Churches in England and Wales are now allowed to open from  Monday June 22nd, 2020 for private prayer only and with firm restrictions in place on numbers attending at any one time. The strictest health and safety, hygiene and supervision measures will apply.

We understand people should only be allowed a maximum of 15 minutes in church and be encouraged to give their contact details to a steward on leaving so that they can be contacted in case of suspected virus infection.

In Caldicot Methodist Church indications are that at least four people will be needed to steward and patrol the premises inside and out while the church is open to minimise the risk and ensure social distancing, and do we have the people to commit to this?

Most people, myself included, cannot wait to return to church for fellowship and worship, being together without fear and without restrictions, but this is unlikely to happen soon. Indeed, while no doubt some churches will relish and take the opportunity for short private prayer as mentioned above, and honour the restrictions in doing so, most places of worship of all faiths and denominations are so used to all being together to sing, to pray, to reflect on a sermon, and yes, to finish with a cuppa at the end.

In the meantime, my suggestion is that we acknowledge the fact that God is present wherever we find ourselves. The church is the people, you and I, and vice versa, the people make the church. The building is for coming together when it is safe to do so, and not until then. Ideally when a vaccine is found and shown to be successful.

So, until then, let us be thankful for and continue to develop the many alternative ways of being church, and so many of them thanks to social media and other digital technologies. Almost every day I hear about people, and many of them elderly, who are learning new skills with regard to getting on-line, sometimes by finding out for themselves, but often thanks to the assistance given to them by younger members of their families. And this is good. And it is a wonderful way of the Word potentially being shared by many more people of all ages. It is happening, and we need to continue to develop this. So, when church does return, my prayer is that it will be picking up the best of our traditions of old – after all, they have stood the test of thousands of years – but never forget and never ignore the real progress being made thanks to technology, and may we continue to learn to help the two walk hand in hand.

In conclusion, and while that decision is not for me to make but for the church council in due course, I suggest that we do not even think about reopening our premises for the kind of Sunday morning worship we are so used to until maybe a vaccine is tested, confirmed to work and available to all.   IF, and it is a big IF, but if in the meantime the Welsh Assembly declares that OUTSIDE worship may be safe as a way of preparing to get back as church, then an open air and strictly safety controlled celebration in our church car park would be great and I know a possibility supported by colleagues. But for now, stay at home, stay safe. God is where you are!                                                             

Rev Preben Andersen, Rev Lin Healey and Rev Joe Rooney. 19.06.2020