We are now back to holding services on our premises, and everyone is welcome! Here's what you need to know.
Here is a 5 point summary of how we're seeking to meet safely.
Everyone is welcome to join us for our Sunday morning gatherings, where we meet either outside in our field if the weather is conducive - or inside the church building if not - at 10:30am.
You will need to bring everything with you if meeting outside, and everything (including a face-mask) other than a chair if meeting inside. Please go to the toilet before you leave to avoid needing it whilst on the premises.
Please do not come if you are unwell, and please take the government’s advice on board if you are over 70 or vulnerable. The service will be live-streamed on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/cuckfieldbaptistchurch
Upon arriving, you will be given a squirt of hand sanitiser, ticked off on a list to ensure we know who has attended our service (for track and trace purposes), and shown where to sit. If you've not been before, we will need to take your contact details before entering, which ideally you'd have given us beforehand via this form: https://bit.ly/2DfXliZ. The service will last about 45 minutes, and we will be complying with all of the government’s advice. Please follow the welcome team’s instructions when on site.
When the service has finished, please leave the site promptly, minimising social contact with others outside your household/bubble.
We meet at our church building in Cuckfield (Cuckfield Baptist Church, RH17 5GP) at the bottom of Polestub Lane. You'll likely see some banners at the top of the road, so hopefully you won't miss it.
There is ample parking in our Church car park, so you shouldn't have a problem finding a space, especially if you are disabled.
Our morning service lasts for about 45 minutes, and we hear part of the Bible read, explained and applied to real life, and pray. You won't be asked to do anything, and you don't need to be a Christian to come - everyone is welcome to just come and listen in. We are currently working our way through Luke's gospel. Wear whatever you like & makes you feel comfortable. We don't have a dress code - most people wear casual clothing. Our services are free, and you won't be asked to give any money.
Here is a letter sent to the church family explaining how we're going to meet under the current guidelines.
It has been over 3 months since the lockdown started, and whilst we have much to be thankful for, the last few months have been hard. After the disorientation of the first few weeks, a ‘new normal’ has set in - both in terms of church life, but also more generally in society as we have learnt to live with the restrictions. Many have found this phase particularly hard, and we are thankful for the way we have rallied as a church family. We are particularly thankful for the newly established care team, which has sought to meet particular practical needs as they have arisen, and for the ways in which our community groups have been a place of love, support, and care.
We are thankful that the government now feels able to ease some of the restrictions, and as part of this they have specified that places of worship can open for public worship from the 4th July. Having digested and acted upon the formal advice - including putting together a risk assessment - we are delighted to be able to say that we will hold an outside service this Sunday morning at 10:30am in the paddock adjacent to the church building, and in doing so resume a physical weekly Sunday morning service either inside or outside.
Before we go into the specifics of what this will look like, it’s worth saying 4 things using 1 Peter 1:17 as a basis: “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.”
Firstly, we want to show proper respect to everyone. We are mindful that this Sunday will likely be the largest gathering of any kind in our village for almost 4 months, and so we want to act in a way that is respectful and careful. What we do or don’t do has wider implications beyond our gathering, particularly if the virus was to spread as a result of our meeting together.
Secondly, we want to love the family of believers. There will be many of us who are very excited about this coming Sunday, and we do want to give thanks for what we are able to. At the same time, we want to be mindful that others will either be nervous about coming, or won’t be able to come at all. As such, we will be working hard to include those who aren’t able to come via our Youtube live-stream (www.youtube.com/cuckfieldbaptistchurch), but relationally we are going to have to bear with one another in love, and be looking for ways to serve one another - both on Sundays and throughout the week. This is a great opportunity to show a watching world what love looks like.
In terms of our Sunday services, we will need to love one another by obeying the guidelines set out for us, which includes keeping to social distancing. It’s strange to say that loving one another means keeping social distance from one another, but that is what love looks like in this stage of the pandemic. This will mean that our services will feel odd as we won’t be able to sing or mingle together afterwards. However, let’s try to think about this as a positive chance to love our neighbour, and to think imaginatively about showing hospitality in our own homes after the service in line with government advice.
More generally, we are trying to plan with the mindset of what will be best for our church family now, rather than simply trying to go back to what we did before the lockdown. There will be new opportunities and new challenges that will last some time as we move into the next phrase of the pandemic. Whilst the essence of what we do will not change, the way we do it will have to change, and this will take flexibility, ingenuity, and patience. We will need to continue to use Zoom for some of our fellowship, particularly community groups and prayer meetings for the foreseeable future, though the new guidelines mean that two households (or groups up to 6 people from different households) could meet together and ‘Zoom’ (or watch a live-streamed service) together in a wider group. We will leave you and your community groups to work out how you might to make use of this opportunity.
Thirdly, we want to fear God. Whilst we want to be wise and careful, we ultimately do not want to give way to fear - either of man or the virus. Jesus is king, and he knows what he’s doing. We fear him, and in doing so remember that he is our creator, and whilst we feel limited and weak, he is at work! “The word of God is not chained…”
Fourthly, we want to do the equivalent of “honouring the emperor”. As such, we will follow all of the government’s advice as we plan for Sunday mornings, but we would encourage you to model this attitude in your personal lives too. Whilst it is deeply frustrating to watch others not following the guidance, it shouldn't surprise us nor deter us from living distinctively in this area. “It is the Lord Christ we are serving…”
In that light, let us outline our plans for physically gathering as a church from this Sunday morning.
We will hold weekly public services on Sunday mornings from the 12th July. These will start at 10:30am, and will last about 45 minutes. We are planning to start ‘simple’ and work up.
