Why isn’t the church building open?
The government has said that churches can be open for private prayer and acts of worship, so why isn’t the building at Emmanuel open? Well we need to consider two things:
1) What do the regulations allow?
2) What is church?
What do the regulations allow?
The government guidance, allows for services at church, provided there are appropriate social distancing and protective measures are in place. However, that still presents a number of problems to do with protecting those who come to worship and their subsequent contacts. As the guidance says, churches are subject to Health and Safety legislation just as other public places. If we look at the guidance relating to how we can meet, it doesn’t resemble church worship as we understand it.
- Numbers will still be limited and there will need to be a booking system.
- A register of those attending each service or event, and their contact details, will need to be kept for 21 days under track and trace.
- Entry and exit will need to be controlled in order to limit contact.
- Seating will need to be socially distanced, except for those in the same household.
- Singing and speaking out loud should not take place.
- The act of worship should be as short as possible.
- People should disperse as quickly as possible.
This is not church or an act of worship as we understand it.
What is church?
Put simply, church is the coming together of people in the name of Jesus Christ, in fellowship, worship and service. Jesus said, ‘Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.’ For us as Baptist Christians, church isn’t about a building, a particular service or a ritual. That is why church has not been closed during lock down and although the building is not open, church certainly is. Meeting as we are through Zoom at the moment is not ideal and no substitute for meeting face to face, but it is more ‘church’ than the guidance from government allows.
The church building does have a function: it is a public face and community facility. The leadership will be putting a plan in place for its future opening, but that will not take place before September and will not be a return to life before lock down, unless there is a drastic change in the control of Covid-19.
Please pray for the leadership as they consider the way forward in this ever changing situation.