This week Baptists Together (the umbrella body of which we are part) published the following letter to member churches on their website:
On 12 July, the UK Government confirmed the move to step 4 of their Covid-19 recovery roadmap for England from 19 July. This will remove outstanding legal restrictions including:
- All remaining limits on social contact are removed. People may meet with whom and with as many as they wish, both indoors and outdoors.
- Social distancing is no longer demanded in any setting.
- All restrictions on the numbers at and activities within weddings, funerals and other life events are removed.
- Face coverings are no longer mandatory in any setting.
- There are no restrictions on singing.
Nevertheless, as infections continue to rise, the Government recommends continuing caution. Good ventilation, diligence in hygiene, wearing a face covering in enclosed and crowded spaces, and limiting contact with those we do not live with, are all noted as beneficial behaviours. In the light of this, we recommend that it is both sensible and appropriate for churches to continue to take some measures to limit the spread of Covid-19. Churches have a responsibility to protect their staff, congregations, communities, and other users of their buildings. However, it is now down to each church to determine for itself what these measures should be.
We are acutely aware that the process for making decisions going forward has the potential to be divisive. In some respects it was easier when rules were more restrictive but at least definite. How we make decisions may prove to be as important to churches as the decisions themselves. We appeal to everyone involved to be kind to each other, to listen well, to appreciate the pressure leaders are under, and to compromise accordingly. This is a very vulnerable time for churches and we ask you to recall the exhortation in Ephesians 4 to ‘be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’.
We agree. There is no doubt that decision making was far more straight-forward when the law was clear, but now that we have been given autonomy to make the best decisions for our own setting, we all have a responsibility to do what is best and right for those around us, as well as for ourselves. As we said last week, we need to hear each other’s voices in order to reach a consensus on what we should be doing – not because we are opinionated, but because God speaks to us when we are in community. This is why it is essential that we gather together on Tuesday evening to ask God what in on His heart, and to hear His voice through each other’s wisdom and discernment. This will not be a debate, or an opportunity to be the most insistent voice, but rather to come before God in humility and to say to Him, ‘We don’t know what to do; we’re looking to you.’ (2 Chronicles 20:12, The Message). The meeting is open to all (though only Church members have the responsibility to vote) and you can find out how to take part elsewhere in this newsletter. What a privilege, and how exciting to be in God’s presence while He shows us the way ahead!
With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline