Re-opening of Church
The building work outside and inside the church is now finished. This has involved repairs to the walls behind the organ and the choir, where there had been problems with damp. When we are eventually able to return to our normal services, it should be more comfortable for our organist and choir! We have also had some electrical work and checks carried out.
The next job will be to give the church a very thorough clean – as you may imagine, after all these months, the dust is considerable! We will also continue to work through the checklist provided by the Church of Scotland (see below for more details of this). Before we can reopen the church for any purpose, we are required to get permission from Presbytery, for which we need to submit a number of documents: the completed checklist, a Covid-19 risk assessment, guidance notes for supervisors of those using the building and photographic evidence of signage, hand sanitisers and so on.
We don’t as yet have a specific date for reopening the church, but it is likely to be in September. For insurance purposes, there is a deadline date of 23 September, by which time we would hope to have the church officially open, but in practice we may not be using it immediately. How we use it will be something for the minister and the Kirk Session to decide; it might be for private prayer, prayer meetings, Bible study or a simple form of service or worship.
There are, however, a number of restrictions laid down by the Church of Scotland which we will have to follow. Some of these are:
to maintain social distancing, we will only be able to have a very limited number of people church at any time perhaps 15 to 20;
we are not allowed to use the upstairs gallery for people attending;
all the pew cushions have been removed, along with all pew bibles;
no singing is allowed and no instruments that require breath to be played;
face masks must be worn by everyone, with the exception of the minister.
We must also record names and contact details of everyone who comes into the church, to comply with the Scottish government’s Test and Protect regulations.
The church hall
Following approval from the Kirk Session, we applied to Presbytery for permission to reopen the church hall and this was granted. The hall has been officially open since Monday 17 August.
For the time being, it is being used only by the Out of School Club, which started back on 19 August. Now that the schools are back, this is a very important service for parents in our community, as it allows them to return properly to work. At the moment, there are only a small number of children and the club is using only downstairs rooms (with the exception of the creche). The staff are undertaking all the necessary cleaning (as part of their contractual duties) and there are also a few new letting conditions arising from the Covid-19 regulations. In particular, they are following a set of guidance notes that we have provided, which cover cleaning, waste management, hygiene, social distancing and so on.
Meanwhile, the church office equipment has all been moved to the larger upstairs room, so this is available for use without encroaching on the areas used by the club, other than the doorway and immediate entrance area.
At the moment, we have not had any requests from other groups to use the hall. Having the Out of School Club in does not necessarily mean no-one else can use the hall, although, of course, we would have to consider very carefully how that might work, to prevent any risks of contamination. This is something we will address if and when it arises; as time goes by, the circumstances and government guidance may change significantly, so any decisions made now might well be superseded.
As mentioned above, the working group has been following a 50-point checklist from the Church of Scotland in relation to the church (having previously completed this same checklist for the church hall). This covers:
the general condition of the building – we have now completed the necessary repairs;
building security – lights, locks and so on;
risk assessments – we will complete a specific Covid-19 risk assessment;
fire safety – we have had all the necessary checks made;
electrical, gas and water safety checks – these are all being carried out;
cleaning and disinfection – this is to come;
PPE – we have followed the guidelines on what we need to have available;
hygiene – we have had two automatic hand sanitiser dispensers installed and will also have appropriate signage around handwashing and social distancing;
Covid emergency procedures – we have a written procedure following the guidance from Health Protection Scotland;
control of waste – we will put appropriate measures in place for this.