We last write a few months back about serving refreshments in a COVID-19 secure way, so let's give ourselves a little refresh and update about the latest government guidelines.
It's safe to say that things haven't exactly become clearer or easier to understand! There is a lot of confusion online and from government sources about what we can do, and what we shouldn't do. But there is a little bit more consensus in how to welcome back our church families in a safe and COVID-19 secure way.
For your reference, the latest GOV UK guidelines can be found here. We have followed and adapted these to help encourage you to make your life as easy as possible!
Here's some things to think about when planning your COVID-19 Secure church reopening...
Those at greater risk need to be protected.
Those who are elderly, have underlying health conditions, the overweight are all thought to be at greatest risk. We need to help them feel included whilst also keeping them safe.
One way is to help keep them at home if possible by streaming services online, offering drive through services and keeping services short (hurrah I hear some say!). Why not buy a discounted box of premium roast coffee and deliver gift packs to those who can't make it out to the service. Grab a huge 3kg box of 60g sachets (x50) for only £33.99 (usually £39.99), so snap up a bargain here whilst stocks last!
Be creative! Be flexible!
There is a lot of negative messages out there, but we are called to bring a message of hope and God's love! It's tough in times such as these when we simply don't have all the answers, but we do know Jesus died and rose to set us free from sin and death ~ that's good news! So in times of challenge, they say that necessity is the driving force for invention - let's be inspirational people, ready to adapt and be flexible as things keep changing.
Social distancing doesn't mean being anti-social.
We can still gather, can still be together, can still celebrate all the good things God has done and IS still doing. But we do need to try and keep people 2m apart to help reduce any possible virus transmission. If we can't do this then 1m plus is recommended when things like face coverings are worn.
Keep it pre-watershed...CLEAN!
Ok a little joke, but good hygiene is the basis for keeping this nasty virus at bay. So ask your congregation to wash their hands regularly with normal hand soaps or use hand sanitizer. You can place some at the doors so when people arrive/leave they can sanitize their hands, as well as asking the to bring their own. This helps maximise levels of hygiene as well as keeping consumables costs manageable.
Carry out a COVID-19 Risk Assessment.
This doesn't have to be challenging, but does need to be done - this is a requirement from the government. The HSE has a handy principle/template document. You can find out more info here but the principles are to cover:
who might be harmed and how
what you’re already doing to control the risks
what further action you need to take to control the risks
who needs to carry out the action
when the action is needed by
Once you have worked each out, you can put them in a table for easy understanding.
Keeping numbers low.
This is a strange one, as most of us want to grow our churches; but with increased numbers of contact comes increased risk (statistically speaking) so the UK GOV suggests having firm limits based on the capacity within the venue to socially distance.
Stagger arrivals/departures to reduce queuing.
By asking your congregation to arrive at certain times you can help spread out "pinch points" and reduce any virus transmission risk. Ask those attending to remain in their seats where possible and to reduce moving around.
Keeping windows and doors open really does help to disperse any possible virus presence. This helps reduce concentrations of any possible virus which helps reduce the risk of someone becoming infected. The principle is, the less virus someone is exposed to, the less likely they are to become infected with it. Of course the approaching autumn and winter weather will bring fresh challenges in terms of heating our buildings, but even windows open slightly provides background ventilation.
Asking guests and those attending to be mindful.
It should come as second nature by now, but when we're in a rush, on a mission or running late it's tempting to forget the social distancing. By publicly reminding everyone of that, we are setting a culture of how we should all behave. It's a helpful reminder and clearly sets the expectation.
Serving coffee. Yes it can be done!
Think creatively, practice hospitality and model excellent hygiene... all things we want to be doing anyway. Instead of big queues maybe start a "seat service" style of drinks ordering, have a designated team serving drinks and ensuring queues are well spaced and in the biggest areas possible. If the weather's nice, why not take your coffee and have a natter outside where you can stand a good distance apart! DC's coffee is on an incredible sale at the moment of only £33.99 (usually £39.99), so snap up a bargain here whilst stocks last!
Reduce and remove things that need to be physically shared & touched.
Yes this means communal communion cups are out the window I am afraid, but that doesn't mean you can't have communion.
Avoid things which need to be touched.
Don't sing/speak over consumables.
Wash hands before/after handling (or use sanitizer).
The person handing out consumables should pass it in a way to avoid contact between them and the receiving person.
Unfortunately singing is not really advised at the moment as the Gov deem that this increases risks of virus transmission. I know, it does dampen things a bit doesn't it?! So instead, why not play a pre-recording and remind attendees that we can't sing at the moment. By choosing the right moment in the service, this could be an ideal moment for reflection as part of communion perhaps.
Keep a record of those attending.
This will really help the Gov Test & Trace system should it be needed to prevent an outbreak. The Gov requires you to keep the records securely for 21 days and remember to do so in a way that sticks to the principles of GDPR.
You are probably aware of this one already, but it had to be said. From 8th August face coverings need to be worn within inside public spaces (including places of worship). This helps reduce risks associated with a virus spreading between people. It's thought it doesn't protect you from contracting the virus, but helps prevent you unknowingly spreading it if you are a carrier.
About the author.
This article has been written by James to help you plan your church restart as part of running a COVID-19 Secure place of worship. We hope it has been helpful and may God bless every bit of your planning! Here's to a brighter future of being back together as church family!
James is passionate about coffee, growing church and local youth community here in the UK. For discounted premium coffee, check out the HERO blend which he roasts and supplies at a discounted price on his roasting site here.
Disclaimer: The above article is written to help you with your COVID-19 Secure church restart and does not constitute legally binding advice. You are always referred to Government advice and legislation as appropriate in your local area.