Transitioning out of lockdown
Update 3

19th July 2020 

The Scottish Government has now published regulations allowing church services to resume.   Here the Elders set out the plan for how we will resume church services in the Chalmers’ building.

Thankful to be meeting together again

  • We are thankful that we can now meet together in person for services. 
  • Our spiritual desire is to meet together in person and, as Elders, we want to encourage everyone who is able to do that.  Alongside meeting together in person. livestream via YouTube and Zoom will continue.  
  • The government has produced detailed regulations to enable us to meet together safely.  It is important to recognise that these regulations will change over time.
  • At this stage, people shielding will not be able to come.  Anyone with Covid or who has symptoms associated with Covid illness is not allowed onsite.
  • Mindful of those of us not able to come to a service in person, whether because you are shielding, or not currently living in Edinburgh, we are all part of a loving church family, caring for one another.  

Creating a safe environment

  • We are currently working hard to implement the government’s regulations for Chalmers, creating an environment where everyone who is able to come feels safe. This will involve scrupulous compliance with health and hygiene protocols, including asking people to wear face coverings and registering their attendance, cleaning the building thoroughly after each service, and asking people to leave promptly and safely at the end of a service.  An explanation of the health and safety procedures we will have in place to ensure Chalmers is a safe environment will be sent to everyone in due course.
  • The maximum number of people who can meet on site for a service is 50 (including children).  This is the maximum number for all churches.  Social distancing of 2m is also required and is achievable in the Chalmers’ building for this number.
  • With a congregation of 350 adults, this presents a significant challenge.  We also want to be able to welcome some visitors and people who are new to Chalmers.  What we’re looking to do at this stage is plan for next 6-8 weeks and I’ll explain how we’ll plan for services during this period.  When students come back, or if government guidance changes significantly, this may change.   

Plan for services from 2nd August

  • From 2nd August, our goal is for people to be able to come to a service every second week. 
  • This will require us to have 4 services at 9.30 & 11.30 (repeats) and 4.30 & 6.30 (repeats). Services will be resourced by 2 separate teams, one team covering 9.30 & 11.30; the other team covering 4.30 & 6.30.  Initially, services will be one hour, occasionally slightly longer, but never more than 75 minutes.
  • For the week when you are not on site, we encourage you to tune into Zoom or YouTube for live services at 11.30 and 6.30.  You might consider joining with others in homes for service times (in line with the relevant guidance).
  • Having considered various options, we think the best way to make all this work is for people (as far as possible) to commit to come to the same service every fortnight.  We will ask you to respond to a short questionnaire indicating what your preference is.  It would be a big help if people from the same household (or extended household) can come to the same service.   The questionnaire is on the website now.  Please can you fill it in as soon as possible. 
    We do recognise that for some people, for example people who work shifts, coming to the same service time once a fortnight will be difficult.Where that is the case Fiona and Naomi will work with you to facilitate swapping between services.
  • As services begin on-site, we’ll have a team of 5 people cleaning after each service.  On the questionnaire you’ll see you can indicate if you are willing to serve in this way.  It will mean staying on site for around 20 minutes after the service ends.  If that is something you could help with please can I encourage you to tick that box.

 Children and youth programmes

  • We hope to start children and youth programmes from 2nd August with the additional use of the Columcille Centre and possibly the Redeemer building.  Along with the rest of the church family, the plan is for children and youth programmes to meet on site fortnightly and continue on Zoom the other week.  Parents would come to the service that meets at the same time.  We anticipate that children’s programmes (up to Sunday Club) will run at the 9.30am service.  As parents will need to come to that service, it won’t be possible to accommodate others at 9.30.  I realise that will be frustrating for some, but trust we can see why this is necessary, and as a loving commitment from us all to our families in Chalmers.   

What services will be like

  • While there can be no congregational singing in services, there will be a live band (initially with 2 people) with one person singing behind a Perspex screen.   We were able to introduce that change today. 
  • We are thinking about other ways we can express our corporateness, like reading a psalm together or saying the Lord’s Prayer.
  • People will read and pray habitually from the building (though we continue to involve people in services who are not able to attend in person).   Again, we have been able to introduce these changes today.
  • Baptisms (but not full immersion), dedications and membership events can now happen on-site.  The regulations acknowledge that 2m social distancing may not always be possible.
  • We will also be able to share communion together.  We plan to do that for the first time around the beginning of September.   That will give us time to think through how we can share communion safely. 
  • As I said, we have to ask everyone to leave promptly at the end of the service and we’re not allowed to serve tea and coffee.  However, if you wanted to, so long as you comply with the government guidance for meeting family and friends, you may wish to go for a walk with someone after church, to go for a coffee or picnic together.
  • Our spiritual desire is to meet together in person and we thank God that we can now make plans to do that.  Church will feel very different when we first meet together because of the social distancing, but we will get used to that. Notwithstanding the necessary restrictions, our meetings will be rich in fellowship and blessing.  It will be good to meet together. 

Next Sunday, 26th July

  • Although we won’t be starting the four services on a Sunday format until 2nd August, next Sunday (26th July) we will be able to have a congregation on site at 10.30 and 6.30.  For 26th July we’re asking people to book a place on-line.   There is a facility on the website for you to do that.  Please note that there will be no programmes for children and young people onsite next Sunday.  They will be on Zoom.  For this reason, and also because social distancing of 2m must be observed, can we ask those of you with children up to Sunday Club age to join the livestream from your homes next Sunday.  Because we can only accommodate 100 people across the two services most of us will join the services on YouTube and Zoom.  
  • Small groups and other church groups will continue to meet on Zoom for the time being.  As Elders we’ll continue to watch government guidance and will work with ministry leaders to determine when groups can start meeting again in person.   
  Written information and Q&A
  • Looking ahead, more information will be sent to you, including which service we’d ask you to come to and an explanation of the health and safety procedures we will have in place to ensure Chalmers is a safe environment.
  • And this Wednesday evening, from 7.30-8.30pm, there will be a drop in Q&A on Zoom to answer any questions you have about coming back to church. 

What we're asking you to do now

  • Here’s a summary of what we’re asking you to do now.
    • Read this update. 
    • Sign-up on the website if you want to come to a service next Sunday 26th (10.30am or 6.30pm).   This can be done from the Sunday Services page on the website: 
    • Fill in the questionnaire on the website about your preferred service time from 2nd August.  Please can you do that as soon as possible.  Again the sign up can be found from the Sunday Services page on the website: 
    • If you have questions, then please drop in to the Q&A this Wednesday anytime from 7.30-8.30pm.  This will be on the same Zoom link that we use for Sunday Services.
    • Please read any subsequent information that is sent to you.

Loving one another

  • With every step we take out of lockdown, as Elders we commend to us all a loving awareness of others in the church family.  
  • We need to be particularly mindful of those of us not able to come to a service in person, whether because you are shielding, or not currently living in Edinburgh.  We are part of a loving church family, whether we are meeting in personal or on Zoom. 
  • And we need to be loving towards those who will be anxious about coming back to services on-site.  All of us have a part to play in giving them the confidence to do that.