Updated: Sep 18
Johnny announced last Sunday we are planning a return to our church buildings for one congregation each at St Peter's and St Paul's from 4th October. As we were reminded so clearly on Sunday past in the after-church zoom 'unless the Lord builds the house the, the builders' labour in vain' Psalm 127 v 1. We want to be a people who respond to Gods leading and guidance in these days as we navigate a 'new normal' for our gathered church life after five-plus months of online provision.
We are so grateful for all of those who have faithfully contributed week by week to online church - those of you that have stepped outside of your comfort zones to lead a children's piece or share something of your story, we are so thankful and encouraged to see God at work in and through you. Online church will continue as ever at 1030 given the reach and response; post-church will also continue in its present format as this is much valued and appreciated by those who share in this. For those of you yet to join us, please do! It's a time of sharing - if you want - what struck you from the service, and then praying together before we finish at 12 noon. Here is the link: we'd love to see you there!
We plan to open the back hall and lounge up at STPH in order to facilitate as many as possible who want to attend the service. The same talk will be shared across our different gathered and online church congregations. Again we will put all the detail agreed on this blog in the coming week. As we gather back together in person there will be 'empty chairs' which would have been occupied by Ron Castle, Mick Drewery, John King and Bob White, amongst others in our wider geographic community: we will be celebrating their life and faith at a time up ahead and continue to pray for their families and friends who mourn their loss.
At the PCC meeting on Monday, it was confirmed that from October 4th there will be three weekly Sunday congregations; two in-person services will be held as well as continuing with our online congregation and it's reach in the week. Our online service will move earlier to 0930 in order to accommodate longer in-person services held at 0830 at St Paul's, Swanley Village and 1030 at St Peter's Church, Hextable; both in-person services will follow the same format and will last for 45 minutes. Given COVID restrictions and government guidelines it will be necessary to book ahead for both of these services by Wednesday at 5pm. Bookings will be available from next week, with our capacity to welcome approximately 45 at St Paul's, and 70 at St Peter's, with these numbers being revised each week in the light of the bubble sizes being booked in. Whilst our post-church zoom times have been really encouraging for this past season of lockdown we will not proceed with these beyond the end of September, and seek out ways that dialogue and fellowship for sharing and encouragement can be together.
Going forward gathered church will be unable to revert to the format enjoyed pre-COVID. We would like to stress the phrase 'offerings' as these are not going to be like the services we had before COVID. Gathered church will be a hybrid of the all age and everyday faith video segments that we currently appreciate online as well as an in-person worship sounds, preach, bible reading and prayers. They will be more reflective in person and missing the many participative elements that This will be the 'new normal' for the next few months whilst we seek to best serve you as a church family.
As we never want you to miss out, our online services via Facebook will remain albeit at the new time of 0930 am. With the busyness of everyday life, especially at this time, we hope this continues to help encourage and sustain you in your journey of faith. Again this will be reviewed over the next six months as the evolving scene settles! We appreciate your prayers at this time and hope to see many of you in person soon.