Over the last couple of weeks, there have been 2 subjects that have dominated my conversations and my inbox at Trinity - the New Building and the ongoing COVID restrictions. Neither of these issues are particularly easy to navigate at the moment, and so I wanted to give some more insight into where we are and why.
1. New Building & Landscaping:
First of all, a big thank you to Paul Kettles who is overseeing the landscaping project, which we are doing ourselves as a congregation. Each Saturday, Paul has been down at the new church between 9am-4pm with different groups of people preparing the ground and laying the lawn. There’s still more to be done with the landscaping and so it would be great to see some more people involved this Saturday, 13th November. If you can help for an hour, or for longer, head on down, and lend a hand. Thanks Paul – and thanks to all who have helped and are about to!
Secondly, the internals of the new building are almost complete, with a lot of cleaning being done as final tasks are rounded off. The tech and audio-visual installations are being finalised and they look and sound impressive. Furnishings are being sourced and purchased, and inevitably some snagging will need attention. It is so exciting to see everything coming together.
Of course, finally, we await the connection of the sewer. Everything is being done to make this happen as soon as possible. Excitement rose this week when a sign appeared on York Place indicating that work by Scottish Water will be taking place towards the end of the month. Unfortunately, this is for something else. So please continue to pray in this direction. Thank you.
2. Ongoing COVID Restrictions:
This is probably the question I'm asked the most and so I thought I'd put our thoughts down on paper.
On Sunday I noted in my sermon that we are a diverse congregation - we hold a variety of opinions (sometimes strongly) on a variety of subjects, yet we are called to ‘Humble Unity’ with one another. One of those subjects is COVID! While we recognise those differing opinions, we do have to make decisions on how we will respond as a church. Decision-making on this is done by the Church Board as they reflect on current government guidance or law, the needs and concerns of the most vulnerable members of the congregation, and what seems like a reasonable middle way through the diversity of opinions. As I talk with other Church leaders across the city and nation, I am aware that there are some churches with much tighter restrictions, and others with more relaxed restrictions. As such, it feels like we are occupying a “via media” within this diversity, and we are urging our congregation to walk this middle way together, irrespective of personal opinions or concerns.
With this in mind, let me give some explanation as to what we are doing and why.
Current government guidelines for places of worship in Scotland are different from those in England: masks are still required unless an individual is exempt due to compromised physical or mental health; singing should only be undertaken if you are wearing a mask (unless you are performing or leading an act of worship e.g., bands/choirs etc); and regular risk assessments should be carried out to consider issues like ventilation, hygiene, and social distancing. Registration is encouraged to assist Track & Trace. Current Scottish Government guidelines for Churches can be found by clicking the following link:
On carrying out a risk assessment, we are aware that ventilation in the Church is not good – we don’t have windows to open, and increasing numbers means closer proximity to one another. We also recognise that we have members who have been shielding, have low immune systems or have family members in those situations, and therefore they have a heightened concern about any potential risk of transmission. As such, we have taken decisions that consider our ongoing risk assessments, align with the essentials of government guidelines (specifically masks), but also respond to those in more vulnerable positions (in the Spirit of Romans 14). While we have chosen not to continue with social distancing, we continue with the following policy…
[This policy is for Worship Services. Alternative policies apply to hospitality events/programs.]
I realise that some will feel these are too little, and others that these are too much, but this is the middle road we have settled on for our church, and we urge our members and attenders to honour this whatever our personal view. We are called to “Love our Neighbour” and “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) and that is what we need in times like these. Our request to wear masks is more about concern for our neighbour than whether we feel safe ourselves – it is love for the other before ourselves. A couple of weeks ago, I came across the following notice at an outdoor activity centre:
I WEAR A MASK IN PUBLIC FOR THREE REASONS.
I find an echo of “Love Your Neighbour” here. We choose to lay aside our preference, because we love our brother, sister, neighbour, stranger - and we may not know what concerns, anxieties, or vulnerabilities they carry. I believe our “Middle Road” approach is an opportunity to practice a posture of love and grace to one another as the Body of Christ, and to live in this habitus of “Humble Unity”. I trust we will seek to do so together and therefore fulfill the words of Jesus when he said, "by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).
May God help us do so.
Grace, Peace & Thanks.
PS - If for any reason you feel unable to follow the above, then I encourage you to contact me so we can talk together.