The following is a letter written by a colleague, Rev Alistair May. It is in response to an opinion article in The Herald newspaper today.
Rev Fiona Maxwell
“Some of you may have seen an alarming piece in today’s Herald entitled “Kirk’s cruel plan to banish elderly from services is a disgrace”. I simply want to reassure you that this extremely misleading column utterly misrepresents the facts, and the care that the Church has for its older members.
Ministers are only too aware of the distress that closing Church buildings has been, particularly to older members. We are keen to see everyone – of every age – having the option of returning to Church, just as soon as it is safe to do so.
What is happening right now is that an expert group in our Edinburgh Head Office (“121”) are working extremely hard to provide guidance for churches as they think about reopening, and they are consulting us ministers regularly. The guidance is certainly long and complicated, but that’s not because it’s trying to confuse anyone (as the Herald’s piece alleges) but because every church building is different – and because the Scottish Government’s advice is changing week by week.
It is the Scottish Government who have placed certain people in the “shielding” category, and also recommended that those over 70 need to take particular care. All that 121’s advice says is that congregations need to keep this in view, and to recognise that some people may choose not to return to church immediately when the building reopens. No one is being banished. It will be about individuals making choices for themselves. What we are being encouraged to do is to ensure that there are still other options for those who choose not to return. The advice says we should ensure that vulnerable people are able to “participate in church life in a way that meets their own individual needs and preferences while safeguarding their own health”. For us, that will mean that our services will continue to be available online, on DVD, and telephone, even after we are able to restart physical meetings, so that everyone (young and old) can choose what they believe is best for them.
It may reassure people to know that the decisions will be taken by our local elders (many of whom are over 70 themselves) and not by any “hierarchy” as the Herald wrongly claims. The document that headquarters have produced is simply welcome guidance for your minister and Kirk Session as they seek to find the best way forward for our congregation. We do not want anyone to make decisions which may put their health at risk.
The motives of the columnist I will leave you to ponder for yourself.
If you have any concerns, feel free to get in touch with me (or your own minister)
(Guidelines are openly on the Church’s website – there’s nothing to hide here.)
Covid19 Guidance reopening church buildings V1 June2020