James has just emailed everyone on our Coronavirus mailing list. Here is a copy of that email.
The Prime Minister announced at 4.15pm today that Kent (along with the rest of the South East of England) will move into a newly created "Tier 4", effective at midnight tonight. The restrictions in Tier 4 are largely the same as those under the previous lockdown. This email is to explain how this affects our planned Christmas services. I have discussed this with Trevor, as our Health and Safety Officer, and he and I are of a common mind.
Firstly, my huge sympathies to everyone whose Christmas plans are drastically altered. We are not allowed to travel outside our Tier 4 area, and are only allowed to meet up with one other person from another household outdoors. Many of you will have made plans based on the previous "Christmas bubble" guidance, plans you will now not be able to carry out. Let's pray for one another, use the phone and online communication channels, and support one another through the weeks ahead. A lot of people will be feeling a crushing disappointment at this time.
Christmas Services Still On
The Prime Minister explicitly said that, unlike in previous full lockdowns, collective worship may continue. Therefore, in law, we are allowed to continue with all of our planned services.
Ever since we've been allowed to resume worshipping together, we have carried out thorough risk assessments of all our activities. As a result, all our events are carried out in an extremely Covid-secure way. If you've been coming to our services in church, they have probably been some of the safest events you've been to. We have therefore decided that we can continue with our Christmas services as planned, knowing that the risks that put our region into Tier 4 have already been taken into account.
Please Decide Carefully Whether to Come
We will run safe events. I can reassure you of that, and encourage you to come as planned.
However it has to be the decision of each person whether to come or not. If you feel at all anxious, if it feels to you unsafe to come, please stay at home.
In particular, if you have any of the symptoms most associated with Covid-19 (a high temperature - hot to touch on your chest or back, a new continuous cough - coughing a lot for over an hour, a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste), please do not come. Instead, isolate yourself, and book a test. If you've been asked to isolate for any reason, please also do not come.
If you decide not to come for whatever reason, it would be a huge help to us if you could cancel your booked place. (Log in to Eventbrite, then visit kmwd.org/change-tickets. Some of our Christmas event are fully booked, and you would free a space for someone else. It also ensures our contact lists are up to date, should we be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
Please Follow Directions
We have set things up for you to be as safe as possible, but the safety precautions only work if you follow the systems we have put in place.
Please follow all signs, one-way systems, and 2 meter separation indicators. Please use hand sanitiser where provided. Please do not walk around the church building to greet others or hand out cards. Please don't wander to others’ squares at the open-air service to say hello. Please follow directions given as to when to leave an event so we don't all leave at once. And so on.
The new strain (“VUI202012/01”, for those who wanted to know!) spreads up to 70% more easily than the older strain of Covid-19. So please be vigilant. Please don't treat the precautions we have put in place as an inconvenience to hamper your freedom. They are the necessary precautions that allow us to continue to worship together, without putting others at risk. Without them, we would have to cancel.
Let's not end on a sombre note. The great news is that we are still allowed to worship the Lord Jesus Christ together, something forbidden in all seasons in many countries of the world.
Whether you join us at a service this Christmas or not, I pray you have a very joyful Christmas.
Oh come, let us adore him - Christ, the Lord!