A letter from Rev Manda, July 2021

To all members of St Mary’s,

I hope that this letter finds you well.

These last 16 months have been extremely challenging for all of us. The impacts of Coronavirus have been extensive and wide ranging. I am very grateful to God for His overall protection and how He has sustained us. But I have no doubt that the effects of the pandemic will be with us for a considerable time.

This week has marked a specific point in terms of government guideline, so I wanted to write to you to outline some aspects relating to St Mary’s as we move forward.

Overall we want to ensure that our church is a place where people feel safe and comfortable. It is within that security we can worship God together. Here are the things we are putting in place:

  • Use of hand sanitiser is encouraged on entry and exit and there will also be sanitiser available within the worship area
  • People are encouraged to use a mask / face covering
  • We will position seating such that people can sit together or sit spaced from others. We are happy for people to move chairs to a position that feels comfortable for them. We will have signs saying ‘Please leave this chair vacant’ which you can put on a chair next to you to create the space you find helpful.
  • We are delighted to be able to sing again, this is such a wonderful part of our corporate worship, but we ask that people ensure their mask is in place when singing.
  • We will have bread and wine at communion. Rev Manda (or a visiting Priest) will first dip the wafer into the wine before giving it to you. She will be wearing a face covering and will have sanitised her hands before distribution.
  • The hall will be well ventilated with back doors being kept open.
  • In order to respect people’s differing level of comfort with interactions with others we will not share the peace with any physical contact such as handshakes or hugs for the time being.
  • Refreshments will be served following a robust risk assessment being put in place.
  • We will continue to encourage people to be part of the ‘Test and Trace’ system through either scanning the church QR code or by completing a short paper form.
  • Please do not attend a church services if you are feeling unwell

I feel that by following these things we are showing our care and concern for one another and creating the appropriate environment in which to worship.

In the following I want to let you know of the plans for services going forward.

Services in August – 10.30am for refreshments and 11am service

On each of the 5 Sundays in August we will have one service in the church building. It will start with refreshments at 10.30am. The formal part of the service will begin at 11am and will be around 50 minutes long. We will all worship together, children’s groups will begin in September, two weeks in August we will gather around the Lord’s table for communion. At each of these services we will be exploring an area of prayer looking at – praise, saying sorry, giving thanks, asking God, saying ‘yes’ to God. Prayer is a key foundation both for the present and as we move forward and this will be a great focus for our worship together in August.

There will be a short online service each week during August in which we will look at some of the miracles of Jesus.

Services from September onwards

From 5th September we will resume two services in the building.

9am Common Worship Communion Service with hymns

11am Informal worship with Children’s Groups

Monthly Evening Worship

Families on 4th Sunday at 4pm

You will notice in the list above that there is a change in time to the second service. Service leaders and worship leaders commented that less than 30 minutes between the end of the first service and beginning of the second service made set up time for the second service hurried and often stressful. This is a key time for being prepared to worship and lead others in worship as well as to greet and interact with others. The PCC have therefore agreed that we will trial the second service start at 11am and review in February 2022. We are aware that changes in service times may not suit everybody but we think being as prepared for leading worship as we can be is a good reason to trial this slightly later time, especially at this point of emerging from a pandemic. What we are proposing is that refreshments for the second service are before the service rather than after. We hope people will arrive from 10.30 onwards and this will therefore continue to give opportunity for people from the first service and people from the second service to chat to each other.

Sunday 5th September – Services re-launch and church picnic

We are very excited to be re-launching our two morning services on the 5th September. By then we will not have had two in-building services for nearly 18 months. This is therefore a cause for celebration and so we invite everyone to gather from noon onwards for a picnic – hopefully the weather will enable us to go outside.

I am aware that this is a lot of information so do read it through again and please contact me if you would like to be in touch and ask about or talk through any aspect of it.

A huge thank you goes out to many people for enabling us to continue with our worship services over this period of the pandemic and to all those looking to serve as we move forward. Please pray for St Mary’s and for the communities of Hollywood and Wythall at this time.

Rev Manda Featherstone

20th July 2021

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