Scotland: The Journey Out of Lockdown
The journey out of lockdown is likely to look different for church leaders in the different nations of the United Kingdom. Here are some considerations for churches in Scotland as they prepare.
As of today churches in Scotland are still in 'Phase 1' of the Scottish Government's plan to ease Coronavirus lock-down restrictions. With the move into Phase 2 and following anticipated soon (subject to the control of the virus) churches will have increasing freedom to resume some of their physical activities.
An outline of how the different phases of lockdown might be particularly relevant to Scottish churches was recently circulated to FIEC. Here are some points of consideration as you prepare:
Don’t be a ‘Rule Bender’
‘Private Prayer’ is not a cover for holding small meetings.
Don't be tempted to hold a socially distanced get together under the guise of ‘private prayer’. Rather, let’s be people of integrity and remember, as recent events have shown, even if we think our ‘exception’ is harmless or justified it can result in massive reputational damage.
Do it Properly
For example: have a thought-out plan that ensures seating keeps people a safe distance apart; insist on masks; ensure thorough cleaning; plan for one-way systems; think about a cap on numbers.
This is how we love our neighbours and respect the civic authorities. It would be a tragedy if a church became a new COVID-19 hotspot because of the sloppiness or arrogance of Christians.
Keep it Sustainable
Many became exhausted having to set-up online ministry and change to a whole new way of working at the start of the lockdown. However, that will probably be as nothing compared to rushing into having multiple socially distanced services on a Sunday in a hasty desire to try and get things back to normal.
Remember: until we get back to full normality, things just won't be normal.
You’ll need to make a careful assessment of whether multiple and/or partial gatherings are a sustainable next step. It may be that your current online ministry will deliver more sustainably than what might prove to be exhausting but quite sub-optimal physical gatherings (for example if congregational singing is not allowed.
Remember those who are particularly vulnerable and fearful: people who will be reluctant to be anywhere that heightens their risk of infection. They may not want (or in some cases be able) to gather anytime soon even as restrictions are eased.
So be mindful of them in weighing-up what and when to restart, and consider maintaining online ministry for them alongside any resumption of physical gatherings.
Avoid Criticism and Competition
As more options open up we will see different churches move at different speeds as they restart their physical activities. These decisions will depend on a range of factors that only local church leaders can fully assess, for example, the makeup of congregation, the size of their building (if any), geographical location etc.
So we should avoid any temptation to either criticism or competition.
On the former, let’s refrain from passing judgement on others who we may think are either too quick or too slow in resuming activities. On the latter, don’t be pressurised into making decisions that are not right for your situation just because of what others are doing elsewhere.
Guard the flock God has entrusted to you!
For a more detailed consideration of planning for ‘Church while Social Distancing’, see the FIEC ‘Leaders in Lockdown’ Webinar slides & discussion (from 25:10 and below).
This article was first posted on Andy Hunter’s Ministry Blog.