In early July the prospects for a ‘new normal’ by the late summer seemed optimistic. Then came the summer holidays and as I write in mid-August, there is clearly an alarming rise in all the measures of the Covid pandemic across Europe. In the last weeks of August many people will return from holiday destinations, children will return to school and we will begin a new year as Trinity Church.
Forward planning in this context is not easy. It would seem prudent to maintain the flexibility to both physically gather as a congregation when possible -even if only partially- but also scale back to the very distanced home-based online format we have been operating since March.
A technical model was recently suggested to me that provides a template for such flexibility. The suggestion is to establish the church building as one presentation point within the multiple input format that Zoom supports so well. In other words, the church space would not become a TV studio only broadcasting or streaming what happened there.
An internet connection is currently being installed in the church facility to enable this multiple point connectivity. Camera equipment has been bought to enable various church building presentors and participants to be seen by those elsewhere. The church’s large screen would then be used to receive input from those still in their homes or far away. The technical requirements for this are being prepared.
While there are many people who need to avoid even small numbers gathered in buildings, the experience to date is that around 25 people have been comfortable every month to gather for communion within the ample space of the church building. I see the way forward for up to 30 volunteers to gather in the church building maintaining distance and possibly wearing face masks. There would be no separate children’s or youth ministry. There would be no singing beyond whispering with a face mask on. Seating would be as separated household groups on single chairs as has been applied in communion services. The organ would be very useful.
Why do this?
Pioneering a socially distanced mode of gathered congregation would enable the technical progress of what we need to master towards hybrid church. It would allow a small number of people to see each other and be gathered church. It would keep the whole congregation in touch with the church space and demonstrate what socially distanced physical worship actually looks like. Is gathered church more or less crowded than your regular supermarket?
This working experience would enable us both collectively and individually to manage our new-normal’ social distance as the pandemic rises and declines.
At August’s Council meeting this was considered. While not everything was already in place there was quiet confidence that we should attempt to implement this on 30 August. That is the desired first application and from here we would learn and develop.
From Francis Noordanus