Returning to worship together at the Orchards. 13th September 2020

Dear Church Members


Your PCC met on Monday 10th August to discuss when and how to return to the Orchards for worship on a Sunday mornings. The PCC pledge to create a COVID-safe environment to allow all those who wish to attend to do so and certain measures are necessary to put into place to enable that to happen. The PCC also ask for the same pledge from members who attend that they will work for the safety of all by responding to any directions given or constraints when using the building.


What time will it be?

The Sunday morning services will be at 10:30am.


How will it be different?

We are planning for a phased return to the full Sunday worship experience we know. But it is not all possible at this time. So not all things will be happening from the first day and maybe for quite a while so do be prepared for our Sundays together to be a little different. Notably:

  • Not everybody can worship together – We are mindful that it is difficult to keep children in a seat for the duration of a service. For this reason we have begun a ‘Service for Families’ in the Parade at 10:30am which is run by Evie our Youth minister. It is of course desirable to worship with all ages together at times but at this time the best way to provide for everyone’s needs is to separate out until such time as we can join together in close proximity again.


  • We will have to use extra rooms - Even with the 20 people worshipping in the Parade, it is possible that not everyone will fit in to the large hall at the Orchards. Therefore, we intend to use the Café and the Haven room at the end of the corridor as ‘overflow rooms’. Both those rooms are equipped to receive a live broadcast from the main hall in real time so the congregation there will experience the worship as it happens.


  • We can’t sing and the music might be different – At this time we are not allowed to sing in worship. We can have live music as long as we do not use instruments required to be blown. Additionally, we are asked to avoid using music that encourages singing or shouting or calling out in the worship. We are allowed to have a singer who can sing from behind a Perspex screen. Our very good musicians will be working on how most appropriately to bring you a worshipful musical experience within these constraints.


At the same time the law says that unless for valid medical or mental reasons, we must wear face coverings in church. Those leading the service are exempt to allow for lip reading, however there is perhaps no reason why someone leading a spoken part of the worship couldn’t use a face visor.


  • We won’t have Holy Communion – Holy communion brings an added complexity to a worship service with regards to social distancing and movement of people. At this time Holy Communion is offered for the whole Great Baddow Benefice at 8am every Sunday at St. Mary’s Church. The PCC recommend that if Holy Communion is particularly important to you then attend that service for the time being. Please note it is a 1662 Book of Common Prayer Service using language that some may find strange if you are not used to it. Please book through the St. Marys church office if you wish to go to that as there is limited capacity. 01245 477501.


  • We won’t do after service coffee – In the first instance we will not be having coffee after the service. We will need to get used to using the building in the new way with the restrictions in place before we think about the logistics of a socially distanced time of refreshment. 


What can we expect?

  • Worship – The worship service will be what is known as a ‘service of the Word’. That is a service where there is no sacrament of Communion and where the emphasis is on the Preached Word. This will usually in the form of a sermon but we have had the suggestion of small groups studies (but we would have to work out how we could do that).

There will be live music provided by our musicians.

Bible reading and prayers would be included in the normal way. The rotas for those ministries will be reinstated so look out for them in your email inbox if you are on them.


  • Seating – We can get about 37 seats in the main hall in a socially distanced arrangement.  It is, of course, possible to move seats so that members of the same household or bubble group can sit together, but doing that doesn’t largely increase the seating capacity of the room. Other seating will be provided in the Café area and the Haven room for people who can’t be seated in the main hall and we think at first we will be able to get everyone who wants to come in those three rooms. 


  • Using technology – We will have a camera to capture the service going on in the main hall and will live-stream it to Facebook just like we have been doing since March. But in the overflow rooms it will be on the televisions that are there and through the sound systems so instead of everyone having their own device to see it on we can all watch it together.


We intend to use one camera at first to get the practicalities right and then add more camera angles later as we are able, to help the viewing experience. It will be new skills to learn.


Because we will be live-streaming to Facebook, we can still minister to people who have been connecting with us from St. Helens and Warwickshire, and Hampshire and Downham – and you, when you are on holiday! This is one good thing that has come out of the lockdown that we hope will continue even when we get back to being all together.


However, because we will be broadcasting to Facebook some restrictions do apply. We won’t be able to use videos, or professionally recorded music, or pictures taken from the internet as freely as we used to because that would break copywrite laws. That will mean perhaps a loss of creativity in certain presentations on powerpoint and so on when we illustrate sermons etc. Please be forgiving of that.


Also because of safeguarding we will not want children to appear on the screens who might then be seen on the internet. If children do come, we will ask parents to view the service from one of the overflow rooms. Of course, it might be that adults don’t want to be seen on camera and they also should view from an overflow room.


  • Arriving at church – We will need to maintain social distancing. So you might not be able just to walk in the door like you used to. We will have to set up a system of queuing outside like you do at the bank in the high street. There will be bollards to mark the waiting points.


