but, if it can be done safely, we are excited by the thought that we may be able to gather in homes at some point in the future. Remember our scattering is as important as our gathering. Our Life Groups are as important as our Sunday services — we feel this new emphasis on community, relationships and small groups will be the life blood of our future as a Church.
Please keep exploring safe, creative ways within your groups to do this. Ask group leaders and look out for updates from cluster leaders for how others may be meeting at this time. Let’s consider all the opportunities these restrictions are giving us for multiplication, emergence of new leaders, ease of attending through use of technology, regular communication through social media, online alpha and group chats etc.
Step 5: Sunday services at our venues
Finally, we will relaunch our Sunday gatherings. We are aiming to begin some sort of meetings again in our venues if possible, and allowed by the government from September. We will follow government guidance and we will do our best to love people by keeping them safe.
Our aim is to have 5 weekly options for people to access a church service (I don’t really like this phrase, it seems a bit counterproductive to other things I’ve said, but I hope you get what we mean by it).
— Thursday morning 10am at the Kings centre for the shielded community and any others from vulnerable groups to attend in a smaller, safe and secure environment
— Sunday morning 10am at the Kings centre and 10am in the town centre (at the Hippodrome if we are allowed to use this venue) with some sort of kids / youth work in-line with government guidelines
— Sunday evening 7pm at the Kings Centre. There will be no kids or youth work provided
— Online church will continue in its current format at 10am every Sunday on our YouTube channel
Please remember all of these aims are subject to change and it is likely that when we are allowed to gather, it may look and feel different to what we have become accustomed to. We will be socially distanced across the building, air hugs will be optional, we probably won’t be serving teas and coffees or staying behind for catch ups in the cafe, laying on of hands to pray and singing may not be allowed … but we know that it is Jesus’ Church and he will continue to build and establish his kingdom through us as his people.
We know this, but let’s say it again, we are the church — devoted to one another, devoted to prayer, devoted to fellowship, devoted to loving our neighbour — and even without a building we can do all of these things and will continue to do so.
All our love, please continue to pray for us as we seek God, make wise decisions and love well.
Oli and Andy