Registered Charity no. 1134362
16th July 2020
To the Members and Friends of the Churches of the Salisbury Circuit
Yesterday we held a meeting of the Circuit Leadership Team. We met in person for the first time since February; it was good to be together even with all the restrictions of distancing and without normal human contact. I am writing to share some of our discussions and decisions.
Our absolute priority is the safety of our people. We are recommending action that is based on a real love for people and their welfare.
The Coronavirus has proved to be and remains a deadly threat. You will be aware of the talk of a second spike and already some of the easing of the lockdown restrictions are being reversed in some places. We hope and pray that it will not get worse.
Worship. Of course, we talked at length about the possibilities of a return to Worship. We want to make it happen. We uphold the right of the Managing Trustees of each of our nine Chapels to make the right decision for their premises and their members. We are committed to supporting any decision – to open or not to open – that Manging Trustees make. But, and it is a big But, with all the regulations and requirements that are currently in place, our recommendation is that Worship should not take place until after the first of October.
We acknowledge that our people are missing all sorts of aspects of our coming together to worship the living God. In their replies to the Questionnaire that I have circulated (and Thank You to the many people who have responded), people have mentioned singing, Communion, fellowship and coffee – and more. We are very aware that among those who feel most deprived there are those who are the most vulnerable. Were we to resume Worship now it would be very different. People at two metres distance would mean a very reduced number in Church. We are not allowed to sing – can you imagine – surely anathema to Methodists. We would not be able to meet and mix after Service but ‘commanded’ to go out and go home. No coffee! Then there is the eight-page list of all the compliance rules that we must adhere to.
At Woodfalls and at Bemerton and perhaps elsewhere, consideration is being given to holding outdoor services, which would be a partial solution while the weather remains in our favour.
I recognise that this will be deeply disappointing to many. While some have told me that they are apprehensive about returning to Church, others have expressed their eagerness. I repeat that our priority is the safety of our people.
Fellowship Groups. There are some positives. We are very aware of the immense amount of work that has been devoted to maintaining, and indeed increasing, our pastoral contacts with both our own members and those beyond our normal reach. Thank you for that ongoing work. We wondered about the possibilities and then proposed the setting up of small fellowship groups. Some exist already. It’s like going back to our roots. Under the regulations and with common sense precautions, it is possible for 6 or so people to meet in a garden or a suitably large living room. We want to encourage you to invite one another and perhaps share coffee or perhaps prayer and some of the written or recorded material that the ministerial team are producing week by week. Could you initiate such an invitation?
We have the resource of our two Lay workers, Linda and Christine, who are returning to work from their furlough period.
Published and Broadcast Services and material. In their replies many, many people have expressed great appreciation for the material that is available through the Circuit and from beyond. As the ministerial team we are committed to continuing this in its variety of forms. We have been hugely blessed by the technical team that have produced complete Services from SMC. Currently there is the substantial proposal and active research into the possibility of purchasing the equipment that will enable the streaming of live as well as recorded Services. It would enable us to maintain the contacts with those who are not able to physically join us at Church; contacts that have been a positive outcome of our work during the lockdown.
A serious proposal that we are investigating is the purchase by the Circuit – perhaps on a large scale, of second hand iPads or similar equipment which we would give, along with broadband and also appropriate training, to those who do not currently have access to the technology that many of us have come to rely on during this period.
‘Outside’ users and hirers of our Premises. Again, a whole area that took a great deal of time and energy in our discussions. Again, an area where the safety of people became the prime motivation of our thinking and decisions. While we acknowledge that some provide essential community service and some a means of livelihood, we cannot see a way through the maze of logistic difficulties that outside users would present. The cleaning process after each use alone would be a very expensive nightmare. Who would ensure the various regulations are adhered to? What would happen if two or more users were on the premises at the same time? What if there were children – notoriously difficult to make compliant with social distancing, involved? Wouldn’t we need a full-time caretaker in each of the premises that others use? We gave consideration to the Circuit employing professional cleaners to execute the required deep clean and give us a certificate that it had been done. But that would only be valid for one brief moment in time. As a ‘user group’ came and went, we would have to start again. We could not see how we could sanction any ‘outside’ use of our premises unless there is a discreet self-contained part of the premises for which a group would accept total responsibility for complete compliance with all of our regulations including cleaning.
Again, it is not ideal. What is the alternative? The Circuit Leadership Team is called to exercise leadership and that, under God, is what we have tried to do. We will continue to work together – especially as it seems that it will not be possible in the normal way to hold our planned September Circuit Meeting. There will be some essential business that we shall have to conduct by correspondence – either post or email. A meeting under the difficult conditions of a zoom meeting does not seem viable. We will continue to review the situation.
We continue to hold each other in the presence of God who, through it all, is our Rock and our Salvation. We will continue to pray – especially for David and Helen.
Thank you again for all you do and for all you are in the life of our Church