The two doors we will use for entry are the one under the rear cover from the carpark and the front door from the road. A ‘gentle reminderer’ person will be at the door to remind you to put a face covering on and to sanitize your hands as you enter the building. (There is sanitizer at both doors and on the walls up and down the corridors).


Then we will need to tick off your name and contact number from the register for ‘Track and Tracing’ records that we are required to do. These records are simply for the purposes of contacting people if someone in the congregation later tests positive for the virus. The records are kept for three weeks and then destroyed. They are not used for any other purpose.


Then one of two more ‘gentle reminderers’ will be on hand to remind you to use the toilets before you go into the one of the worship rooms (this is to avoid contraflows of people in the corridors), and to help you find a seat either in the worship hall or in one of the overflow rooms. Your ‘normal seat’ won’t be there – so be prepared!


You will see that this will take longer than usual to get into church. If you all turn up in the last five minutes – ‘as some are in the habit of doing’ (Hebrews 10:25) – then it will delay the start of the service somewhat and cause some frustration – which is not good when you are broadcasting to the internet. Also, the later you get there the less chance of a place in the main hall.


On the other hand, you might - after the example of Philippians 2:3 ‘always consider others more important than yourself’- think that if you are blessed enough to be in the main hall one week, you might attend in the overflow room the next to ensure that others can get the ‘livest’ of experiences sometimes.


The ‘gentle reminderers’ will remain on duty throughout the service to help in the rooms with moving chairs, helping people remember to keep the social distancing measures, and giving you a squeeze of sanitizer when needed.


  • The collection – we will not be passing the collection bags during the service like we have done before. This would be an easy way to pass the virus from one person to another. The ‘gentle reminderers’ in the foyer will direct you to a money collection point where you can place your offering before the service. It is likely the offering will still be received in the service as a thank offering and brought up by a sidesperson. We would however encourage you, if you don’t already, to do your giving directly through the bank. The details of how to do that are available from Malcolm Burrell our treasurer.  The handling of cash is known to be a main carrier of the virus.


  • Leaving Church – you will be asked NOT to leave the room by the door you came in by. Each room has a discreet exit door which can be used so that there isn’t a crush in the lobby or in the corridors. The ‘gentle reminderers’ will be on hand to remind you not to go out the way you came but to use the designated exit doors. Hand sanitizer will be available at the exits. There is nothing to stop you staying in the room after the service to chat with friends, but we would ask that you don’t go through the building to another room to find someone who wasn’t in yours. If you do want to go to another part of the building (either during the service or afterwards) then please leave by the designated exit and re-enter by the one of the entry doors. There is nothing to stop you meeting friends outside on the front lawn where there are some benches to sit on or in the carpark. But please keep your social distancing. There will not be coffee and tea available after the service nor will you be able to go and get yourself a drink of any kind before or during the service – as some are in the habit of doing (Hebrews 10:25 again). We encourage you to bring your own water bottle and take it away again.


How can I help?

  • Firstly – you can help by pledging to uphold these ways of keeping everybody safe when you come to church and encouraging others to do so.


  • Secondly – If you can help by being a volunteer helper on the rotas. If we are going to be able to return to worship we are going to need more willing help. The old rotas will still be needed for music, bible reading, video projection, prayers, preaching, and so on. We won’t need after service coffee providers – at least at first – but we will need at least:
  • Four gentle reminderers each Sunday service to marshal the outside queue and manage the doors as people come in and to help people to the appropriate place for worship and so on.
  • Two people each Sunday to take register details for track and trace purposes.
  • One duty warden to manage the team and sort any immediate crisis.
  • We will also probably need a camera operator/broadcast manager to set up the broadcast media each week.


  • Thirdly – You can help by having a smile as you are greeted and a willingness to bear with us as we learn how to use the building in this way.  Remember we are doing it this way to keep people safe and to comply with the law and the guidance the Government and the Church of England has given us.


  • Fourthly – you can help by not waiting to be asked but by contacting Pat in the office 01245 690710 and telling her you are willing to be one of the team helping people find their way into the building. If you would like to be on the prayers or reading rota contact Tim Ball on 01245 901612, if you would be willing to help with the technology (sound, video, camera) contact John Hom.


When will it be?

  • Sunday the 13th of September is when we plan to begin again at the Orchards.


Should I bring anything?

  • Bring your own face mask or visor
  • Bring your own Bible – we won’t be giving any out to minimize risk.
  • There will only be a very few notice sheets for people who do not have computers. So please don’t ask for one unless you don’t have access to the version we send out. We do not intend printing 90 copies every week any more to save expense and the environment. This is another positive effect of the lockdown.


Who is in charge?

  • The Church wardens will be in overall charge of managing the building on that day. And the following week. The vicar is on holiday those two weeks. If you have any questions in the run up to opening the building please contact our Wardens Ros and Amanda.


Please pray for everyone involved in getting the plans in place.

Rev Canon Tim Ball. 12th August 2020