Given the evidence that meeting outside significantly reduces the risk of the virus spreading, we will meet in the paddock behind the church building if the weather is conducive. If the weather is not conducive, we will meet inside the church building, following the plan set out below.
Who can come?
Along with the government, we are particularly mindful that those who are over 70 or clinically vulnerable are most at risk of falling seriously ill if they catch the virus. The government is advising that they “stay at home as much as possible and, if they do go out, to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside of their household.” However, the government has stopped short of saying that those in this scenario must stay away from places of worship, and so we are leaving this decision down to each individual's conscience as a matter of Christian freedom. The government is however strongly advising that those who are shielding do not attend places of worship until the 1st August, and have outlined who falls within this category here: https://bit.ly/31y2vRo
More positively, the government has said that there is no numerical limit on the number of people who can attend, as long as we can safely practise social distancing. This presents us with an opportunity to invite those around us to come and hear the gospel. It is obviously more complex to meet inside, but we anticipate that using both our upstairs and downstairs meeting areas will allow us to get everyone in who would like to come. If we are not able to, then we have a good problem to try and solve. Whilst it is not our plan to default to meeting inside in the short term, we hope to be able to do so soon, assuming that the risk from the virus continues to decline.
In terms of families with young children, please be aware that social distancing will need to be maintained, especially as vulnerable adults are attending, so they will need to be kept with you at all times.
What can we do and not do?
We are thankful for what we will be able to do, namely to meet together to pray, and to hear God’s word read and preached. The government has given guidance which has implications for both the Lord’s Supper and baptisms, and we are continuing to process this. In the short term, we will not be taking the Lord’s Supper together, but we hope that in the medium term this is something we are able to do safely. We want to start simply and work up to this.
In terms of the rest of our gathering, the government has stated that we should avoid congregational singing, shouting, or raising voices. Not being able to sing together will likely make our gathering feel very odd, but we think it is right to heed this advice for the time being, even if we meet outside. It seems to us that this does not prohibit the reading of a portion of scripture or a song together, so long as we do not do it loudly!
So how will we do it?
Regardless of whether we are meeting inside (at a later date) or outside, the car park will be open for parking, but people must practise social distancing in line with the current guidelines. We would urge those who can walk to the building from their homes to do so. We also have the option of parking in Barrowfield if the car park starts to get full. Please particularly bear this in mind if you are younger (we’ll leave you to define that for yourself)!
The government is asking us to help with their track and trace system by taking the contact details of those that attend. This will not be a factor for members as we already have them, but we have created a simple form so that non-members can give us their details beforehand. We will politely ask visitors to fill in this form before they visit on a Sunday: https://bit.ly/2DfXliZ. We will take a register of all who attend and keep this in a secure location for the prescribed 21 days.
What follows is our guidance for inside and outside services.
If the meeting is outside:
We will meet in the paddock at the top of our church field. If you are uneasy on your feet, then we would ask you to carefully consider taking other mitigating steps, which would include staying at home and watching/listening to the service on our Youtube channel.
We would ask you to consider getting to the premises in good time to avoid a 10:25 bottle-neck. We will start promptly at 10:30am.
The welcome team will tick your name off of a list before you enter the field. This is to meet the government’s requirement to know who has attended the service for track and trace purposes.
Upon entering the field, the welcome team will point you towards an area of the field to sit in. You will need to sit at least 2 metres away from any other household, although you will be able to sit in any ‘bubble’ that you have already created, in line with government advice. If there is a queue, please maintain social distancing. Children will need to be kept with you at all times.
You will need to have brought everything you would need to sit in a field for just under an hour, including a Bible, a chair and water. The church office will email out an order of service for you to print out and bring with you. There will be limited spares of these, primarily intended for visitors.
The church building will be closed, but you would be able to use the toilet in an emergency. Please take steps to avoid needing the toilet whilst on the premises, and consider whether or not you could reliably stay on the premises for an hour without needing the toilet.
After the service, we will need to leave the premises promptly and in an orderly fashion as directed by the welcome team. This will feel odd, as we will want to stay and chat, but the government has explicitly asked us to avoid doing this for the time being.
We will not require you to wear a facemask.
If meeting inside:
We would ask you to plan to have arrived by 10:20am, which should allow us to get everyone seated to start promptly at 10:30am.
The welcome team will tick your name off of a list before you enter the building. This is to meet the government’s requirement to know who has attended the service for track and trace purposes. If there is a queue outside, please maintain social distancing.
Upon entering the building, the welcome team will point you towards your seat(s). Households will sit at least 1 metre away from other households/bubbles, in line with government advice, and our mitigation is that we will require everyone to wear facemasks, other than those who are leading the service from the front. Please only sit in the seats allocated to you.
We plan to use the upper hall as an overflow, and so if we are approaching capacity downstairs we will ask people to make their way up to the upper hall outside. The stairs inside the building will be closed.
You will need to bring your own Bible and water. The church office will email out an order of service for you to print out and bring with you, and we would ask you to do your best to do this. There will be limited spares of the order of service available, and these primarily for visitors.
We would ask that you plan to avoid going to the toilet, but if it is essential then you will need to follow the instructions on the wall in each toilet.
After the service, we will leave the premises (not just the building) promptly and in an orderly fashion as directed by the welcome team. This will feel odd, as we will want to stay and chat, but the government has explicitly asked us to avoid doing this for the time being.
In all of this, we trust the Lord is at work, building his church, and bringing glory to himself. It is our prayer that these gatherings will be encouraging for us as a church family, and we are incredibly thankful to Hedley and Anne, and many others who have worked hard to get us to this point.
Please do get in touch with us if you have any questions about this.
Yours in Christ,
Will, Jon, Peter, and Mark (CBC Elders)