“The longer the church is physically apart, the more damage is being done. There are a lot of lonely people out there and we need to get back to church because they need us,” says Stephen Derbyshire.
Stephen, who pastors City Gates Church in Essex, and Paul Hallam, pastor of The Lighthouse Church in Manchester, are telling Direction about their journeys back to physical services after months of virtual meetings, and the urgency they both felt to make this move.
For Paul, this need for community was what spurred him to relaunch his live services.
“We run a food distribution mission, and when our volunteers saw each other again during lockdown the emotion was unbelievable,” he says.
“It changed my mind about live church. I said to my team, ‘I’ve underestimated this. We need to reopen and give people a chance to see each other again.’”
So, over the summer, both set to work reopening their buildings, which each typically seat congregations of 800 but needed resetting to allow for socially distanced gatherings of between 150 and 200.
PPE was purchased, hospitality teams were trained, online registration systems were set up, buildings were deep-cleaned and socially distanced seating was arranged.
“People need to be reassured they’ll be safe,” says Stephen, who reopened his church during the quieter holiday period in August to allow space to get new systems up and running.
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