Church in long term lockdown

Here’s the recording of today’s #AfternoonTea as we talked through the implications of a long term lockdown for church.

Here are my notes from the FIEC’s very helpful webinar with John Stephens on this subject.

1. He opened with Daniel 9 -not identical but some analogies esp the sense of being in a situation longer than desired/expected
2. Big news – as shared the other day is that nothing will happen in churches until July 4th and even then it is likely to be extremely limited. We should not expect anywhere near normalisation until 2021 and need to set expectations.

Talk of limited weddings (similar rules to funerals)  from June

A. Reaction -to current situation 
JS picks up reactions including
Resentment – Some feel that a case for the churches is not being made strongly -it is- Some feel the whole lockdown was not needed in the first place- Resentment at lack of enforcement- Resentment also that churches are being lumped in with cinemas or less favourably than garden centres
Relief  -some in fact are relieved at not having the pressure to go back too soon
Realism –  we need to recognise seriousness of the situation.  Also that the reason churches are lined to cinemas is not that our value is seen as lower but that we are seen as the same level of risk for transmission.

B. Regulations
We will see regulations specific to our situation coming out soon.  These may create further obstacles and indeed we may be able to do less than we can do online in some regards
– social distancing will limit capacity- live singing is a no …. I think possibly even for worship groups -so it may be piped music to listen to- Deep cleaning requirements?

C. Risks
Legal fines, civil liabilities, insurance and trustees I we do not comply. Reputation if seen to be irresponsible and especially if leads to deaths. Will make the media Refusing to comply simply leads to longer lockdown for all

D. Response
Submit and respect. – of course we should obey Christ first if we are asked to go against God’s law but we are not (in JS’s view at that stage yet)
– Explain to the church and plan accordingly
– Make representation via MPs etc. Note the case for gathering has already been made but it is good to keep a public voice. But do it respectfully. Shrillness will not make us more likely to be heard.  (Note I have bene doing this via faithroots etc)

E. A church prepares- Emmanuel Church, Chippenham talked through how they were planning
-Their official capacity is 300 with congregation of 150, though they expect some will still self isolate. They have worked out that they can fit in 60 with social distancing.
– Think through implications of seating requirements.  Remember that how you do this will affect families, couples, singles
-Getting back together may indeed feel like an ordeal.  Especially if we are missing out on some aspects of church and some are even saying  “Shall we just keep online until the new year”  – So they are giving time in teaching on he importance of why we gather-Also a challenge around children and families. He was concerned at comments “we can join the zoom service and the kids can happily play” -so they are thinking hard about children’s provision.  NB  I have an article coming  out later this week on children and lock down church-They will continue to provide online resources for sometime -probably in parallel.  This means considering things like- investment in better equipment- training people up-dedicated member of leadership team responsible for this.

E, Evangelism opportunities? We can use the boost option on Facebook to advertise events but the best thing we can do is actually to keep sharing through word of mouth. This might mean posting an evangelist book, talking to friends online and the phone about how we have hope and sharing links to church events. There are lots of online evangelistic resources (including our First Look course available on the Faithroots pages).

F. Breakout room discussion -how do we help our churches at this stage
-A number of churches are planning Q&A sessions on the situation.  Additionally looking at emotional response and there has been a webinar looking at the stages of reaction to lockdown linked to grief responses which may be helpful to take groups through (maybe in home groups).

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