The government and the church have issued new guidelines as legal restrictions lift. In summary, it is up to us to judge the risk and to set our own rules. You may be wondering what that means for worship patterns and other things in the Mulbarton Group of Churches. Read on to find out more...
The changes mean we now have more freedoms to join together for corporate worship, including singing together in our churches. We are blessed with technologies that enable us to worship remotely, and we have facilitated this as much as possible over the lockdown months, but we all know it isn't quite the same as the joy of meeting together in person. Worship services are now happening again in our church buildings - although you can still worship with us remotely if you would prefer (see Live Streaming section below for more)
Our old medieval buildings are mercifully well ventilated, spacious and airy which helps mitigate the risks of transmission. When just a few are present to worship, we will be able to continue to keep socially distanced and put our masks in our pockets. When many are gathered to worship, we will still ask you to wear masks for singing.
If you would like to gather with others to worship, but are anxious about being too close to other people, we will endeavour to have areas set aside in the church buildings where social distancing measures are enforced.
If you are planning to come to a worship service or church event, we recommend taking a lateral flow test, freely available from your local pharmacy, in the 24 hours before attending, even if you are not showing symptoms. If you do have symptoms or if the test is positive, please join in remotely instead of attending in person.
For communion services, we will not be offering the common cup yet, but we will offer bread or wafers that have been dipped in the communion wine by the priest, an authorised practice known as "simultaneous administration". The priest will pray over the bread and wine while they are covered by a napkin, and with hands sanitised and mask worn, will dip portions of bread or wafers into the cup and hand to each communicant, before the priest consumes any wine.
We have a limited number of people who are available to provide musical accompaniment in our church buildings and at Hanover. We will do our best to see that we have live music wherever possible, but as things stand we will not be able to make that provision at every service. If you know of musicians who would like to volunteer their time and skills to help with that, please do direct them to me.
Church @ Hanover & Paper Mailings
For the ever popular monthly "Church at Hanover", which was meeting in the lounge at Hanover Gardens on the 4th Sunday of each month, up until February 2020, we are delighted that we will soon be able to recommence. The smaller Bible study afternoons are meeting again on the second Thursday of every month at 2pm. The Sunday morning service will reconvene with a special Harvest Service at 10:30am on Sunday 26 September 2021. The last DIY service for use at home will be sent in in August 2021, along with a month of Bible readings. Huge thanks are due to Jill Wright for preparing these monthly mailings so faithfully and capably all through lockdown!
Service Rota - Most Up-to-date Information
The church website will continue to be the authoritative source of information for our Sunday services. Any changes will be reflected there first, so always check the website if you are not sure what's coming next or what is available. From the home page, click on "Worship" in the top menu or on the first image at the top that says "Sunday Worship". Or bookmark this link: https://mulbchurch.org.uk/worship/next
Since March 2020, we have been making Sunday services available to access from home via Zoom, and afterwards on the benefice YouTube channel and website. This has been much appreciated by many, and opened up church to a wider potential audience. Special allowance has been made in these covid emergency times to deal with the streaming licences needed to do that legally - but some of these provisions have now come to an end, and has meant we have needed to re-think this provision over the summer break, and will review what we do in September.. You can still use the regular Zoom link to access a Sunday morning Zoom meeting, but this will no longer include a live feed from the church. Instead, we will share a link from the Zoom meeting to a livestream on the benefice YouTube channel. YouTube has the license agreements in place that Zoom doesn't. The recording will also be available on the website afterwards in the usual way.
Refreshments and Fellowship After Services
We are now allowed to serve coffees and the like after services, but there are quite a few guidelines about how to do this safely and respectfully. We have made the decision not to offer refreshments over the summer break, to keep things simple, and to review in the autumn term. Mingling after services is allowed - please just respect others' boundaries.
We will be pausing the morning prayer meetings for the summer. They have been happening Mondays-Thursdays on Zoom and will pause from Thursday 22nd July through the summer, aiming to reconvene on Monday 6th September. We hope that it will be safe to meet in Harvest House for prayer at that time, but will continue to Zoom the meeting from there, so if you want to join in, you will have the choice of coming to Harvest House or joining remotely.
Open the Book
The "Open the Book" team stopped going into Mulbarton school to conduct weekly acts of worship in March 2020, through dramatising inspiring stories from the Bible, and drawing out a simple relevant point for the gathered children. We would love to return to the school in September, and have been invited to do so. Not all of the original team are going to be able to step back into role, so if you are interested in being involved, please do let me know. The "Open the Book" format is tried and tested, and fully scripted, and it is a fun team to be part of, doing really valuable work.
We trust in God for provision as we seek to follow the vision we believe God has given us: following Jesus and sharing the journey with our neighbours. Where there is vision, there is provision. Nevertheless, churches and charities, like some businesses and individuals, have felt the pinch of the economics of this last 16 months. Norwich diocese received almost £1million less in 2020 than in 2019, with income down to just over £6million. They are cutting central staff significantly and are having to cut clergy posts by 10% over the next two years. In our group of parishes, we fell short on our contribution in 2020 for the first time in years, by about £10,000 across the benefice. Huge thanks to those who generously give of their time, skills, compassion and money. During this season of doing different, please do continue to hold in prayer our needs and how we might adapt our giving practices. If you would like to find out more about ways you can give, please do contact me, a churchwarden or a treasurer, who would be happy to help.
I would love to hear from you about your experience of church and Sunday worship in particular over lockdown. And I would really love to hear from you about your plans over the next few months, as we navigate through this uncharted territory.
Are you planning on attending in person now that we can sing?
Are you going to feel uncomfortable or anxious about returning to worship for the foreseeable future?
Have you appreciated Zoom worship and would you like that to continue in some form?
If you access Sunday church over the summer, let me know what you think about the new way to key into it, the Zoom-YouTube combination.
If you have any thoughts about what you are planning or what you would find helpful over the coming weeks, I am all ears! I can't promise to cater for everything, but would love to get a good feel for where we all are at with things.
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