High Blantyre Baptist Re-opens after Lockdown
By Steve Younger, Minister at High Blantyre BC
High Blantyre Baptist Church re-opened for a physical Sunday service on 19th July and has met each Sunday since then, with our Sunday Club also meeting at the same time. The Church had two key advantages. The first was personnel – three members who between them had existing experience and expertise in Infection Control in NHS and Education settings. The second is a small congregation – with a maximum socially-distanced capacity of up to 27 people (dependent on the make-up of the households attending) we have been able to fit in everyone who wanted to come without having to turn anyone away or having to create a ‘booking/turn-taking’ system. Our physical layout allowed us to create an easy and safe flow into and out of our building. Everyone received clear guidance and instructions in print and on-line before we opened. Clear Covid signage and floor markings, hand-sanitation stations, simple and clear procedures explained in advance, and controlled entry and exit have allowed a smooth operation. One person completes a track and trace register, noting times of entrance and exit for each person. That register is kept for three weeks before being shredded.
There are, of course, significant changes to the service to meet safety requirements. Everyone must wear facemask and there are no hugs or handshakes. Conversations are possible as long as 2 metres distance is observed. The offering plate is not passed around but sits on a table at the back of the hall: most people have moved their giving to online methods. Hymns and songs are still a part of the service though singing is not possible. Some at first thought it would not be “church” without singing but all have adapted and we have found it is still possible to worship with hymns. We project words and video images on screen and use the words for meditation and prayer. People also hum along to the music. People have expressed a new appreciation for the words of the hymns that before were sometimes sung on ‘automatic pilot’ without thinking of their meaning. We have also used BSL to sign along to some of our songs.
Communion is not shared during the service but we repeat the service on Zoom in the evening for any who are not able to attend in the morning. To our surprise there are some who attend physically in the morning but then opt to join again in the evening: “because we can sing the hymns in our own homes!” Our Communion service is also done on Zoom, with each person in their own household coming prepared with bread and drink to participate. People have really appreciate and enjoyed being together again in fellowship. Those who were older and who were previously shielding have all returned to the Service and have given feedback that they feel perfectly safe. The most hesitant to return have been families with children with specific medical conditions. These have all returned to school but are not prepared to take any additional risk at Church or Sunday School. Our Sunday School kids have really enjoyed being back together with appropriate hygiene measures and our Scripture Union group is working well on Zoom. All in all it has been a very happy and positive and stress-free experience. After each service a team of four stay on to clean and wipe down all surfaces before leaving the building secure.