Update on returning to physical church services in the Scottish Mission

Update on returning to physical church services in the Scottish Mission

CrieffJimmy Botha

On Sunday 11th October, the Scottish Mission Executive Committee voted in favour of re-opening our churches, subject to: 

  1. local Church Board approval, 
  2. submission of the required Risk Assessment forms to the Scottish Mission office,
  3. compliance to the up-to-date restrictions of the Scottish Government. 

While we continue to closely follow the news and developments in Scotland, each congregation can further proceed with their planning towards a safe re-opening of their premises or returning to their rental premises, when these are accessible to them. The Scottish Mission Officers’ Committee (Offcom) is prepared to assess/approve the submitted Risk Assessment forms. 

Scottish Mission President, Pastor Paul Tompkins commented, “Since the closure of our churches, the Pastoral Team has met on a weekly basis, and the re-opening of churches has been on our agenda continually. We have spent time praying for our church community and sought wisdom from God in the process of returning to physical meetings in our churches.”

Scottish Mission Executive Community and the team of pastors have had a common desire to resume our worship services in our premises. Yet, the process requires a thorough planning to minimise the possibility of a spread of infection among our membership. Individual Church Boards and several surveys conducted among members have widely supported this cautious approach and we have been grateful for their assistance in accomplishing this complex process. 

Meanwhile, the pastors and the secretary of the Scottish Mission have completed numerous courses organised by the British Union Conference to be able to efficiently guide in the process. All involved in preparing our buildings for re-opening need to be able to carry out their tasks safely. The long and detailed list of tasks includes, e.g. cleaning of surfaces, ensuring safety of water supply and achieving heating requirements after a long break. A number of our congregations who own their premises have advanced in putting in place required measures. Others, such as Glasgow or Irvine, are carrying out refurbishment works.

At the moment, the following guidelines from the Scottish Government must still be adhered to: 

- Individuals must continue to be physically distanced from others not in their household/extended household group.

- Places of worship should not admit more than 50 people in total, regardless of their size and usual capacity.

- Those responsible for running a place of worship should engage and communicate with worshippers and the wider community to explain what is permitted and what is still prohibited.

Compliance to the Government’s guidelines and all mitigating measures based on individual risk assessments is pertinent in order to avoid a spike in cases among our members and visitors and subsequent closure of our churches. We all need to be prepared that when re-entering our churches, the following will be put in place:

  • A register of attendees is prepared and kept for services (to enable track-and-trace);
  • Upon entrance, temperatures will be checked;
  • Entrances and exits are clearly marked  to ensure a one-way system, where the building allows;
  • Doors remain open to avoid touching of surfaces;
  • Seating is clearly marked. Ushers ensure that 2-metre distance is maintained appropriately;
  • Books and other items are removed;
  • AV equipment are clean and handled only by designated personnel; 
  • Different rooms are prepared for their specific use;
  • Toilets are clean and kept clean after each use;
  • Church halls are correctly labelled for use;
  • Enough staff is present at church on every occasion to help with the roles above.

So, as the process of re-opening our churches proceeds and local Church Boards inform members about its relevant local advancement, may each one of us continue to play their part by exercising patience and giving hand where needed and possible, based on our individual circumstances. Let us also continue to pray for numerous Bible studies that have been ongoing and all people who have been a part of our various services on online platforms. The virus has put a pause on many of our activities but it has certainly not stopped the spreading of the good news of salvation!