As we move to step 4 of the Government Roadmap out of Lockdown, I am writing to update you on our plans at Holy Trinity. Our PCC met on July 7th and there was a clear consensus that we should take a slow and cautious approach over the coming weeks, particularly in light of the currently high level of coronavirus infection in and around Oxford. Although vaccination has weakened the link between infection and serious illness, we are currently living through another wave of the virus, which means that other measures to control infection – social distancing, hand hygiene, ventilation, face coverings – remain important. In light of this, here is a summary of the decisions reached:
Church Capacity and Booking
We acknowledged that it has been very difficult to restrict the number of people attending worship on a Sunday morning, although it has been a necessary step in light of the size of our regular congregation and the size and layout of our building. During August, beginning on Sunday 1st August, we will remove the booking system as a trial, but still place orders of service out in the pews in a way that enables people to space out accordingly. We will be guided by feedback from the duty wardens and welcomers as we adjust to this new system. Please continue to book in the normal way if you are coming on Sunday 25th July.
Conduct of Worship
We agreed that we would like to resume congregational singing, which so many of us have missed, and further discussion of this will be underway in the coming weeks. We also agreed that we will continue to share the peace non-physically for the time being, and that communion would continue to be administered in one kind only, with a moving queue. We acknowledged how important it will be to build up our Sunday morning children’s ministry again, and discussed the possibility of an outdoor Sunday school in the forest, depending on volunteer time and resources. Please hold this idea in your prayers.
We agreed that face coverings should be strongly encouraged inside the church building, particularly if this enables us to increase the size of our congregation and resume congregational singing. The ultimate decision about whether to wear one remains with each individual.
Pattern of Worship
We will be reflecting further on the wider pattern of church services in the coming weeks. We hope to hold a weekly 8am communion service from September onwards, which will provide a smaller Eucharistic gathering for those concerned by the prospect of a larger 10am gathering. The Wednesday 10am communion serves this purpose already, and will continue. Choral Evensong will continue on the first Sunday of the month. Forest Church services on Sundays and Tuesday mornings have paused over the summer, but will hopefully resume in the autumn following a review.
Broadcasting a Sunday Service to our local hospitals through Radio Cherwell has been an important aspect of our church’s worship offering during this time of pandemic. We intend to continue online worship indefinitely, pending a review in August with Radio Cherwell and the hospital chaplaincy team. During the August review, Radio Cherwell will broadcast edited versions of previous services, and the current gospel reading and sermon will be broadcast on our website. We should soon have the resources in place for live streaming directly from the building, and we are working to try and make that possible by September or October.
We have agreed to keep all these steps under review as we wait to see how the pandemic unfolds over the coming weeks. Please continue to pray for all those suffering the effects of Covid-19, and for medical professionals who face continued pressures in the weeks ahead. On Sunday 11th July, we reflected on the theme of faithfulness, and I believe we have shown deep faithfulness as a church throughout this time: in the faithful stream of prayer and worship that has sustained us, despite all the restrictions, and in our care for one another. May we continue in this faithful and prayerful response to the challenge of the present, as we wait in hope for better times to come.
Yours in Christ
God of compassion
We offer up in prayer all who are affected by this outbreak.
We pray for all healthcare workers and researchers, as well as all who are ill, all who have died, and the family members and friends who care for them.
We pray for those whose livelihoods and income are threatened by the outbreak, and for all living in uncertainty.
For wise decisions
And the recognition that all who are affected share a common humanity as children of the one God.
We offer our prayers in the confidence that your perfect love casts our fear.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
HTHQ Parish Prayer