As many Churches across the world have done, over the last year we have been meeting online. As restrictions start to ease and more of the country get vaccination the Church leadership team and the Church Council have prayerfully considered the next steps for how we may move into this next season of Church Life. We have discovered the amazing and profound ways that God has worked through this year as we have meet together online and whatever happens going forward as a Church we are committed to being both an hybrid gathering, that will meet both in our building in Jesmond and all those who will join us online. We are aware that we won’t be returning to what was but will move into this new phase of what God wants to do with us as a Church.
On 22nd April 2021, JMC Church Council agreed to the below roadmap for a return to in-person worship. Below you can find the things that were considered by Church Council and information about our new service, to launch in May, called ‘Sunday Night Live‘.
Before Easter we ran a survey regarding what our congregation felt comfortable with and what they felt they needed to help with their own discipleship during this time. We are really pleased that 51 people responded to the SurveyMonkey. Naturally, there is a huge spectrum of views among respondents. It is very clear that the vast majority of respondents are happy to keep on with the home sessions, and don’t wish to go back to the building before stage 4 of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown (when all restrictions on household mixing ease). However, there is also clearly a small number of people who are very keen for JMC to provide something in-person immediately.
We have attempted to balance needs of both those who would like to continue exclusively with online worship and those who would like something in-person.
Somethings to consider
1. We need help to provide worship within the government recommendations and Methodist Church guidelines is a substantial job. Alison and Adam with our spouses have managed two test events that were held in April. That is, the setup of church, pre and post cleaning, administration (writing risk assessments for circuit and district and reviewing them after the event and the registering people as they enter the building risk) doing tech, leading worship, and preaching. This is possible on one off events, but we can not sustain this alone. Without a number of volunteers, we cannot do this. Particularly we ask those who are keen to return for in person worship, and comfortable to offer help. We must realise people have very different views on what they are comfortable doing and no one is to be pressured to help if they are not comfortable being in the building yet.
2. This worship will be different from ‘normal’ under current restrictions. No congregational singing is allowed, no socialising inside the building and worshippers are to enter, stay in seats with mask on and leave within 45mins. The ‘policing’ of restrictions is not what we want to be doing during worship, but we will have to enforce this. These restrictions may change but this is currently what is allowed.
3. Newcastle District recommendation not to return to buildings before Pentecost 23rd May. Our suggestion below seeks to balance the desire for in person worship sooner, with this recommendation.
4. Alison will be on sabbatical from 17th May- 28th June. Under current government road map, if no changes to the timetable, all restrictions will be in totally lifted 21st June, so from Sunday 27th June we could restart morning in person worship. We suggest we wait one more week until 4th July when our Minister will be back with us.
What was agreed by Church Council
1. The JMC Home Sessions at 10.45 on Sundays will continue as pre-recorded online streams until stage 4 of government restrictions (21st June), when they will be replaced by hybrid worship, that is in person and streamed from the building
2. We start an in-person service from 2nd May in a late afternoon slot-5pm, building on what we have learnt to make this as safe as we can. There will always be some risk. We will plan a small group streaming from building with opportunity for others to book in to go to the building and be a part of that service (Sunday Night Live). 9th May will be a test service and 23rd May a full launch
Sunday Night Live will have a mixed format
· 1st Sunday of month: The building will be open (5pm) for private prayer and drop-in communion. If the government roadmap dates go ahead, this will be 2nd May and 6th June.
· The 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month: We will stream a service with a worship band and preacher from the building. Initially this will just be this small group as a test, and then up to 15-20 people will be able to book in and be part of the congregation . If the government roadmap goes ahead, this will be 9th May,(test service) 23rd May, and 13th June.
Leadership Team believe this proposal will give us space to practise and develop what streaming from building will mean when we return to on-site service, and also seeks to meet the needs of those for whom in person now is so important. Additionally, from 23rd May we will encourage people to watch online services in small groups as this is when the government roadmap allows six people mixing indoors. In addition we suggest a ‘Pentecost picnic’ on the Town Moor, if restrictions have eased as planned.
Road Map for Sunday Night Live proposal 5pm
May 2nd Church open for private prayer and drop in communion
May 9th Test event band & preacher streamed from building, with book in space for 10
Proposed Government rule change Stage 3 – rule of 6 inside. 30+ gather outside
May 23rd Pentecost celebration service space to book in 20 and Church Picnic on town Moor
June 6th Church open for private prayer and drop in communion
June 13th Sunday Night Live service streamed and book in congregation for 20
Proposed Government rule change Stage 4 – No restrictions
June 27th Sunday Night Live service streamed and book in congregation
July 4th New Sunday Morning in person worship with streaming, if no restrictions