The church rooms remain closed at present in line with Government advice, and this continues to impact upon the life and work of the church community, as well as it's finances, and we recognise that these constraints will also be affecting you and the members of your group.
During the closure we have been maintaining regular checks on the building and we are now beginning to think about the lockdown restrictions changing and being ready to open as soon as it is safely possible.
There is a significant amount of work to be undertaken to reverse the 'hibernation' state of our premises; updating our maintenance programme, carrying out Health and Safety checks of all our systems, restarting cleaning and hygiene contracts with reviewed levels of coverage and undertaking the comprehensive risk assessments provided and required by the Methodist Church.
According to the Government's timetable, we are still in Step 1, and approaching Step 2, which begins after the half term break with the selective reopening of some parts of schools and outdoor markets. Churches cannot reopen until Step 3, which will begin on 4th July, at the earliest.
Our church reopening plans are still at a developmental stage, and will change as advice from Government or our Methodist connexion is made available. However, our phased reopening will probably begin with access for socially distanced individuals returning for private prayer, before a trial opening for a small number at Sunday worship. We are expecting that even our large worship space will hold a congregation of only just over 40 and that is our priority.
It is likely that we will then invite a few church groups to hold smaller gatherings to test arrangements, and when we are satisfied that our guidance will work, we will take small steps toward reopening for other room users, which will begin with an online briefing session that must be attended before any room bookings can be taken.
What can you do to help prepare for this next stage?
We suggest that you need to consider how you might wish in future to use the building and it's rooms for your activities. There will be a significant reduction in the capacity of each room, as we currently estimate the following:
Church - 44 (was 250)
Main Hall - 20 (was 80)
Upper Hall - 18 (was 60)
Rooms 2 - 10 (was 50)
Room 5 - 12 (was 60)
Room 4 - 9 (was 40)
Room 9 - 6 (was 30)
For illustration, we have set out chairs in our main hall to show how spacing may be achieved, and all group leaders will need to think about how they would need to adjust to deal with this sort of set up.
There will be a need to control safe and orderly entrance and exit of only those people attending each activity, with queuing outside. It will no longer be possible for our foyer, corridor and stairwells to be used for groups to gather, or parents to wait for collecting children. It would be helpful to know if you think additional signage or spacing markers would be useful in shared spaces.
Our tea bars and refreshment facilities will be closed and unavailable, and we are likely to remove excess furniture from rooms to enable distancing. There will probably be a need to arrange additional cleaning for high contact areas such as door handles during each day and we have to determine how this may best be achieved. We will also need to consider together isues such as how toilet areas can be accessed safely and the extent to which we will need to provide extra hand sanitiser or other protective materials.
Please do contact us with any ideas or suggestions as we draw up our procedures to keep everyone safe, and please let us know if you have any questions. It would be helpful to have your thoughts about when and how you might hope to restart your group, and if you would like to be among one of the early groups to trila new arrangements. Regrettably we cannot accept any bookings until we have determined how the building can be safely used, and we ask you to bear with us as we take tiny steps!
Finally, you should note that we have temporarily changed the locks on the building so that no key holder can enter the building or resume meetings at present. You should wait until you hear from us that it is safe to do so, which we will announce in line with Government guidance, by email and through notification on our church website www.wbmethodist.org.uk
Thank you, and stay safe,
If you need any help from the church, or could offer assistance to others, please contact us using the details on our website, or by replying to this email.