You will have heard on the news this week that from Monday the 17th of May we are moving into level 2 and various restrictions are now being eased. However, in terms of our Sunday worship there is no change and the restrictions currently in place remain so – the need to socially distance, wear face coverings, use hand sanitiser, record details of attendance and no singing. We hope and pray that this will change soon, however, for the time being these restrictions remain in place.
As you will have heard in the news, we have now moved into Level 3 which has brought about a number of changes as things open up out of lockdown. In terms of our worship at Bendochy and the Abbey, however, nothing has really changed as we still have to continue to maintain social distancing. This effectively means that our seating capacity remains as it was previously, with a maximum of 26 people at Bendochy and 44 at the Abbey Church. However, this new capacity is now allowed at funeral services as well as Sunday worship. All the other restrictions that were in place remain in place.
There will be Easter Sunday services in both churches at the usual times this weekend, however, sadly, due to restrictions, there will be limited spaces. At Bendochy we are able to provide space for between 15 – 25 people, depending on household groups and for the Abbey that number is between 30 and 42. W are truly sorry if this causes any problems.
Today the Scottish Government and the Church of Scotland confirmed that churches will be able to reopen this week from Friday 26th March. Therefore, as both Kirk Sessions have elected to do so and as we have been given Presbytery approval,we can open for Palm Sunday on the 28th at our usual times of 10.0am and 11.15am. Restrictions will still of course be in place – good hygiene practise, social distancing, giving contact details, sitting in household groups, wearing of face coverings and no singing. The limit on the number of people being permitted within churches is up to 50, however only if the space allows for social distancing to be maintained – but sadly neither of our churches allow for that to happen. At Bendochy Church the maximum number of people we will be able to allow in will be between 15 – 25 and that is dependent on the number of people within each household group. At the Abbey Church that number is between 30 – 42 people. For those unable to attend I still hope to put an audio recording of the service online, accessed via our website and available from around 2.00pm on Sunday.
This past week the Scottish Government has given a further update on when our churches might be able to reopen. If virus case numbers continue to fall then there is the possibility that churches will be able to reopen from Friday 26th of March, which would mean we could possibly be open for Palm Sunday on the 28th. Restrictions will still of course be in place – good hygiene practise, social distancing, sitting in household groups, wearing of face coverings and no singing. However, the limit on the number of people being permitted within the church indicated in the last update has now been changed and up to 50 people will now be allowed, however, only if the space allows for social distancing to be maintained – but sadly neither of our churches allow for that to happen. At Bendochy Church the maximum number of people we will be able to allow in will be between 15 – 25 and that is dependent on the number of people within each household group. At the Abbey Church that number is between 30 – 42 people.
Both Kirk Sessions are meeting this week to discuss this further and we hope to be in a position to reopen soon. However, I have to stress again that all of this is dependent on the virus case numbers continuing to fall and we will not receive any confirmation from the Church until after the Scottish Government update on Tuesday 23rd March. As soon as we hear any further news we will put it here on our website and a further update will be available on Wednesday the 24th – so please check again then.
Following the latest Scottish Government update this week there is the possibility that we may be able to open our churches for Easter Sunday, which falls on the 4th of April. This has yet to be confirmed and is subject to any developments that may occur in the coming few weeks. However, if we are allowed open, not only will the same restrictions as before apply – maintaining social distancing, wearing of face masks, no singing etc. – but we will be subject to all Tier 4 restrictions, which means we will only be permitted to allow 20 people in total into our churches and that number will include the minister, organist/pianist and duty elders. In view of these restrictions I have asked both Kirk Sessions to consider how they wish to proceed if this permission is granted. Once we get a final decision from the Scottish Government and the Church of Scotland, and once both Sessions have considered how they wish to proceed, we will of course let you know as soon as possible, here through the website, and also via any means we can think of.
With the latest announcement from the Scottish Government stating that the current lockdown will extend until at least the end of this month we are still unable to give any details as to when we might be able to reopen our churches. I know that we all look forward to that day when we will be able to gather for worship again and pray that it will be not too far off, but we remember also those who have lost their lives to this virus and those who are currently ill from it and we pray for them and their loved ones, asking that God’s hand would be upon them and that they might know His healing, comfort and peace. We remember also our doctors, nurses and everyone in the NHS and Care Sector who are caring for those most in need and ask for His blessing upon them too, as well as those who are helping to administer vaccinations to everyone and of course we pray for those in our own communities and families.
Although we are unable to reopen for worship our online reflections continue and are available here on our website – written reflections daily and an audio YouTube reflection each Sunday. I’m also starting a zoom Bible study for Lent and if anyone would like to join in on that, please drop me an email Andrew.Graham@churchofscotland.org.uk
With the latest lockdown meaning that our churches have to remain closed for the time being one or two have been asking about how they may donate their offerings to their respective churches. There are one or two ways that this might be done – by cheque, electronic payment or setting up a standing order. If anyone would like more information on any of these please contact our Treasurers. At Bendochy Church, David Donaldson on 01828 640017 and at the Abbey Church, Peter Godfrey on 01828 627028. Although our churches are closed we do still have to make our Mission and Ministry payments to the Church every month, as well as other payments (insurance, fuel etc.), and understandably our income has gone down over the last nine months, so thank you to all who are actively considering this.