Statement from Colchester Methodist Circuit Leadership Team

Opening of our chapels for Worship update from 6th July 2020

Possibly due to pronouncements from the United Kingdom government (made without consultation with the Methodist Church at any level) there has been speculation and rumour abounding that the church communities of the Colchester Methodist Circuit will be opening their chapels for worship and other activities, if not on July 5, as per government statements, then very soon after. We write this statement to dispel and deny these rumours, and to lay out our position clearly, as those who are charged with the stewardship and good governance of this Circuit, who have a duty of care to all our members, attenders at worship, and other users of our premises.

The Circuit Leadership team has met to discuss this matter and have agreed with the stance outlined by this statement.

We will not be recommending the opening of our buildings for worship on Sunday mornings, or even for private prayer at other times, until September at the earliest, and possibly not even then, depending upon developments in the spread or containment of the COVID-19 virus.

The virus has not been eradicated. There are still large numbers of people becoming infected each day, and although the mortality rate is decreasing, deaths attributed to COVID-19 still number in the hundreds each day.

We do not believe the delivery of any act of worship is worth putting at risk the lives of our members.

Our Circuit demographic is such that the vast majority of our members and attenders fall into the vulnerable category simply for reasons of age, and that is not taking into account those who have underlying health issues which also increase their vulnerability. Until such time as an efficient vaccine is discovered, tested, and distributed, or effective treatments for the effects of the virus are discovered and deployed, any gathering of our folk is fraught with difficulty, and gatherings in the kind of numbers we would normally expect on a Sunday morning in most of our chapels (even if legally allowable) cannot be deemed “safe” even if the risks are mitigated by strict adherence to the Methodist Church’s Risk Assessment guidelines. We can possibly make things safer, but we cannot make them safe.

The ministers, local preachers, and worship leaders of the Circuit will pledge to continue to provide high quality acts of worship, bible Study, and fellowship meetings online, by various media including YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, and other outlets, which can be accessed by all who have internet connections. Further, we do and will continue to provide CDs and DVDs, if possible, of all such acts of worship for those who do not have internet access.

We currently have a range of ways of meeting together online, and will be extending the provision of these services, and exploring ways increasing our outreach, as the weeks go on.

There will be a circuit meeting held online in the very near future and we encourage all church councils to find a way to meet virtually to continue to plan how we care for one another whilst we seek to find a way to return to a new normal way of being.

The Ongoing Life of the Circuit

It is clear that the advent of this virus has rocked the foundations of our society. We in the churches are no more immune to that shaking than we are to the virus itself, but we believe that God speaks to his people in and through all circumstances. We need to ask some searching questions, both of ourselves and of our communities. Decisions on the way in which we will respond as a Circuit, and as individual churches within the Circuit, will of course need to be made.

We will spend some time over the next few months discussing the shape of the Circuit’s life in the future, and the ways in which we will need to adapt our continuing Circuit life in order to maintain the pastoral care of all our people.

Thank you for being part of the Colchester Methodist Circuit Family. Thank you for your understanding as we seek to understand a Spirit led safe way forward.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers for our shared life.

We wish you every blessing.

Alan, Ken & Joe on behalf of the CLT