Advice for Congregations – 17 March 2020
The Government has advised several social distancing measures we should all be taking to reduce social contact between people in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). The Board of Trustees advises congregations of the following:
1. Sunday services & mid-week activities
The Scottish Government has advised that people should “…minimise social contact by avoiding crowded areas and large gatherings, including religious congregations and smaller gatherings such as restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs, cinemas and gyms”
The Board is concerned for the wellbeing of all congregations and society and in light of the above advice, the Board advises congregations to suspend all Sunday services and mid-week activities (including prayer meetings, home groups, youth groups and the like) with immediate effect and until further notice, unless the services or activities can be sustained using audio visual (AV) technology with a minimal number of people physically present.
The Board is aware that some congregations have successfully held services by audio or video in past weeks. The Mission Board will be collating and sharing details of Free Church congregations providing services by AV, in order that others may be able to participate. A short list of articles at the end of this guidance that may help you in considering if you can provide services online.
2. Pastoral care
Pastoral visits, including school assemblies, should be suspended unless wholly necessary. Those self-isolating should not be visited.
This is a time of real uncertainty for people and a time of increased stress and worry. Many congregations are developing ways to continue to provide pastoral support and encouragement without being physically present. You may wish to consider use of telephone, social media, and the internet to keep people in touch with congregation. There are many ways in which telephone, email, skype and facetime, can maintain closer support. Again, the Mission Board hope to share more details and examples of good practice and have provided a short list of tools at the end of this guidance.
3. Weddings and Funerals
The Board advises that it is further reviewing guidance for funerals and weddings, but suggests that it may not be possible for family relatives or friends to be able to attend a funeral service as usual and it may be necessary to limit participation to the graveside or crematorium. Likewise, the number of attendees at weddings should be limited as far as possible.
4. Presbyteries, Kirk Sessions, Deacons Court, Finance Committee
Everyone is advised by the government to avoid non-essential travel. The Board recommends that courts of the Church meet by telephone, email, video etc as far as possible. It will be prudent to deal with essential business only at this time.
Courts are advised to put measures in place to ensure that church buildings are routinely checked if no longer used on a regular basis and have clear records on key holders and bank signatories. Further guidance will follow in due course.
5. General Assembly
The General Assembly scheduled for May 2020 will not meet for normal business as envisaged. Full details of arrangements will be provided by the Assembly Clerk in due course.
6. Updates to Guidance
The COVID-19 advice group will meet at least weekly to review government and public health advice. Guidance will be updated as appropriate. However, the crisis is moving and developing quickly, and it is possible that not all events or matters will be covered by current guidance. Kirk Sessions should feel free and empowered to make local decisions where they feel the risk demands a quick or specific action.
Tool and Resources
Video Calling and Small Group Meetings
Google Hangouts https://hangouts.google.com/
It may be worth reading some of these articles:
D3 Audio Visual is also hosting a Live Streamiong webinar on Wed 18th March at 7:30 PM https://www.facebook.com/events/880412695736763/
Source: Free Church of Scotland