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Churches urged to reassess services as lockdown eases in Scotland

by Heather Preston

A church network in Scotland has advised churches to start preparing for the future as lockdown measures ease after nearly ten weeks.

On Thursday, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the first phase of a four-step plan to return to normal. 

Scotland has been in lockdown since 23rd March and didn't make any major changes to restrictions when they were announced for England earlier this month.

As of Friday, people will be allowed to meet members of another household in a park or private garden, as long as groups don't exceed eight people and social distancing is observed.

The First Minister said changes could now be made because a downward trend in the spread of coronavirus was "sustained and unmistakable".

National Director of the Evangelical Alliance in Scotland, Frank Drummond told Premier these changes, although small, could have great benefits for churches as long as they are willing to "think outside the box".

"I think the church is going to have to be much more creative about what we mean by gatherings and how we support people and a little bit more out of the box than we've done before - I can picture some open-air prayer taking place. 

"More one-to-one mentoring than churches have ever done before - I think that will be key, particularly as we see more people who have engaged with faith for the first time. 

"[The change] opens up opportunity for helping people in the first early stages of faith as well as the vulnerable and people who have been anxious or going through a crisis through the lockdown. There are possibilities for creative pastoral care and counselling and probably some early stages of discipleship," he said.

Garden centres and plant nurseries will be able to open their doors from Friday, as long as they have distancing measures in place, while recycling centres can follow suit from Monday.

No official time frame was announced for the reopening of churches. 

Drummond says we shouldn't expect to see services return to normal any time soon but urged churches to begin thinking about the future.

When asked when he thinks churches will be allowed to reopen their doors he said: "I don't think anybody has any idea.

"I do think we should be thinking now about what we think our community of faith is going to look like in six to nine months' time. 

"How are we going to engage and have that committed, countercultural loving community and what is that going to look like?"

Drummond went on to praise churches for the "phenomenal job" they have done in adapting to online services and engaging with their communities but encouraged them to "start thinking much further down the line" aabout what services will look like after the pandemic.

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