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Dear Friends

I am very pleased to be able to write to everyone to announce that we will be holding a service of Holy Communion at St Mary’s Bures next Sunday 12th July at 10.30am. I know that many of us have dearly missed being able participate fully in a communion service during lockdown, so it seemed right that we should celebrate communion together in our first service back in the church building. This will be, I hope, the beginning of a gradual process of re-introducing a regular pattern of services in all three of our churches in the benefice over the coming weeks.

In opening St Mary’s for worship next Sunday, the churchwardens and I have been careful to apply the guidance for public worship recently issued by the government and our Bishops. We have worked hard to ensure that all our services (and especially Holy Communion) are administered in a way which puts first the safety of those worshipping. We have carried out a detailed Risk Assessment and have taken steps to clean and prepare the church for worship.

In accordance with the guidance, here are the main things you will find different from the last time we worshipped in the church building:

  • Social distancing of 2m between households will need to be observed, both during the service and on entering and leaving the church.
  • We will come into the building by the North porch (the usual main door) but leave by the South porch door. There will be hand sanitiser stations at both doors and you are asked to use hand sanitiser on entering and leaving the church.
  • There can be no congregational singing of hymns, so we will be using recorded music during services for the time being.
  • We will not be using any hymn books or service books. We will produce a printed booklet for each service which you must take away with you, please.
  • There will be no offering taken by passing the collection plate or bags. Instead there will be a box for a retiring collection placed near the South Porch exit.
  • Wearing of face-coverings for the congregation is voluntary, but the clergy will wear face masks when administering wafers at Holy Communion.
  • While we would love to see everyone in person at our church services, we understand that some of our regular congregation may feel uncomfortable about returning to public worship just yet. The guidance states that those who are at extra risk and the “clinically extremely vulnerable” should be reminded of the risks of attending public worship, and the decision whether to do so or not should be theirs alone.
  • For the time being, there will be no KidZone or separate provision for young children, I’m afraid. The Tower Room at St Mary’s will remain closed for now. If you are planning to attend church with children, please would you bring your own books/toys/drawing materials as we are unable to provide these for the present.
  • The names of those attending each service will be recorded by the churchwardens/ sides-persons to assist “track and trace” if required. These details will be retained for 21 days only.
  • There can be no refreshments after the service and those attending should please not linger in the church building to chat (even if socially-distanced) after the service.

When there is a service of Holy Communion:

  • Only wafers will be distributed to the congregation and there will be no use of the common chalice
  • The wafers will be kept covered before distribution and the President will use hand sanitiser before and after distribution.
  • To maintain social distancing, you will be invited to form a short line to receive communion. There will be floor markings in the chancel to show where you should stand before coming forward to receive.
  • Communion will be administered in silence. The wafer will be dropped into your hand at arms-length.
  • There will be a “one-way” system in place for you to follow to return to your seat.

Numbers attending church

Social distancing means that the usual seating capacity of the church has been significantly reduced. We estimate that the maximum number the church can now accommodate for each service is between 44-50.

For this reason, can I ask you please to reply to this email as soon as possible, using the church office email address, to let me and the churchwardens know if you are intending to come to the communion service on 12th July. We can then judge if the numbers planning to attend can be safely accommodated. If the likely numbers are too great, we will arrange a second service on the same day.

Will there still be a service on YouTube next week?  Yes, for the foreseeable future we will continue to offer a service on-line via YouTube alongside the services taking place in person in the church buildings. We will also continue to post materials for children on the Messy Church Facebook page.

Will there still be Coffee and Chat via Zoom? Yes, both Sunday morning Zoom meetings will continue for the present, but at different times to accommodate the services in church. So, the Assington gathering and short act of worship will now be at 9.30am and the Benefice Coffee and Chat at 11.30am.

I’m sorry that this email is so long, but I wanted everyone to understand as far as possible what our services are likely to look like as we gradually move back to more frequent public worship. Thank you for reading this far, and if anything is unclear or you need re-assurance on anything, please do email or give me a call and I will do my best to help.

It will be wonderful to be able to meet in church to pray and worship together even if it will feel rather different to what we have been used to. We give thanks to God that this much at least is possible and I look forward to seeing many of you in church next Sunday!

With blessings and best wishes

Steve

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