REPORT RE. QUESTIONNAIRE: COVID & ATTENDING WORSHIP

Firstly, many thanks to those people who completed and returned the questionnaire concerning the Covid pandemic and attending worship. The results have been very useful in helping the Circuit Leadership Team (CLT) plan the way forward (as far as is possible) for worship across the Circuit in the short-term. Below are some of the conclusions which can be drawn from the data and additional comments received.

The CLT’s priority has always been to ensure that people are safe and feel comfortable about meeting for worship, and so we have adopted a ‘slow but sure’ approach. Currently, services for the whole Circuit are being held at St Andrew’s on a fortnightly basis, at 9.30 a.m. and 11.00 a.m. The risk assessments from most other churches have been completed and approved, but a number of Church Councils have indicated that they are not yet ready to open for worship, although a couple of our smaller congregations are doing so; however, lack of space means that these can only be attended by regular local worshippers.

The CLT‘s ‘slow but sure’ approach is endorsed by the questionnaire responses.

  • Of those who did not attend St Andrew’s on July 26th:
    • 38% were still shielding / were vulnerable;
    • 54% were not yet confident to be indoors with people outside their ‘bubble’.

 

This may, of course, be less now that lockdown has been lifted for those shielding / vulnerable; nevertheless, it is clear that a number of people do not yet feel safe meeting indoors with others.

On the other hand, the current situation regarding Covid in Northampton may well further deter people from attending worship in the short-term.

  • Lack of transport (23%) and the distance to St Andrew’s (20%) are also issues for a number of people. As more churches become ready to open this may become less of an issue. However, few Church Councils are ready to make that step yet – especially as to do so involves work from a group of volunteers for each service to keep people safe.

 

  • Having said that, even if people’s usual church is opened only 23% are ‘very likely’ and a further 23% ‘likely’ to attend.

 

  • 35% did not attend St Andrew’s on July 26th because the service was the same as the Worship at Home material. Because of particular circumstances, that was the case with that service, but not so on August 9th,  nor in the future.
    • In particular, the following were mentioned:
      • the short length of the service: this is part of Connexional guidelines;
      • No Communion: again, this is Connexional guidelines;
      • the need to wear masks: mandatory in enclosed spaces under Government regulations;
      • people can sing at home but not in church at the moment: Government regulations;
      • the lack of provision for children: this is something we hope to address;
      • lack of opportunity to socialise before/ after the service: this IS possible at St Andrew’s, as it has a large grassed area, and people do stay and chat after the service.

 

The consistency of the responses indicates that we are right not to rush into reopening all of our churches, even if Church Councils were happy to do so, and there were sufficient preachers available to lead worship (neither of which is the case). It is clear that many people are not yet ready to attend worship in a church building (if only the UK’s weather was less fickle!!).

So, in the short-term, there will continue to be services open to people from across the Circuit on a fortnightly basis at St Andrew’s at 9.30 a.m. and 11.00 a.m.  Other churches are welcome to volunteer to host such services as and when they feel able. Meanwhile, Worship at Home materials will be sent out each week.

Your prayers are needed to help us to discern the way forward for the Circuit during this time of huge uncertainty.

 

Northampton Methodist Circuit Leadership Team